Race/Ethnicity

4 Things Non-Aboriginal Canadians Need To Know About The Indian Act

Are you a person of non-aboriginal heritage living in Canada, and you hear about this “Indian Act” once in a while, but don’t get what all the fuss is about? Do you occasionally hear what a big problem it is for aboriginal people, but don’t understand why they don’t just get rid of it or change it when this solution is literally handed down to them by the Prime Minister (i.e., in 1969 by PM Trudeau or more recently in 2012 by PM Harper)? I’m glad you found this blog post. There’s some things you need to know about it.

But before I get to the Indian Act, because it is written to be functionally inseparable from the Crown treaties, here’s a totally superficial dusting of how the Crown treaties were/are supposed to work:

Legally non-aboriginal people get certain land on which to live and prosper and form their own system of government (i.e., Canada). Non-aboriginal government has a duty to consult with aboriginal government before they do certain kinds of environmental development or resource extraction on that land (e.g., forestry, mining, fracking, fish-farming, culling entire species of animals, using slave labour to build cross-continental railroads, building massive pipelines buried underground that could explode and leak toxic crap everywhere at any given moment because the earth is constantly shifting its weight around, etc.) If aboriginal government does not agree to permit that development, it just doesn’t happen. I think we should all be able to agree that there’s been something going on that isn’t quite congruent with this aspect of the Crown treaties, for quite some time already and throughout Canada’s history.

Legally aboriginal people get to keep certain lands (somewhat ironically called reserves) on which to live and prosper, and maintain their own form of government. In exchange for the land surrendered to non-aboriginal people, aboriginal people are entitled to receive education, healthcare, and certain kinds of hunting and fishing rights (i.e., largely, the right to non-interference by non-aboriginals) provided to them by the non-aboriginal government (that doesn’t mean they have to take it—it just means it’s always there as an option to them). Aboriginal people are collectively owed a 40% cut of the profits from land development and resource extraction that non-aboriginal government receives approval to move forward with (if non-aboriginal government proceeds with land development or resource extraction without the consent of aboriginal government, this is just theft or expropriation).

Aboriginal people collectively agreed to the treaties in good faith, although many nations very legitimately dispute the extent to which this agreement-making can be considered “voluntary”. Early on in these nation-to-nation relationships (i.e., Crown treaties), aboriginal peoples collectively declined to demand their cut of non-aboriginal land development and resource extraction, so that money was to be held in trust by the Crown. Instead, it was all used up to pay for the labour that was used to build the Canadian Pacific Railway, much of which was unnecessarily hazardous wage-slavery by Chinese railway workers. This is one of the reasons (apart from universal healthcare and public infrastructure) why all Canadians are required to pay taxes (and for the record, aboriginal people today pay taxes too). Non-aboriginal Canadians have been inheriting a collective treaty debt by virtue of birth lottery for several generations, though rather conspicuously, this isn’t taught in public schools.

And now, what you need to know about the Indian Act, which “manages” these treaty relationships between aboriginal nations and Canada:

1. Non-Aboriginal People (i.e., You) are in the Indian Act Too.

The Indian Act sets out the legal definition for who is considered a person of aboriginal status under Canadian law, and therefore who is entitled to certain charter rights and freedoms (since 1970) in addition to treaty rights. While aboriginal status means certain rights and freedoms, it also means being dictated to about a number of things that impact the structure of one’s day-to-day life and greater communities through all the other stuff that’s in the Indian Act. The definition of legal aboriginal status also means that by virtue of negation, all non-aboriginal people are legally defined as well. It is important to note that being a person of aboriginal heritage is, however, not enough to qualify one for legal aboriginal status. If for any of several possible reasons, a person of aboriginal heritage is or has been stripped of their legal aboriginal status (i.e., this is called enfranchisement), they are legally considered a non-aboriginal person—they have lost treaty rights allowing them certain necessary freedoms to continue their ancestor’s cultural traditions, and they have lost the ability to pass those rights down to their own children. It’s kind of like if you were told you suddenly couldn’t continue on in your merry non-aboriginal way any more. No one wants their very identity dictated to them by a government.

