How does the Indian Act continue to
regulate First Nations peoples, their identities and nationhood in Canada?
Ever since it was passed in 1876, the Indian Act has stirred negative feedback. It is a paternalistic and intrusive piece of legislature that essentially controls the political and day-to-day lives of the First Nations people. It is an Aboriginal versus white struggle that has lasted for more than a century. But now this is not entirely true. The indigenous communities of Canada have internalized the contents of the Indian Act and made it Aboriginal versus Aboriginal. This essay will attempt to explain why this reversal has happened and what it has done to the indigenous identity.
One of the main issues with the Indian Act is how they define one as ‘Indian’. Blood quantum is important to their definition, even after Bill C-31. Therefore, the definition of an Indian is physical rather than spiritual. This raises questions about who has the right to tell a person whether or not they are Aboriginal? If they live like a Native, talk like a Native, believe they are a Native, are they still not Native because their grandparents weren’t? The Act not only took away self-determinism and indigenous sovereignty, but has also revoked the identity of many Aboriginal people.
The above argument is assumed to be a white government prescribing Aboriginal identities but in some cases, it’s Aboriginal elders doing the prescribing. The documentary Club Native brought to light how racist the Mohawk community of Kahnawake is. Outsiders and non-natives are disliked and for a woman to marry one of them is highly frowned upon. Even children born into the community with mixed backgrounds has to prove their aboriginal identity to the community. This hostility towards diversity is most likely a side effect of the Indian Act.
The whole point of the Indian Act is to enforce internal colonialism and there are two ways to do that: take away a groups rights and eradicate them...
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