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Indian Hospitals: How the Indian Act, Colonial Governments, and Systemic Racism Created Segregated Health

By Sam Yee

Written in 2021 for the University of Ottawa course HIS 4135 – The Indian Act, for Prof. Daniel Rück

As the discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves at the sites of former residential schools emerges in mainstream news, most Canadians now know of the mistreatment of Indigenous peoples at the hands of the Indian residential school system. However, most people aren’t familiar with Canada’s segregated Indian hospitals, which ran in tandem with residential schools and other assimilatory practices throughout the 20th century. Indian hospitals were originally conceived to quarantine Indigenous people with tuberculosis (TB) from the Canadian population, and became a ‘sister’ of sorts to residential schools. Instead of keeping Indigenous children away from their communities under the guise of providing education, Indian hospitals did the same thing (to both children and adults), but under the guise of providing health care. These institutions were places of rampant medical violence. They reinforced Indigenous people as a second-class, prevented them from using their traditional medicines, and were frequently sites of non-consensual procedures, such as forced sterilization and vaccine trials. In addition to the numerous deaths that occurred in Indian hospitals, many patients were forced to stay for several years, and subsequently lost their cultures, languages, and identities.

Below you’ll find an annotated bibliography with key works about Indian hospitals in Canada. As some of the annotations explain, the Indian Act was instrumental in maintaining the segregated Indian hospital system. It gave rise to the Indian Health Regulations in 1953 which, among other things, made hospitalization mandatory for any “Indian” with an infectious disease. Due to poverty and overcrowded housing, infectious disease epidemics (particularly TB) were common in many Indigenous communities. Of note is that many hospital patients were Inuit, despite not being considered “Indians” under the Indian Act. This is because after the Supreme Court ruled in 1939 that Inuit were Aboriginal people, their health care became a federal responsibility. As a result, the colonial policies of the Department of Indian Affairs, and later Indian Health Services, affected the health care of both status Indians and Inuit. Until the mid-20th century, many privately-run community hospitals refused non-white patients, so non-status, Métis, and even some non-Indigenous people attended the Indian hospitals as well.

The world’s leading scholar on Canada’s Indian hospitals is Dr. Maureen Lux, a history professor at Brock University. Almost a third of the sources in this bibliography are authored by her, and she’s one of the few academics who has focused much of her research on the Indian hospitals. Lux’s 2016 book, Separate Beds: A History of Indian Hospitals in Canada, 1920s-1980s, is the most comprehensive overview of the creation, operation, and legacy of Canada’s Indian hospitals, as well as Indigenous resistance to them. All of Lux’s research on Indian hospitals essentially culminates into this book, and if there is one essential read you take from this bibliography, let it be that one.

While compiling this list of key works, I found that most of the sources could be separated into three general categories based on their main themes. These categories are: works that provide historical context, works about survivors’ stories, and works about Indigenous resistance. Of course, several of the sources overlap into two or all three categories. Lux’s Separate Beds, for example, falls nicely under all three. Nevertheless, this categorization may help you gain an understanding of the important themes in each of these works.

While each work in this bibliography provides some form of historical context, the ones that fall into the first category are primary sources, and pieces with a heavy emphasis on archival research. They do not center the perspectives of survivors; rather, these works focus more on the inner workings of the Indian hospital system itself. There are two primary sources in this bibliography: The Indian Health Regulations and the 1935 Canadian Medical Association Journal article written by E. L. Stone. These require a careful reading and interpretation, and will give you an idea of the attitudes that made their way into colonial policies on Indigenous health. Kelm’s Colonizing Bodies, Lux’s articles “Indian Hospitals in Canada” and “Care for the ‘Racially Careless,’” and Young’s sociohistorical perspective on Indian Health Services all fall under this category, too. These four articles mainly focus on the history of Indian hospitals and how segregated health care in Canada came to be, but differ from the two primary sources because Kelm, Lux, and Young all have a highly critical and generally negative opinion of the Canadian government in their articles.

The second category highlights the perspectives and lived experiences of former Indian hospital patients. There may be some or no author interpretation of the experiences shared; the stories often speak for themselves. What makes this category different from the third (Indigenous resistance) is that these works may be more trauma-focused. They highlight the mistreatment of Indigenous people in an effort to spark indignation in the reader towards the racism perpetrated by the settler-colonial state. Geddes’ Medicine Unbundled, Meijer Drees’ Healing Histories, Metcalfe-Chenail’s “Ghosts of Camsell” blog, and Pelley’s CBC News article fall under survivors’ stories. Geddes’ book and the Camsell blog could also overlap into the historical context category due to their heavy archival research, but the authors’ underlying messages behind these works made me feel that they belonged more in the second category.