Part of what it means to be legally non-aboriginal in this country is that there are several rights and responsibilities you don’t have and aren’t entitled to, but this also allows you a lot of certain kinds of rights and freedoms that are denied to legally aboriginal people. That was just part of the deal during the formation of the Crown treaties long before our time. If you find this unfair, I’m afraid there’s not much you can do but keep learning about it. As a non-aboriginal person, you’re written into the Indian Act, whether you’ve acknowledged it before or not. Your right to own land rather than just live on it, is also prescribed in it, and to sum it up: you’re not allowed.

2. Queen Elizabeth Claims to Own (Almost) All of Canada & We’re All Just Borrowing It.

The Indian Act states, right on the first page (emphasis added in bold is mine):

“designated lands” means a tract of land or any interest therein the legal title to which remains vested in Her Majesty and in which the band for whose use and benefit it was set apart as a reserve

and this is followed by (emphasis added in bold is mine):

“surrendered lands” means a reserve or part of a reserve or any interest therein, the legal title to which remains vested in Her Majesty, that has been released or surrendered by the band for whose use and benefit it was set apart

I bet some people are going to ask “So why is this so important?” Well, it means that contrary to a common understanding of Canadian law, no one but Queen Elizabeth can actually legally own land in Canada. We’re all just borrowing it—all of us, aboriginal and non-aboriginal alike. You can own your house, but the land on which it’s built isn’t yours. The vast majority of this country was declared reserve lands upon the formation of the Crown treaties. The Indian Act didn’t take long to become enacted into law, and once that happened, aboriginal people began being forced out of their homes onto reserves, and then forced off reserves, all across the country. Once that happened, all those lands automatically became the legal property of the Queen.

There do exist, however, some independent land titles that trace back to the time of the treaty-signing, which meant that these specific plots of land had been legally purchased from the Queen. Many of these land titles were held by people of aboriginal status; however, it is important to note that the legal inheritance rights of aboriginal people has been most conspicuously and repeatedly manipulated through revisions to the Indian Act. Sometimes that might mean the absorption of those land titles by a band into what is counted as their reserve lands, and sometimes it meant that no one could legally inherit it from its rightful owner. Imagine owning your home and being told on your death bed that your kids aren’t allowed to live in it. Not a pleasant thought.

There are also different types of land claims that Canada has made with different aboriginal peoples—most notably, the legal formation of independent Inuit territories in the north, which were granted in exchange for many of the treaty rights the Inuit would have been entitled to under the Indian Act (which also would have come coupled with limited sovereignty under the Indian Act). It is important to note as well that there were never Crown treaties formed in the province of British Columbia (i.e., it is unceded territory). Instead, in certain regions throughout BC, there have been comprehensive land claim settlements, which is sort of a fancy way of saying the Canadian government “negotiated with” and paid certain bands to take their reserves away, in exchange for certain rights and/or responsibilities on the part of Canada toward those bands (that is, often long after many of those reserves had been expropriated by the Canadian government to begin with). So if land wasn’t complicated enough, the Canadian government has persistently complicated it further since writing the first draft of the Indian Act. Thanks for that, Canada.

3. It’s 77 Pages of Institutionalized Racism.

In addition to defining who is aboriginal (and by negation, who is not), who owns what land (or not, as the case generally is, with notable exceptions), and under which conditions land can be legally taken away from whomever is living on it at the time; the Indian Act sets out an utterly suffocating list of rules for the 633 bands of aboriginal people (2 million people total) currently living in Canada today. Historically, the Indian Act has been even more suffocating than it still is, and for its first several decades, it actually enacted cultural genocide into written Canadian law by outright criminalizing nearly everything about aboriginal cultures and forcing aboriginal children to attend residential schools. The Indian Act even dictated that interracial marriages between aboriginal and non-aboriginal people, the birth of a racially blended child to an aboriginal woman, or the adoption of a non-aboriginal child by an aboriginal person, all spelled out an automatic loss of treaty rights for the aboriginal party. Treaty rights have also been historically stripped from aboriginal people for reasons relating to their degree of Western education (i.e., if they became too educated, they were no longer considered aboriginal enough).

