What do you really know about The Indian Act?
The Secret Life of Canada explores the federal law that overhauled settler-Indigenous relations
In 1876, the young country of Canada passed a set of laws intended to govern First Nations people in Canada.
Decades later, those laws still exist and are largely unchanged — as you may be able to tell from the outdated term in the title of the Act.
So, how and why did this act of Parliament come to be? And why is it still on the books? (Hint: something this deeply rooted is hard to exhume without changing the foundation.)
In the newest episode of The Secret Life of Canada, co-hosts Falen Johnson and Leah Simone-Bowen look into the various forces that led Canada to the creation of the Indian Act, and the various ways it has defined and controlled Indigenous lives over the span of several generations.
What you'll hear this episode
- What early agreements looked like between European settlers and Indigenous people. (Spoiler: it wasn't a cool handshake or friendship bracelets.)
- Just how the Department of Indigenous and Northern Affairs started, and just how far back we can trace precursors to the department (a story that begins well before Confederation).
- The importance of the Royal Proclamation, and the last time Falen believes Indigenous and non-Indigenous people had a proper nation-to-nation agreement.
- Why treaties mean so much to Indigenous communities.
- The steps that gradually led to the creation of the Indian Act, including the Bagot Commission, The Gradual Enfranchisement Act of 1896 and the Gradual Civilization Act.
- Leah and Falen discuss branching out and creating a true crime podcast called Confederation.
- The especially harsh impact of the Indian Act on Indigenous women.
- Falen chats with Kaniehtiio Horn, Mohawk actress and host/creator of the great podcast Coffee with my Ma. They speak frankly about status lost and gained, and whether there's really any levelling up in this video game.
- Falen chats with Teresa Vander Meer-Chasse about her decision to reclaim her Indigenous status after her grandmother lost it by marrying outside the community.
- The British Indian Department and the Frontier in North America, 1755-1830 by Robert S. Allenor for Parks Canada
- Remembering the Proclamation of 1763. Video and companion write up by Jesse Greespan for History.
- Sir William Johnson. Encyclopedia article by Carl A. Christie for The Canadian Encyclopedia.
- Covenant Chain. Encyclopedia article by Cornelius J. Jaenen.
- Wampum at Niagara: The Royal Proclamation, Canadian Legal History, and Self-Government. Book chapter by John Borrows.
- What is the Royal Proclamation? Article by Indigenous Foundation. First Nations and Indigenous Studies Program at the University of British Columbia.
- Indian Residential Schools. Chronology by John Edmond for LawNow Magazine, from The Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta.
- A history of Residential Schools in Canada. FAQ by CBC.
- Finding Cleo. Podcast by Connnie Walker and CBC News/CBC Podcasts.
- What is Indian Status? Article by Indigenous Foundation. First Nations and Indigenous Studies Program at the University of British Columbia.
- 21 Things you might not know about the Indian Act. Book by Bob Joseph, founder of Indigenous Corporate Training Inc.
- The Pass System. Documentary by Alex Williams.
- The Pass System in Canada. Encyclopedia article by Rob Nestor for Canadian Encyclopedia.
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