The Indian Act 1876 Essay

The Indian Act


Owing to the development of Canada in 1867, the rights of managing the aboriginal affairs, resided with the federal government. Since then, the Indian Act (enacted in 1876) has undergone several amendments and this has given the government, the rights to control almost all the major aspects of aboriginal life- like the land, resources, education facility, administration of the band, status of Indians and even their wills.

To legally and federally be recognized as an Indian, in Canada, one needs to abide by all the rules and the regulations and the standards of living that are imposed by the government. To ensure this, the Indian Act was passed, not merely as a body of law but as a sole controller of each and every aspect of the life of the Indians. In the older versions of this act, the norms on bringing together the First Nations, were mentioned.

The people who successfully completed and got a degree from the University, were liable to lose their Indian Status while the women who married the non status men, were liable to lose their status as well.

The Act implied the rule that if a woman married an aboriginal man, then her Indian status would remain intact and she would receive cultural as well as social benefits but if any woman marries a white (European), she would lose her Indian status and would be considered as the member of Canadian society.

The halfbreed Indians, also called as the MĂ©tis, were denied Indian status. The Indian Act aimed to combine all the already prevalent legislations that covered the First Nations and their existing relationship with Canada.

The Act came into being with the target of helping the aboriginals to the protect the land that was left with them. However, the main owner of the land, remained the Crown. The administration of the land was supposed to be done by the Crown via the Minister of Indian Affairs, who was an Indian Agent.

The Act tried to vest more power in the hands of the local government but simultaneously it took away the existing powers by appointing an Indian agent as the chairman of the counsil. According to the rules listed in the Act, the Indians were not allowed to sell or produce goods if they did not have written permission from the local Indian agent. Moreover, the status Indians were denied the right to vote until 1961.

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The first Canadian Indian Act was issued in 1876. Though it has been revised



numerous times, this hundred and thirty year old legislation has been left virtually



unchanged. Established in order to ensure the assimilation of Native Americans in



Canada, the Indian Act instead had achieved the total opposite. It has made this



distinction more and has given immense power to the government, letting them control



all who reside on the reserves. It was then that the distinction between Status Indians and



Non-Status Indians was made. The Canadian government quickly displayed their control



by forbidding the sale of any land within the reserve unless it was turned over to the



Crown.



Another major part of the act was the enfranchisement of the Native American.



When most refused to become enfranchised, the government made it so all Native



Americans obtaining a University degree would automatically become enfranchised. In



the amendment of 1884, the government banned the potlatch ceremony (a popular



celebration among the First Nations an the Pacific Coast) for they believe it was a corrupt



and destructive ritual. In 1951, after the imprisonment of numerous Natives, this



legislation was dropped by the act. In 1927, it became forbidden for any person to raise



money for Aboriginal in order to pursue any claim, unless permission was granted by the



Superintendent General of Indian Affairs, yet attempt in making them absolutely



dependent of the government. The next important change occurred in 1960 when the



Aboriginal were finally given the right to vote. Though the implementation of better



health services and the accessibility to education increased, the First Nations still found



themselves living below the poverty standard of average Canadians.



As we fast forward to the present, we see that this act may have diversified effects on



Native American people. Take for example a small northern reserve. We have people



who live in poorly constructed homes that are not even built to withstand the cold. They



cannot even afford running water, which makes laundry and bathing a difficult task. All



of this is happening because they are not self sufficient. These people do not have the



knowledge needed to properly run the reserve. These Native Americans have no choice



but to depend on a government that cannot fulfill the their needs. Besides not receiving



enough funds from the government, they are expected to pay ridiculously high prices to



satisfy their basic needs such as food from convenient stores. Though they intend to one



day own their own stores, they are practically denied the opportunity to communicate



with those in charge.



On the positive side, they have learned English, their children do attend school.



However, the level of education is not sufficient. To be able to assimilate into an



environment, they would have to work harder yet they are continuously slowed down by



the government. This is simply one example of a people living in atrocious conditions.



There are Natives living a better life. They are well educated, having degrees in



engineering, law, architecture among others. Most of their population is employed and



nearly self sufficient. They lead lives very similar to those of non-status Indians. A great



achievement on their part, but not quite perfect. Since the Canadian government banned



the right for any Native American to own or sell any land, they cannot sell the houses



they have built. Outsiders are reluctant to purchase houses on the reserve for they fear its



unstable situation. Another clause in the Indian act prohibits them to connect to the major



sewage system.



In conclusion, it difficult to understand how a government we claim to be



civilized and free to all can promote an amendment so primitive and ultimately



suppressive. Though the initial plan seemed to be the assimilation of the First Nations,



the government has also went out of their way to do the exact opposite. Such laws leave



little hope for those who have no recourse or legal backing, those how depend on a mute



system that hinders the tribes with natural resources but sustains the ones without. And



those who are better off must still fight to obtain what should be there birth right. Sadly,



even though the Indian Act has been around for over one hundred and thirty years, the



shackles of it"s either benevolent or repressive authority over the human beings it fences



in does not seem ready to break in the foreseeable future.

 

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