To this day, the Indian Act prescribes laws around marriages, the birth of children, and inheritance of property or estates for all aboriginal people in Canada, but it does so based on non-aboriginal standards (i.e., it ignores the prior existence of aboriginal law and thus undermines their right to self-governance). It also prescribes what aboriginal people can and cannot do with the land and resources on their own reserves or even with their own money, while essentially burying them in constant paperwork. The Indian Act also dictates mandatory compliance with non-aboriginal education structures for aboriginal children (i.e., it ignores the capacity of aboriginal people to determine how best to teach their own children). The Indian Act also dictates the structure of aboriginal governance, both to individual aboriginal nations and to all legally aboriginal people as a whole, based again on non-aboriginal standards (i.e., it ignores the structure of aboriginal laws and governments prior to contact).

4. You Can’t Just Put it Through the Shredder.

There are so many rights, responsibilities, and obligations entrenched into every single page of the Indian Act, which apply to both aboriginal people and non-aboriginal people (though unequally), that for all the problems it creates, it would actually create even more problems if it were suddenly abolished. It is especially important at this point to make note of the fact that as it currently stands and has been the case since the implementation of the Indian Act, the federal government of Canada is not even answerable to aboriginal nations; rather, it is only currently answerable to the Assembly of First Nations (i.e., 633 representatives for 2 million people who have no right to appeal to the federal government, unlike non-aboriginal people). This is not a nation-to-nation relationship—it’s a dictatorship, and one that is structured in such a way that it is actually in the best interests of many aboriginal nations to defend it.

This brings me to another extremely superficial dusting of a history lesson: PM Trudeau tried to abolish the Indian Act in 1969 through a piece of legislation that would have legally assimilated all aboriginal people to non-aboriginal status. This was not received well by aboriginal people, and with good reason. They became politically outraged and defiantly opposed this change of legislation. Jump directly from 1969 into late 2012, when PM Harper proposed a way to gradually abolish the Indian Act. Once again, this was not received well by aboriginal people, and with good reason. They once again became politically outraged and defiantly opposed this change of legislation.

So where did/does all the outrage and opposition come from? Because it isn’t the place of non-aboriginal government to change the structures of aboriginal government—just like it was never the place of non-aboriginal government to dictate what those structures should be in the first place. But since the federal government of Canada has done just that, it is up to aboriginal nations to assess the damage that has been done for several consecutive generations, and to determine the best course towards recovery of aboriginal government and reconciliation within and between nations. Abolishing the Indian Act in a single gesture, or changing it without consulting aboriginal nations, just isn’t the answer. We can’t talk ourselves out of this situation without making structural changes, and we can’t make structural changes without talking to each other.

Author note: I wrote this piece alone (a non-aboriginal person with no known aboriginal heritage in my family’s lineage and no fancy degree in law), and any inaccuracies contained herein are my own fault, but I will do my best to correct them. This piece is intentionally written to be as brief as possible, despite the complexity of the subject matter, to make it accessible to as many people as possible.

Corrections update:

I used the word “disenfranchisement” wrong. That would be like a Canadian citizen suddenly being stripped of the right to vote. Bad, but not the same as enfranchisement of a legally aboriginal person — being stripped of their right to embrace their ancestral traditions and very identity.

32 thoughts on “4 Things Non-Aboriginal Canadians Need To Know About The Indian Act

  1. This the best explanation I have seen so far about the Indian Act. Thank you David, and may I use this article in my educational and other public presentations, retreats, and workshops. Thank you again David, you are still the best writer I know.

  2. Pingback: Shit White People Need To Hear About Racism | HaifischGeweint

    • I’m surprised it’s taken you so long to find this article, Michelle. It didn’t take me nearly as long to learn about you, your small army of clone websites, and even your work address. Perhaps you’re familiar with the fact that, prior to about 200 years ago, your workplace was part of the traditional ancestral territory of an indigenous people called the Musqueam, who never ceded their lands to the Crown despite the especially violent and repeated displacements forced upon them through the “race-based” laws you claim exist for the end goal of cheating white people out of money and land.

      You see, your premise — that we are all one nation — is patently false. We are not one nation and never have been. No matter how violently the relatively arbitrarily assigned borders of our so-called “country” are enforced (three guesses: who primarily does the enforcing and who primarily is enforced upon?), we are formally two “nations”, and have been since the first foot steps of our ancestors on this land mass. This is an indisputable historic, current, and legal fact that continues to shape race relations to this very moment. And in fact, prior to the arrival of the settler nation in these territories, there had been (and still are) four different nations here with their own independent laws, languages, and customs. No less than a dozen on Vancouver Island.