Finally, the works on Indigenous resistance are the ones that focus less on survivors’ pain and suffering, but rather on what Indigenous people did in response to the Indian hospitals while they were still in operation. Granzow’s article on Inuit resistance and Lux’s article on the Blackfoot Hospital are good examples of this. As mentioned earlier, Lux’s book Separate Beds falls into all three categories, in part due to the length of the work and the author’s extensive research on Indian hospitals. Separate Beds is one of the few works that explores Indigenous-led grassroots activism for better health care that transpired from the discrimination faced in the segregated Indian hospital system.

During my research, I found that there wasn’t a whole lot of literature about Indian hospitals out there. As a result, there are some gaps and limitations that I noticed. Most of the existing work on Indian hospitals in Canada has been authored by non-Indigenous historians. One could argue that perhaps it’s better this way, and that non-Indigenous researchers should be the ones doing the work of critiquing settler-colonial institutions. However, I still found it somewhat surprising that in almost all cases, the stories of survivors were told being told by others rather than through their own voices. So far, the literature on Indian hospitals focuses much more on the first two categories I identified, and much less so on the third. My hope is that there will be more research on Indigenous resistance to the Indian hospitals in the future.

My post began with residential schools, which have been increasingly researched from many different angles in the last few years due to heightened awareness about them. But segregated Indian hospitals? Most Canadians haven’t even heard of them. I hope that the annotated bibliography below helps familiarize you with this topic, and that more historians will soon begin to uncover new stories about this part of Canadian history.

PowerPoint Presentation

Annotated Bibliography

Canada. Department of Indian Affairs. The Indian Health Regulations: Made Under The Indian Act. Ottawa: Canada Gazette, 1955. https://www.canadiana.ca/view/oocihm.9_10050/1?r=0&s=1.

This online site contains a scanned copy of the Indian Health Regulations, which were created by the Canadian federal government in 1953 under the authority of section 72 of The Indian Act, 1951. Clauses f-h in section 72 of the 1951 Indian Act allow the Governor in Council (i.e. Cabinet) to make regulations on the provision of medical treatment and health services to status Indians, and control the spread of infectious disease on reserves by enforcing compulsory hospitalization for those with an infectious disease. The regulations developed from these clauses gave power to Indian agents and medical professionals employed by Indian Health Services to forcibly remove any status Indian suspected of being ill from their home, and place them in a federally-run Indian hospital, where it was illegal to refuse treatment. The language in this document clearly treats patients like prisoners; “place of detention” is used throughout to refer to a hospital or clinic. The document also contains three forms that would have been filled out by Indian agents when admitting a patient to an Indian hospital. This primary source is frequently cited in works about Indigenous health in Canada, and is essential to understanding the policy behind the significant increase in status Indians frequenting Indian hospitals in the 1950s and 60s. However, it is important to note that Inuit also occupied Indian hospitals in high numbers, despite not falling under the Indian Health Regulations.Sick Indigenous people faced (illegal) forcible relocation to Indian hospitals prior to 1953, but these regulations made it legal to do so (for status Indians only). A careful reading of this primary source reveals the racism that underwrote colonial health policy, as well as the desire of the Canadian government to forcibly quarantine Indigenous people while colonization of the land continued.

Geddes, Gary. Medicine Unbundled: A Journey Through the Minefields of Indigenous Health Care. Victoria, BC: Heritage House, 2017.

This book is not only a key work on Canada’s Indian hospitals and some of its survivors, but it also explores the barriers fueled by systemic racism that Indigenous people face when trying to access health care in Canada. Through primary and secondary sources, Geddes effectively demonstrates how the Indian Act and other colonial policies manifested in medical harm towards Indigenous people. When sick, they were legally apprehended, quarantined, and incarcerated by physicians and government officials against their will. Geddes argues that this was a means of isolating Indigenous peoples from the rest of Canadian society, thus facilitating colonization. In addition to presenting original research about the Indian hospitals and its survivors, the author also describes in much detail his own learning journey and methodology in authoring the book. Geddes’ friendship with Songhees Elder Joan Morris (Indian hospital survivor and major contributor to this book) inspired him to begin researching this topic, and helped him connect with other survivors. In addition to library and archival research, Geddes interviewed 34 Indigenous Elders in-person and over the phone to collect their stories and lived-experiences, many of which contained painful memories of forced sterilization and other non-consensual procedures. Geddes supports his arguments very strongly with a variety of sources; he draws from other books on Indigenous health, news stories, Indigenous poetry, as well as academic articles. When the information he needed could not be found from the federal archives, he searched for Indigenous people who had previously written about their time spent in an Indian hospital. This book is a very close and intimate look at the experiences of Indian hospital survivors and their lives today. Many of those interviewed also discussed how residential schools, displacement, and poverty played a role in furthering health inequities between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. Geddes expands on these stories with extensive scholarly research on residential schools, and the history of systemic racism towards Indigenous people in Canada; in doing so, he provides a holistic survey of the various historical and current factors impacting Indigenous health. Although Geddes acknowledges his privilege as a white settler male trying to tell Indigenous peoples’ stories at many points in the book, he also recognizes the harmful narratives authors have contributed to the historiography on Indigenous peoples. This book shows Geddes commitment to changing those narratives, and to educating other settlers on Canada’s Indian hospitals and the ongoing effects of colonial violence on Indigenous health.

