History Paper on The Indian Act of Canada

The Indian Act of Canada


The history of Canada’s progression of nation building commenced in 1876 and was triggered by the enactment of the British North America Act. Despite the fact that the innate populations were declining, the nation encourageda steadyfading of the Indian population that was vindicatedthrough theabsorption. The assimilation process entailed a procedure through which the native population was anticipated to relinquish its culture, language, set of principles, and their normal way of life. Therefore, theaspiration to see the Innate Indians transform and becomealike to the British settlers was integratedin the first Indian Act of 1876. The Act provisions addressed various concerns but it predominantlyprovided direction to the critical objective of assimilation. Consequently, the Indian Act turned out to be the guarantee for Aboriginal affairs in Canada. The act remained at the center of argument, irritation and sorrow for a long time as a result of the controversy in the provisions affecting the governance and regulation in the lives of the Aboriginal communities in Canada. Additionally, the Indian Act is turned out to be an uncontestable facet of the Aboriginal backdrop in Canada.  In many years, this divisive and unpleasant form of government legislation administered virtually all features of Aboriginal life, beginning with the form of band control, property tenancy arrangements to constraints on Aboriginal traditional practices. Most significantly, the legislation also described the credentials for one to be a “status Indian,” thereby being the core of Aboriginal irritation towards the federal efforts to govern Aboriginal independency and association. Nonetheless, the significance of this notable regulation is currently being done with. For instance, at the political level, both the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal faultfinders, particularly of the Indian Act criticize the law as being irrelevant and outdated form of governmental device.


Although the provision was alleged by some historians as being protective among the Aboriginal populations, the Indian Act entailed someinconsistent roles that enhancedintricacies inthe regulation. For instance, the twin pillars entailed in the Indian policy clashed with the patriarchal nature of the Indian Act that caused moresegregationrather thanfortificationamong the native people. Furthermore, the Act establisheda standard for an interiordivisionamong the Aboriginal communities, particularly between the Natives acknowledged by the Act and the rest of the communities left out. This paper provides an analysis on the significance of the Indian Act in destroying the Native cultures through a damaging colonizing schema of assimilation that was achieved through the government’s completepower over the Indian people. This was attained through theestablishment of the Indian Status by naturalization. The process was followed byenactment of specific bans onsome cultural practices held by the minority populations. This approach was triggered by the belief that the integrationprocess was thedefinitive strategy for killing the aboriginal cultures, which were perceived to be primitive.

Assimilation through the End of Self-Governance

It is significant to cognize the weighty bearing of the Indian Act, since there are several major assumptions among the main Canadian society about Native cultures over the centuries. Fundamentally, the Indian Act provided that the Indigenous societies in the nation were incapable of managing their own affairs. Therefore, the government objective was to assimilate the aboriginal cultures into the Canadian majority. Through the Act provision and powers, the federal civil servants found authority to controlseveral indigenous aspects, for instance, lands, trust funds, personal and family lives of the native populations as well assquashing theelementary civil rights of the native majority (Coates 2). This position was affirmed by the nation’s first Prime Minister J. A. MacDonald who claimed that it was the responsibility of the country to defeat the tribal coordination and integrate the Indian people in all aspectsof the occupants of the state (Milloy, 2008). Consequently, through the Indian Act, the Government of Canada validated a far-reachingpower and authority over Aboriginal societies and populations. Several traditional forms of government of the populations were revoked and replaced with avoting system that was under the headship of an indigenous Indian agent. This implied that Chiefs and Councilors,among other leaders, ruled over the subjects at the order and command of the Crown (Milloy, 2008). In addition, the Indian Department was also allowed to controlseveralrudiments of the reserve-land, such as resources and finance. Moreover, the department was allowedto establish several control systems of development, for example,personalized land proprietorship, edification and financial control (Milloy, 2008).

The development of the acts as a result of the provision was not only upheldby the critical facets of the 1876 legislation but also instigatedaddedprinciplesthat were objected tocreating Canadian commercial and social rules and regulations among the Aboriginal communities. Through these edicts,the councils were also permitted toexecute rules and regulations regarding the care of public health, adherence toduring public assemblies, and the authoritarianism of overindulgence and extravagance among other responsibilities. Besides, extra modificationsin the Indian Act extended the Indian Department’s powersaimed at ensuring that maximum assimilation is attained. The act also saw the appointment of agents who acted asmediators of peace and ensured that the provisions of the law are adhered to. The indispensableobjective of the government was to ensure that all the Natives under one moral borderare gathered as Canadians (Milloy, 2008). Nonetheless, the civilizersintenselyassumed that the unconventionality of the ethnic communities in the nation alongside their deteriorating old-fashioned traditionswere the mainbarricades to developmentthat wereto be ended (Milloy, 2008). Subsequently, in the pursuit for assimilation triggered by the Canadian government, the Indians were subjected to colonization and complete control.