      White people aren’t being “discriminated” against or “extorted” through what you call “race-based law” in Canada, Michelle. We wrote those laws ourselves. We didn’t write them at our own expense, either. I mean, really. We stole all of North America—an entire goddamned continent—from “the natives”, and continue to sustain a state of illegal occupation with very little effort required in this generation. We aren’t really so stupid as to draft our own set of illegally enforced laws upon the occupied nations and ourselves, that cheat us as a people out of all or even most of the benefits of that near-effortless illegal occupation. The reality is that these laws, which white people wrote and white people continually enforce, continue to exist for their original intended purpose — to legally, culturally, and genetically assimilate red into white.

      And that, Michelle, is the reality of “race-based” laws in Canada. They already exist for the express purpose of eliminating “the natives” as a logical category. White people aren’t experiencing racism. We are perpetuating genocide. White people aren’t being bullied. We are perpetuating goddamned genocide. White people aren’t being extorted. We are extorting, robbing, raping, murdering, and expropriating — around the world, even — and openly reaping the riches of it without any meaningful repercussions.

      And why aren’t there meaningful repercussions? Because we wrote the laws, that’s why.

  3. What the hell is white people?
    I did not steal anything from anyone and if we just stopped this raciest bull crape we could move forward. No one gives a dam who was here first except those whom wish to extort rob rape murder and expropriate others and that is not just the so called white but the reds too.
    As far as assimilation goes if you lived in another country those people would expect you to assimilate to the majority. That’s life.
    The Indians in Canada migrated here and settled here just like the so called whites. If the Queen started all this and the Queen owns all of this Country then the Indians should be dealing with the Queen of England and getting all their pay outs and freebies from her.
    As a Native Canadian I have had enough. Lets take a vote and see what the out come will be. The decision will be made by all Canadians not just the Indians. I will guarantee you that this will come to a sudden end.
    I have a question for you if your great grandfather promised to pay your neighbor money for land and your great grandfather died before the deal was completed do you think you should have to give back the land and pay the rest of the debit. Well this is what has happened here.
    The only peace in the world will be when we are truly treated equally.

    • rape… murder. alcohol.. diseases…it was the white people who bought all those..why do you think theres so many white people in jail..who murder..rape…white people who do sick things to their children..white people who murder their babies…eat that

      • Murder, rape ,slavery and war were all present in North America before the Europeans arrived . The First Immigrants were not a bunch of loving peaceful people but warring tribes with evidence of cannabalism as well as those other things you mentioned. There were no nations or princesses in your languages and more and more it is being suspected you were not the original people here, only the future will tell !

        • This is rich. Here we have the very type of hypocrite who is aware of the existence of oral history, enough to know about certain sensational details of pre-contact life which could only be known because of that oral tradition, but who simultaneously denies its legitimacy when it comes to the matter of origins.

          Let me break this down for you, Phil. Prior to contact, it is known that murder, rape, and slavery existed. Rape in particular was treated as one of the lowest forms of taboo, and indigenous law prior to contact sentenced rapists to a fate far worse than death, for its promise was that of an agonising and slow creeping death that would be equal parts lonely and terrifying in every conceivable way. People didn’t perpetrate rape when these punishments set the example of what would happen to those who have the inclination, because it was in their best interest not to do so. That’s why social taboos are so powerful. But rape isn’t a taboo in European culture, and never was. From what is widely considered the beginning of modern European culture (ancient Greece), rape was not only far from taboo, but culturally normalised. Or are you unaware of how the great Greek philosophers openly raped young boys in exchange for giving them an education in how to think?

          And yes, murder also existed. And so did war. For the purposes of breaking this one down for you, I’m going to assume that by “murder”, you mean to imply taking another person’s life when they have personally done nothing to you directly, and I’m going to assume that by “war”, you mean to imply collective murder. Well, I’m not in denial that this sort of thing happened. For fuck sake, it’s the entire basis of the White Buffalo Calf Woman story. People (of the Plains) were at war. Brother was killing brother. The people were not in a good way. She came to teach them another way to live, and with her arrival, the people received the first pipe and seven sacred ceremonies. Maybe you’ve heard this story, or maybe you haven’t even met a native person before, so you’ll have never heard it with your own two ears. However, you seem to deliberately neglect that many nations had systems in place to take many, many measures to avoid war. One of those systems, you may recognise from Northern Europe before their colonisation by the Roman Empire — clans and the function of intermarriage. But there were also measures specifically for the resolution of conflict. Surely, you’re not a stupid man, so you know already that people had laws and protocols to follow in order to air and resolve conflict, not only in their own communities, but in the presence of other communities as well. And is the concept of a stick game, bone game, or hand game completely lost on you? It’s how people sorted their shit out with each other instead of harbouring harsh feelings like anger and contempt.