Granzow, Kara. “Against Settler Colonial Iatrogenesis: Inuit Resistance to Treatment in Indian Hospitals in Canada.” Anthropology & Medicine (2021): 1-16. Accessed July 6, 2021. https://doi.org/10.1080/13648470.2021.1929832.

This is a very recent article on the experiences of Inuit in Canada’s Indian hospitals. Despite not being considered Indians under the Indian Act, and thus not falling under laws mandating hospitalization after diagnosis with an infectious disease, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in 1939 that “Inuit were Aboriginal people and, therefore, constitutionally, a federal responsibility.” Many Inuit were forcibly relocated to Indian hospitals in southern Canada due to high rates of tuberculosis (TB) among them, largely caused by poverty and overcrowded housing. This article presents Granzow’s analysis of letters found in the federal archives that detail the harmful treatment Inuit received for TB at Indian hospitals, as well as resistance efforts by the Inuit against their oppressors. Many of these letters were written by patients in Inuktitut, and translated for analysis. The author’s methodology is unique from many works on Canada’s Indian hospitals. Granzow responds to Eve Tuck’s call for a desire-based research framework, which focuses less on the damage done to colonized peoples, and more on communities’ survivance and resistance to domination. This article introduces a new term to the existing literature on Indigenous health: settler colonial iatrogenesis, which acknowledges that Indigenous peoples have faced harm at the intersections of settler colonialism and medical intervention. The author’s analysis of primary sources supports her argument strongly, although it is not known if context could have been lost in the translation from Inuktitut to English, making interpretation slightly inaccurate. Nevertheless, Granzow’s capturing of the bigger-picture ideas of Inuit resistance to iatrogenic treatment from these letters, and the use of a desire-based research framework make the nature of this source an unprecedented contribution to the historiography on Canada’s Indian hospitals. Given this publication’s recency, it will be interesting to see if future studies explicitly adopt a desire-based methodology, and if there are letters that reveal resistance efforts of other Indigenous peoples.

Kelm, Mary-Ellen. Colonizing Bodies Aboriginal Health and Healing in British Columbia, 1900-50. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1998.

Colonizing Bodies is frequently cited by authors of more recent books on Indigenous health as a work that inspired their research on the topic. The book discusses the impact of colonization on Indigenous health systems, focusing on the First Nations who reside in what is now British Columbia (BC). However, much of the discussion also applies to other Indigenous peoples in Canada. Kelm highlights the differing concepts of health and sickness between settler and First peoples in BC, and contends that these differences were reflected in the Indian Act and other colonial policies that enforced Indigenous marginalization.Chapters 6 and 7 are particularly relevant to Indian hospitals; however, the remainder of the book provides important context on colonialism in Canada and how it manifested through the provision of health care services. Kelm’s research was largely directed by existing scholarly literature on colonialism and health, ethnohistory, and the medical history of Indigenous peoples in BC. She also cites other books, as well as first-person narratives of former hospital patients and medical personnel, and oral histories from Indigenous Elders. While the support for her claims is strong and uses both primary and secondary sources, this book is now over two decades old and is somewhat limited compared to more recent works that draw from a greater body of research. However, Kelm’s interpretation of primary source documents from the first half of the 20th century provide valuable context on the basis for segregated health care in Canada, and on how creating difference between white and Indigenous people underwrote colonial health policy.

Lux, Maureen. “Indian Hospitals in Canada.” Last modified January 31, 2018. https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/indian-hospitals-in-canada.

