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The Indian Act


A law written, far away, by people who did not know us, to govern the very way we lived. 

Enacted in 1876, the Indian Act was intended to manage the treaties and rights of First Nations people that had first been acknowledged by the British government in 1763. In reality, it set the stage for a series of paternalistic Canadian government policies that controlled every aspect of our lives. The Act and its many subsequent revisions determined who among us was a real or “status Indian”, banned many of our traditional activities, and deprived us of many of the rights enjoyed by other Canadians unless we willingly renounced our “Indian” heritage.


One intention of the act was to “assimilate” First Nations people or gradually strip them of their unique aboriginal identities and cultures, making them part of mainstream civilization. Aboriginal people had to revoke their Indian status in order to own a business, graduate from university, or vote in territorial or federal elections. Most resisted, seeing this as a move to strip us of our identities and dwindling land base. 

Anglican missionary, Reverend John Hawksley, became the Yukon's first Indian Agent, appointed in 1914. 

cropped from: Yukon Archives, E.J. Hamacher fonds (Margaret and Rolf Hougen coll.) 2002/118 #211

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