Incorporation through the Indian Status

The government power and control over First Nations as well as the predeterminedshift of power to the Indian Affairs Department createdextremeintrusion and the repudiation of self-governmentthat has been constructed via the Status Indian act. The Indian Act established the qualifications for a person to be considered a Status Indian aimed at establishing control over Aboriginal identity and affiliation (McMillan, 1988). The Status Indians was provided in theIndian Act besidesbeing acknowledged by the state government in the Indian Inventory. Therefore, the right to be listed originated from the affiliation besides being a partisan organizational unit acknowledged by the national government (McMillan, 1988). Several limitationswere attached to the Status Indians, which entailed numerous guidelines that deprived Natives of their autonomousprivileges and led them in the direction of assimilation. Therefore, it is significant to recognize the far-reaching influence of the Indian Act among the lives of the Native populations. This is because the Indian Act effectively governed the Indian communities and put in place measures that saw the Status Indians being strictly adhered toin the rules and regulations that were executed by the Department of Indian Affairs.

Furthermore, the establishment of the Indian Status restricted the Aboriginal communities the privileges to choosethe communities in which they belong to.All thestandbyrepopulations that did not fall under the Indian category were denied the right of status. This means that they enjoyed certain privileges, for example, they would be treated as intruders and evicted from their lands. Moreover, the status could also be revoked when an Aboriginal woman would get married to a non-Aboriginal (Milloy, 2008). The establishment of the India Status was executed by administrativeentities to deny Aboriginals the power to determine their own rights and privileges as well as simplification of the process of assimilation. Additionally, through the establishment of the Indian Status, the discrete ethnic nations were demolished by separating their ensembles into distinct property-bound entities that killed the spirit of brotherhood (Milloy, 2008).

Consequently, the Indian Status was associated with other bands other than thetraditional and tribal enclaves. This implied that if an Indian woman got married to another man from a different band, she would stop being a member of the band she belonged to initially and became a member of the man’s band (Milloy,2008). These types of provisions were similar to thetraditional Canadian provisions where men and women were part of the man identity.The separation of the Aboriginal from the non-Aboriginal populationwas also occasioned in the status of women and children in relation to the man’s status. For instance, the Indian women who were married to the non-Aboriginals lost their status and took over their white husbands’status. Therefore, an important facet of the Indian Act was the sexual discrimination because Native women who were married non-Native males together with their children were denied their original identity. Nonetheless, women who married the Indian men spontaneously became Indians as provided in the Act, irrespective of their origin. This biased provision of the Indian Act prevailed for more than a century and was a government strategy to advantage the white society and augment the disparaging process of assimilation (McMillan, 1988).

Assimilation through Education and Enfranchisement

The assimilation objective of the Canadian administration was witnessed in the creation of a close association between the education system and Native’s traditional elimination. This was through the attempt of the Canadian national government to interfere with the spread of culture and detach the children from their parents. The dedicated initiatives were aimed at forming a gap between different generations of the traditional innate societies as proved via the European forms of housing and missionary schools. These establishments disadvantaged the Aboriginal community besides being predetermined strategiesfashioned to ensure the success of assimilation and cultural extermination. Furthermore, theobjective of incorporation of religion into the teaching system was tocultivatea new way of life away from the Indian traditions among the Aboriginal communities (Bell & Napoleon, 2009).

Consequently, the Indian children were targeted as thebest agents of change because of being brought up in a constant cycle of civilized environment (Bell & Napoleon, 2009). The government initiative of transforming the Indian culture among the Aboriginal community is validated in the national yearly reports that outline the need to free Indian youngsters from the common isolated traditional they grew up in andadapt them to the newcommunalimpacts (Bell &Napoleon, 2009). Moreover, the church was considered an indispensable factor that would impact the children’s moral growth. This was through its efforts in replacing the pagan notionwith the new culture of civilization (Bell & Napoleon, 2009).Besides, the abolition of native languages among the Indian communities was another significant development in ensuring a smooth civilization process.

In this development, the government saw the need of introducing English language to the Indian communities as a way ofmaking them become perpetually socially significant, which would also enable them depart from their native tongue to destroy their communal bonds (Bell & Napoleon, 2009). Additional changes in the Indian Act also saw the interests of the white population and the non-Aboriginal society being augmented and they were also isolated against the Native people. As a result of pushing for further integration, the Act allowed an obligatory removal of children from uptown schools besides denying the Indians who obtained a University Education their status. As a consequent of the Native populations having less rias compared to other Canadian nationals, the Status Indians were also denied their rights. This was occasioned by the government through an empowerment in the Indian Act of 1876, which saw the exclusion of the populations form the enumerated list of Status Indians (Coates, 2008).