This Canadian Encyclopedia article provides a brief but accessible overview of the origins, operations, and eventual closing of segregated Indian hospitals in Canada. Written by Maureen Lux, the leading scholar on Canada’s Indian hospitals, this article contains most of the key points from her research on these institutions. Although this article appears to be purely informative, the details Lux chooses to include support the argument that Indian hospitals were extensions of colonial and medical violence towards Indigenous people, primarily First Nations and Inuit. Due to poverty and overcrowded housing, Indigenous people in the early 20th century had a substantial risk of contracting tuberculosis, and eventually became highly stigmatized as “vectors” of the disease. This justified the federal government’s creation of segregated Indian hospitals in an effort to reduce contact and infection among the non-Indigenous population. The 1953 Indian Health Regulations criminalized refusing medical treatment for status Indians. The sick were thus removed from their traditional medicines, and faced attempts at assimilation through exposure to western biomedicine. As is the general format for Canadian Encyclopedia articles, this piece contains no in-text citations. However, Lux draws from much of her own academic research (some of which are included in this bibliography), which are well supported with analysis of archival documents and patient oral histories. While the key points are included, this article should serve as a starting point, and encourage readers to search for more detailed works on Indian hospitals.

Lux, Maureen K. “Care for the ‘Racially Careless’: Indian Hospitals in the Canadian West, 1920–1950s.” Canadian Historical Review 91, no. 3 (September 2010): 407-34. http://drc.usask.ca/projects/legal_aid/file/resource187-2d9b0437.pdf.

This article is a much more detailed overview of the Indian hospital system than Lux’s Canadian Encyclopedia article (citation and annotation above). Lux argues that the Indian hospitals were part of a systematic approach at defining whiteness as the norm for Canadian citizenship, thus determining who deserves adequate health care, and who does not. She contends that these institutions played a particularly key role in the colonization and “modernization” of western Canada throughout the 20th century. This article describes the roles that both Christian missionaries and rising tuberculosis (TB) infections played in creating sanatoria, which were run by the clergy and used to nurse TB patients back to health. However, Indigenous people were deemed unworthy of the mostly white, Christian sanatoria, and in need of separation from white TB patients, ultimately leading to the creation of segregated Indian hospitals. Lux also describes how this blatant systemic discrimination continued; Indian hospitals, many of which were retrofitted school buildings, were often located directly beside private community hospitals that only accepted white patients. She also discusses non-consensual vaccine trials done on Indigenous infants, the post-WWII expansion of Indian hospitals, and the roles the Canadian Tuberculosis Association and the Communicable Disease Control Act played in maintaining the Indian hospital system. The author’s argument is strongly supported with assessments of many letters, memoranda, and reports containing discussions between government officials about the operation of the Indian hospitals. It is clear from Lux’s analysis of these sources that disease (most often TB) was used as an excuse to confine and control Indigenous people while the state continued colonial expansion. There is little to support that the intention of the Indian hospitals was to hastily nurse patients back to health and return them to society. Rather, the longer patients were kept in hospital, the less likely they were to live. If patients did survive, they often lost their connections to culture and language, and thus, many lost their sense of identity upon returning to their home communities. In compiling several primary sources together, this article provides a detailed examination at how state-controlled Indigenous health care was used to advance notions of white nationalism across western Canada.

Lux, Maureen K. Separate Beds: A History of Indian Hospitals in Canada, 1920s-1980s. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2016.

In this book, Maureen Lux compiles her years of research on the history of Canada’s segregated Indian hospitals, making it the most comprehensive published work on the subject to date. A couple of Lux’s key research papers that preceded this book are included in this bibliography.  Lux describes how patients’ poor treatment in these institutions led to Indigenous activists calling for better health care, and she explains how these experiences intersect with the “arbitrary and contradictory policies” created by the federal government to exert control over Indigenous peoples through the health care system. She argues that the Canadian government created a system of segregated health care to maintain racial hierarchies of difference between white Canadians and Indigenous people. Lux explains that in approaching her research, her goal was not to further victimize Indigenous people; rather, the book aims to highlight resistance efforts of Indigenous people to the Indian hospitals. She notes that Indigenous resistance coincided with grassroots activism among white Canadians for public medicine, but was not met with the same response from the federal government. Separate Beds contains intense archival research, newspaper excerpts, primary and secondary sources, oral histories from Indigenous Elders, and interviews with former hospital staff. Most are secondary sources (i.e. academic articles) and overall, the evidence to support her argument is strong. This book may be the most in-depth work on the history of the Indian hospital system in Canada, and the rise in Indigenous health care-based activism that came from it. Although Lux attempts to avoid victimization as much as possible, this work proves that this is often difficult when the existing historiography of a topic has largely documented suffering.