          Then there’s the “First Immigrants” quip you’ve thrown in there. Well, I’m not particularly stupid, so I know you’re referring to the Bering Strait land bridge theory that was dreamed up in roughly 1950, and unanimously tossed out as unscientific bullshit by 1980. Because it can’t be proven or ruled out, it can’t qualify as a scientific hypothesis. Any “evidence” necessary to answer the question this “theory” proposes would be miles under water 10,000 years ago. But this “theory” also relies on the land bridge only being used for one-way traffic during the ice age, when both woolly mammoths and mastadons existed, on separate continents, and yet, we’re supposed to believe that they (as well as other ice-age animalia) also would not have wandered across the Bering Strait? Their remains, like the locations of wild crocodile colonies and wild alligator colonies, are never found in mixed populations or even on the same continent. How the hell do you suppose generations of humans are supposedly the only species in the entire world to have continuously travelled across this massive land bridge? The universe does not revolve around us. And by the way, how you do explain the physical evidence that confirms human existence and established societies on the North American continent, dating back to before the last ice age? Moving on.

          Evidence of cannibalism, you say. I’m going to assume that in addition to practices well documented by anthropologists with a tendency to exaggerate to confirm their own biases of perceiving indigenous peoples as “brutal savages”, that you also, once again, rely on the very oral tradition you seem inclined to toss out the moment it causes you to question your own deeply held biases. I’m also going to assume that, like the early European colonists, you hold no distinction whatsoever between, for example, the spiritual belief that the ritual use (absent actual consumption) of human hair and other assorted tissues is a form of metaphorical “cannibalism”, and the literal eating of human flesh. The same way the same early European colonists would have failed to distinguish between the very important cultural concepts of death and rebirth, or even acts of ritual death/rebirth and actual mortal termination of life. You read like a sensationalistic, histrionic, pathological liar. It would be sad if it wasn’t hilarious.

          And you’re right about the princesses. There were no princesses and still aren’t, in Indian country. That concept was all European people marrying their own first cousins, brothers, sisters, nephews, and nieces. Not indigenous peoples who would have taken their own lives if they found out they had relations with even a first cousin four times removed (because this would have been incest by their governance systems, and incest was the BIGGEST taboo there was).

    • but we are not being treated equally. I hope you are not as close minded and racist as you sound, Linda. It’s also “Aboriginal” not “Indian”. And we don’t get “freebies”. Learn your history and current events so you can actually give an educated opinion.

    • Well make this GSM right and all past agreement not met be replaced with monetary value up kept with inflation. Billions in hand tools for all living get and non living aborginals, and apology from the churches directly and I directly and jail all those church officials of thierror crimes and not move them to protect them like cops do when they comit crimes,
      and to slowly transition out of Indian act by giving all under populated lands back to aborginals and for the queen to give an official apology and land transfer, unpopulated areas lie central canada, a more secure country with a boarder with in a boarder

  4. It would seem to me, being one of the unwashed masses, that natives are also required to stand up to their end of the bargain. every treaty I have read, quite a few actually as they are all online, requires natives to observe the law and be peaceable. This is something that has clearly been violated many times.

    My family arrived in this part of the world in 1670, and yet to hear things, I should be evicted to France forthwith. When do I have a right to live here and call this my land too? As for “institutionalized racism” , it would seem to me that while we are expected to perpetually pay for the trespasses of our ancestors many generations past, natives are not held to the same standard. Slavery, murder, incest and land conquest was a regular part of life for natives before the white man arrived and continued for quite some time after. Should they not pay restitution somehow? The stereotype of the Native one with the woods and little animals is not only false but insulting to them and us, they clearly weren’t innocent children.

