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Indigenous Sovereignty: The Indian Act

"The Indian Act was passed with the intention of implementing the terms of the treaties and of establishing the status of Indians. It was the main body of law from which the legal rights of Indians flow. This was one of the first major steps taken by the government of Canada to weaken the treaties signed with our people, for now it is from the Indian Act that the legal position of the Indian primarily stems, rather than from the treaties themselves. . . . The Indian Act, instead of implementing the treaties and offering much-needed protection to Indian rights, subjugated to colonial rule the very people whose rights it was supposed to protect" (43-44).

Cardinal, Harold. The Unjust Society: The Tragedy of Canada's Indians. M.G. Hurtig, 1969.

"The Indian Act system of administration partitioned the precontact Indigenous Nations, the 60-plus Nations . . . into 630-plus administrative Indian Act bands living in some 1,000-plus reserve communities. Indian Act Indians were considered legally incompetent until such time as they enfranchised, becoming full citizens of Canada, at which point they were no longer recognized as Indigenous and consequently lost their political voice within their Nation, lost access to or ownership of any lands they shared an interest in on reserves, and so on.

"[T]he Indian Act also created residential schools whose sole purpose was to take the Indian out of the child. Those schools told children every day that their culture – the culture of their ancestors – was inferior. Children were forbidden from speaking their languages and following their cultural practices. Worse, many of them suffered unimaginable abuse in the schools.

"[I]t is one of the most insidious tools ever used to subjugate peoples" (47-48).

Wilson-Raybould, Jody. From Where I Stand: Rebuilding Indigenous Nations for a Stronger Canada. Purich Books, 2019.

Evolution of the Indian Act