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How the Indian Act continues to impact the lives of First Nation people

There is no piece of legislation that has had more of an influence on the lives of First Nation people in Canada than the Indian Act. Originally passed in 1878, the Indian Act outlines everything from the current reserve structure, to the creation of residential schools. 
The Indian Act was passed in 1878, and still impacts the lives of First Nation people today. (Falen Johnson)

There is no piece of legislation that has had more of an influence on the lives of First Nation people in Canada than the Indian Act. 

Bob Joseph's book 21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act was inspired by a blog post that went viral.

Originally passed in 1878, the Indian Act outlines everything from the current reserve structure, to the creation of residential schools. 

In 2015, author Bob Joseph wrote a viral blog post called, 21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act. He has since turned it into a book. This week, Joseph will serve as an Indian Act tour guide. 

Wolastoqew artist Emma Hassencahl-Perley examines identity in her work, and in particular, how the Indian Act impacts her life as a First Nation woman. She'll describe her art piece Ahtolimiye (she keeps praying), which is a jingle dress that incorporates pieces of the Indian Act.

Before an amendment to the Indian Act was passed in 1986, First Nation women lost their status if they married a non-First Nation man. Lynn Gehl has been at the forefront of changing this, and spent years trying to get her status back, and fighting the residual sex-based discrimination in the amendment. 

Enfranchisement is the legal process by which First Nation people give up their Indian Status, for the promise of gaining the same rights as non-Indigenous Canadians. In 1958, the Michel Band in Alberta was the first community to entirely enfranchise. Band member Celina Loyer tells the story of how that happened, and how the community is still trying to be recognized by the federal government. 

While some First Nation people continue to fight to get their status back, others have given it up. Hear how Isaac Murdoch, from Serpent River First Nation, was inspired by the words of his mother and Nelson Mandela to distance himself from the Indian Act.

Emma Hassencahl-Perley's White Flag incorporates shreds of the Indian Act sewn onto a Canadian Flag. The artwork makes a comment on how the Indian Act continues to impact the identities of First Nations people in Canada. (Submitted by Emma Hassencahl-Perley)

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