    I think that the time of perpetual white guilt has passed. Just as other civilizations conquered others in the past, including natives to natives, I believe it’s now time to recognize that the past happened and move forward to make the future for all.

    Ok, now I’ve said my thing. I expect you’ll start calling me names…go for it.

    • “Jqpublic”?

      Really?

      THAT’S your email address?

      Maybe if you checked your tendency towards racist diatribes and assumptions of having the fortunes reversed on poor little old you, I might be bothered to respond.

      • LOL! cute answer. Yes, that’s the address I use when I suspect I might be assailed. But hey, as the old saying goes, how do you know you’ve won an argument with a leftist? The moment your called a racist! Thanks for substantiating that. Now carry on with your self hating whine.

          • Very true to that…some people its not even the color of skin that’s sooo ugly…its the blindness they choose….and deafening the ears…press lips when arrogance seems the only dialog they contribute…such as Peter

          • How untrue, I live in the north and while many of the locals are racist against white some are not, the ones who get an education and work and live a regular lifestyle tend to be non or less racist then the ones living off the government .

            • I think you probably operate on such a completely different conception of what racist means or even looks like, than I do and experience daily, that there’s just no point in answering you further.

        • Peter, I just wish you would spend some time really investigating the truth of our past and present treatment of Aboriginal people and how that affects you as a Canadian citizen today. Without this effort it is too easy to rely on misinformation and falsehoods. Canada’s future lies in finding a way forward, together. I am forever amazed, no… shocked, at people’s levels of ignorance on this important issue.

  5. no we didn’t murder each other, we lived following Creators laws. life giving aws. life protecting laws, so how is killing humans ‘life’? look at your govvernments armies, that’s all they do is kill and steal, lol we will get it all back, we will set YOU free from tyranny that is YOUR government, pete

  6. Two things come to mind reading this article:
    1… If we go by the understanding that the first people to go to a new place own it all whether they are using it all or not then the United States of America own the moon as they were the first and only people there, be ready to pay for its use on our tides and to look upon it especially in romantic situations.
    2…a simple solution to all these century old problems is to divide up the ‘reservations’ equally amongst the First Nations ( First Immigrate ) people’s then treat all people in Canada the same and move into the present and work toward a future where all people regardless of race or when their ancestors immigrated here are Canadians .

  7. All I want to know is….

    As a “white” Canadian with no indian status can I move to an aboriginal community in the North and no have to worry about being attacked simply for being white? To be clear: Is it possible for a “white family” to live on reservation land or within an aboriginal community, such as Inuit etc?

    I’m a people person, I don’t care so much for laws that tell me people are different and I do my best to treat everyone with respect, period. When I was born my parents were teachers on an Indian reservation and adopted an Indian child who’s mother was happy they did. Fast forward to today and suddenly that makes my parents part of “the problem” in which indian kids were stripped of their identity. While I don’t argue that it happened in some places I would argue that my parents had absolutely no ill-will towards the community we lived in. In fact, as a family, we took on many native traits in the way we respected the land, took part in traditions and helped others as they helped us. ie: we learned as much about life/tradition/spirituality from them as they did from my parents about math and science.

    I have a deep respect for natives as a people and a dislike that I am excluded from living among them because of the color of my skin and because of the actions of people I don’t know and had no say in what they did to native rights. I don’t speak any native language, just French and English, but I’d learn… if I was allowed to become part of an Indian community. To that extent it feels the “racism” is indeed two ways, I feel excluded too.

    I may be in the minority of wanting to get away from consumption and become more spiritual and in touch with sustainable living by moving to an Indian village but… is it even possible now?

    • No one can guarantee that you’ll be free anywhere from abuse, be it because it is a symptom of structural abuse of indigenous peoples by the government which affords you and I all the benefits of racial privilege and privilege as settlers (non-indigenous), or simply because someone is taking their bad day out on you. That’s just a ludicrous demand to start with.