Enfranchisement also took place throughdeliberate means. This occurred when a Status Indianacquired a university degree to became a doctor or lawyer, or when it was determined by the governmentthat one was ready to be assimilated as a Canadian (Coates, 2008). Nonetheless, the individuals who were naturalized were supposed to abandon the traditional culture and identity as required by the law. The implementation of this provision was an additional government development to enhancepopulations from different bands to give up their status, land, language and culture so that they could receive equalcourteous rights that were provided by the white society, such as Canadian citizenship. Other rights enjoyed by the new status included the rights to vote and own property and individuals had to relinquish the original cultures (Mulley, 2008). This was the main reason why only few native individuals from the native population made up their minds to be naturalized, as most of them had acknowledged the fact thatthe government’s intention was to take away the land, culture and traditions they enjoyed. It was apparent that when a man gave up his status, his entire family would automatically be naturalized (McMillan 1988).This government provision symbolized the certainty of killing the aboriginalsocieties through absorption of the dominant groups.

Between 1914 and 1930, ninechanges were made to the Indian Act. However, all of them were aimed at enhancing the assimilation process of the aboriginal communities (McMillan, 1988). For instance, in 1920, an amendment of the act provided that any Indian that was above 21 years andwhom the superintendent general perceived he was suitable fornaturalization would forcibly be converted to the new status by the federal cabinet (McMillan, 1988). All the constant amendments that were happening were aimed at ensuring the integration of the dominant culture through assimilationbesides civilization of the aboriginal tribes. This implied that the Indian status was perceived to be aprovisional phasethat was heading to assimilation. The First Nations, therefore, had to be absolutely integrated into the leading white society through the Indian Act. This process resulted in the government’s total control over the Indigenous people thus leading to enslavement, cultural forfeiture and detachment into the national political system. These mechanisms limited the populations’ individualism, brotherhood and collective action, for instance, self-determination (Coates, 2008).

The Indian Act was aimed at thrashing the native culture that was apparent in the ban of the potlatch and Sundance ceremonies. The amendment to the Indian Act in 1884 bill that was steered by missionaries set the stage for the naturalization process through the method of refining the indigenous populations (Bell & Napoleon, 2009). Moreover, the amendment saw the outlaw of potlatch ritual and the punishment to potlatch participation through detention. After this amendment, several other edicts were passed, which saw the outlawing of several other practices, for instance, Sundance and the Thirst Dance. The ban of the Indian Sundance rituals represented a greater indication of imposing legacy of conquest that was grounded on the misleading principles of dominance of the European customs. The destruction of Aboriginal communities that were minors reached the climax stage in 1927. This was after several amendments that made the communities dependent and suppressed, for instance, the provision that prohibited the raising of funds aimed at propagating any inherent claim. Besides, this added modification about several injustices in the land’s issue made it hard for Indian bands and other aboriginal populations to have their cases heard or a political support through campaigns (McMillan, 2009).


The main objective of the Canadian government in the 19th century naturalization process was executed through the passage of the Indian Act that provided an avenue for the government to carry out its assimilation strategies. Notwithstandingseveral other amendments that were undertaken in the amendment, the crucial assimilation policiesin the act remained active for a long period of time after its enactment. Upholding these doctrines for a long timeshowed the interest and determination of the Canadian government to eradicate the communities within the nation. The effects of the Act were very strong and impacted severely on the aboriginal communities. The intention of the Act was to destroy the innate cultures hidden in the assimilation process, which were introduced by the government and implemented by its complete power over the Indian people through the establishment of the Indian Status. This was also attained through the enfranchisement process and total ban of the application of a sternprohibition on cultural practices, for example, potlatch and Sundance. Additionally, the government transmitted undisputed power to the Department of Indian Affairs that implemented totalsupremacyon the First Nations where it was used as an element of controlling the management of the Aboriginal undertakings in the nation. This state of affairs prevailed despite several accusations from the Indigenous people who despised the Indian Act because it was seen as a legislaturethat disadvantaged the minor communities.

The Act provided total control of the government on the aboriginal communities not only to deny them their rights but also derestrict their rights to control their own affairsand independency and lose their own identity. To deeply understand the strongoutcomes of the of the Indian Act, the discrimination aspects of the law were practically aimed at killing the unity and culture of the First Nations by demonstrating that they are less citizens as compared to the majority of the Canadians.The white society enjoyed more freedom and rights as compared to the First Nations that lost their cultural holdings, for instance, the spirit of brotherhood. Therefore, the Indian Act did not only mark a symbol of traditional and partisan sovereignty but also the origin of a long-term Aboriginal distress and cultural damage. The Act had a severe impact on stripping off the culture and brotherhood of the aboriginal communities aimed at forcing them to adopt the new Canadian culture through assimilation.



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Coates, K. (2008). The Indian Act and the future of Aboriginal governance in Canada. National Centre for First Nations Governance.

McMillan, A. D. (1988). Native peoples and cultures of Canada: an anthropological overview. Vancouver, BC: Douglas & McIntyre.

Milloy, J. S. (2008). Indian Act colonialism: A century of dishonour, 1869-1969. National Centre for First Nations Governance.