The first Canadian Indian Act was issued in 1876. Though it has been revised numerous times, this hundred and thirty year old legislation has been left virtually unchanged. Established in order to ensure the assimilation of Native Americans in Canada, the Indian Act instead had achieved the total opposite. It has made this distinction more and has given immense power to the government, letting them control all who reside on the reserves. It was then that the distinction between Status Indians and Non-Status Indians was made. The Canadian government quickly displayed their control by forbidding the sale of any land within the reserve unless it was turned over to the Crown.
Another major part of the act was the enfranchisement of the Native American. When most refused to become enfranchised, the government made it so all Native Americans obtaining a University degree would automatically become enfranchised. In the amendment of 1884, the government banned the potlatch ceremony (a popular celebration among the First Nations an the Pacific Coast) for they believe it was a corrupt and destructive ritual. In 1951, after the imprisonment of numerous Natives, this legislation was dropped by the act. In 1927, it became forbidden for any person to raise money for Aboriginal in order to pursue any claim, unless permission was granted by the Superintendent General of Indian Affairs, yet attempt in making them absolutely dependent of the government. The next important change occurred in 1960 when the Aboriginal were finally given the right to vote. Though the implementation of better health services and the accessibility to education increased, the First Nations still found themselves living below the poverty standard of average Canadians.
As we fast forward to the present, we see that this act may have diversified effects on Native American people. Take for example a small northern reserve. We have people who live in poorly constructed homes that are not even built to withstand the cold. They cannot even afford running water, which makes laundry and bathing a difficult task. All of this is happening because they are not self sufficient. These people do not have the knowledge needed to properly run the reserve. These Native Americans have no choice but to depend on a government that cannot fulfill the their needs. Besides not receiving enough funds from the government, they are expected to pay ridiculously high prices to satisfy their basic needs such as food from convenient stores. Though they intend to one day own their own stores, they are practically denied the opportunity to communicate with those in charge. On the positive side, they have learned English, their children do attend school. However, the level of education is not sufficient. To be able to assimilate into an environment, they would have to work harder yet they are continuously slowed down by the government. This is simply one example of a people living in atrocious conditions. There are Natives living a better life. They are well educated, having degrees in engineering, law, architecture among others. Most of their population is employed and nearly self sufficient. They lead lives very similar to those of non-status Indians. A great achievement on their part, but not quite perfect. Since the Canadian government banned the right for any Native American to own or sell any land, they cannot sell the houses they have built. Outsiders are reluctant to purchase houses on the reserve for they fear its unstable situation. Another clause in the Indian act prohibits them to connect to the major sewage system.
In conclusion, it difficult to understand how a government we claim to be civilized and free to all can promote an amendment so primitive and ultimately suppressive. Though the initial plan seemed to be the assimilation of the First Nations, the government has also went out of their way to do the exact opposite. Such laws leave little hope for those who have no recourse or legal backing, those how depend on a mute system that hinders the tribes with natural resources but sustains the ones without. And those who are better off must still fight to obtain what should be there birth right. Sadly, even though the Indian Act has been around for over one hundred and thirty years, the shackles of its either benevolent or repressive authority over the human beings it fences in does not seem ready to break in the foreseeable future.