      Secondly, you need to ask yourself why you of all people (and your family) should take a house on reserve when you and I both know and acknowledge that there are untold numbers of people whose cultures of origin are preserved and passed on in those reserves, but who do not have access to their cultural teachings and elders because the reserves haven’t grown with the population whose ancestral ways are home there. I currently live full-time on a reserve belonging to a nation of about 4000 members (note: upon contact approximately 225 years ago, it was actually 16 nations which later amalgamated into one, and in the particular area i live in, there were roughly 40,000 people, reduced to less than 4,000 within a single century). I am sharing the home of an elder of the community who carries a great deal of teachings and the compassion to walk humbly with that knowledge. I do the overwhelming majority of labour in this house to help serve her needs so that she is free to do the work she needs to do. I earn my currently limited and minimal (almost invisible) place in the community, and I listen and learn as much as I can about how things are done and what my growing responsibilities are for carrying this knowledge myself. But do you know how many of her nation’s members have housing on any of the nation’s several (tiny) reserves? Maybe half, but probably fewer. In her family alone, more than half of the underage children have been placed in the custody of child care services, despite the fact that there are no grounds for the apprehension of these children AND there are still family members who could care for them full-time, and yet this is hardly an uncommon story.

      So is it possible for a white family to live under the radar on a reserve? Of course it is. I even know of one living on reserve in one of the nations whose traditional territories overlap in several locations with the one whose former village site I am living in. Is it ethical? Only your involvement in the community, and the community’s permission for you to be there, can answer that.

  8. Thank you for this. I and my fellow settled Canadians have a lot to learn beyond the little snippets of information that we are fed through media and interactions. I am the child of immigrant parents, born in Canada and have yet to fully grasp the extent of the Indian Act and the more I read it, the more upsetting it is…and to be stuck with it? It is woven with land treaties and other points of accountability for the Canadian government (which have not been upheld), but having no Indian Act erases all rights for indigenous Canadians! I don’t know what the solution is, but I do hope that I can walk forward with my eyes and heart more open. Thank you again.

  9. Excellent article, well written and straight to the four points.

    I came across this doing some of my own research regarding specific issues concerning the relationship of First Nations land titles and how they relate how the legal ownership of their traditional territories was designated as belonging to the Crown.

    It is interesting to observe that functionally that process consisted of King George III basically just saying “mine” without actually having even seen the continent, something that makes me wonder what it would be like to be able to do the same.

    There is something attractive about being able to look around different cities on maps and upon finding a home and property that seems appealing be able to declare it to be my own, and then notify the present inhabitants of that fact by sending someone who would inform them while beginning to inventory the furnishing for auction that they could continue to stay there if the promised to remain in the spare bedroom.

    That is partly balanced by the fact that the Royal Proclamation of 1763 and the acknowledgment of indigenous titles may have been one of the only things that not only allowed for the preservation of any significant portion of the First Nations cultures, but also has slowed down the rush to convert every possible natural resource into a commodity for export.

    This is something that more colonials like myself should consider being grateful for, considering that if the day ever comes that there is nothing left to sell and the land and waters cannot support life, the countries that we or our ancestors originally came from might not welcome us back with open arms.

    I’ve heard that apparently most of Europe is already having issues with large numbers of displaced people, whom among their number have a few who insist that the customs and laws of their new lands change to suit their beliefs, and in places like Britain some locals are making a lot of noise about newcomers overwhelming their own culture within a few generations.

    Considering the example that they have of how that played out in North America for the people here before waves of immigration, one could not blame them for not accepting the descendants of those expatriates as an additional burden.

    There is a wonderful quote in the following video, one that I wish some of your previous commentators would realize describes something for which they should be very, very grateful for.

    “Because it serves a purpose. We are the only thing standing in the way of unfettered resource development, unfettered land use, and the selling of all of our wealth and materials to other countries.” – Pam Palmater

    It’s a shame that the people who should watch this clip most will likely see the word “welfare” and ignoring the word immediately before it decide that they already know everything about what it’s about.

  10. Wow….makes my blood boil that after all these hundreds of years of getting it wrong, we still as a government are getting it wrong. Wake up Canada, we the aboriginal may not have the power to take over YET!!!!! I just hope I live to see the day that we do so enough to make it right for all First Nations or should I say START TO MAKE IT RIGHT!!!!!

  11. I’ve never known much about the true history of what they endured so thanks for a glimpse.
    I did know enough to always believe they got screwed and sh*t on big time.
    It’s like new people coming here and taking away, or limiting our culture, our way of life, and insisting we do things their way or do what they expect.
    Look around…I think karma is going to hurt, and not necessarily from the aboriginals.
    This time, they’ll get to sit back and watch it happen to all of us ‘non’- aboriginals!

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