Lux, Maureen. “We Demand ‘Unconditional Surrender’: Making and Unmaking the Blackfoot Hospital, 1890s to 1950s,” Social History of Medicine 25, no. 3 (August 2012): 665-84. https://doi-org.proxy.bib.uottawa.ca/10.1093/shm/hkr152.

This article highlights the Siksika (Blackfoot) Nation’s attempt at managing their own hospital, only for government officials from the Department of Indian Affairs (and later Indian Health Services) to create bureaucratic hurdles to subvert the Siksika’s control over their health care. For years, poverty forced the Siksika into selling much of their government-mandated reserve lands. By 1924, the Siksika had amassed a fairly large trust fund, and the federal government encouraged them to use part of it to build the 16-bed Blackfoot Hospital. The Siksika agreed to fund its construction and operations as long as their own healers could practice there, and it could be non-denominational. Post-WWII, the cost of health care rose significantly, but the Siksika’s annuities did not. With a lack of funding and no government support (despite provincial hospitals for white Canadians and state-run Indian hospitals receiving federal funds), the Blackfoot Hospital was forced to close. Lux uses primary sources (letters, reports) obtained from federal and provincial archives to argue that the creation of a segregated health care system defined those deserving of access to health care as white Canadians, and further marginalized Indigenous people. Despite status Indians being the only population in Canada at the time to have a publicly-funded, state-controlled health care system, this right was removed from the Siksika when they tried managing their own hospital with their own healers and medicines. Lux’s sources effectively demonstrate that government officials knew that denying the Siksika financial aid would lead to the Blackfoot Hospital’s closure, thus forcing them to use the closest off-reserve, state-run Indian hospital (the Charles Camsell Hospital in Edmonton). This article provides an in-depth look at how the federal government used its power to undermine Indigenous peoples’ management of their own health care on a systemic level. It may be the only piece of published literature about an Indigenous-run hospital during the Indian hospital era.

Meijer Drees, Laurie. Healing Histories: Stories from Canada’s Indian Hospitals. Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 2013.

Contrary to most of the works in this bibliography, which mainly interpret the Indian hospital system within the context of Canadian health policy and colonialism, settler historian Laurie Meijer Drees’ Healing Histories centers on sharing survivors’ stories. She asserts that storytelling is a form of healing, and in order to help the storytellers heal, outsiders must focus their attention on these individuals. This book contains stories the author listened to through interviews, largely intact and unedited. Meijer Drees purposely did not provide her own interpretation of the stories, and instead wanted to allow readers to interpret the stories on their own. This contrasts with most other works on Indian hospitals, which often contain only parts of a story, sometimes taken out of context, and are interpreted by the author through a colonial or critical theory lens. This source adds a lived-experience perspective to the academic work on Indian hospitals thus far. Most of its sources are interviews, although other books, articles, and archival documents are used to provide context on the stories. The intimate oral stories shared by participants are important primary sources for understanding the patient experience in Indian hospitals, and how some survivors have coped with these memories over the years.

Metcalfe-Chenail, Danielle. Ghosts of Camsell: Unearthing Stories From the Charles Camsell Hospital (blog). https://ghostsofcamsell.ca/.

This blog explores the history and legacy of the Charles Camsell Hospital (“the Camsell”), which operated as a federal Indian hospital in Edmonton, Alberta from 1946-1996, and served First Nations, Inuit, and Métis from the Prairies, British Columbia, and Northern Canada. Settler historian Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail began compiling stories from former tuberculosis patients at the Camsell in 2012 after conducting research for her book, Polar Winds: A Century of Flying the North. She started posting her research on this site in 2015. This blog inspired the Edmonton Heritage Council to produce a 13-minute documentary called Camsell, which can be found on the site. Interestingly, the film speaks of the friendships made at the hospital, and some of the joyful memories former patients remember from their stay. The author’s goal is to create a publicly-accessible space containing as much information as possible (both the good and the bad) about the Camsell’s operations and former patients. Metcalfe-Chenail may also be the only historian to specifically explore the role that aviation played in colonizing northern and western Canada, and how this maintained Indian hospitals like the Camsell. The credibility of some of the sources is questionable (i.e. online forums) and the blog’s content is not peer-reviewed. Some posts analyze various conspiracy theories about what happened at the Camsell; however, the author is clear about where her sources come from, and which posts are for fun rather than good historical research. This blog contains many posts with fairly robust research that draws from the author’s interviews with survivors, as well as primary sources from Canada’s and Alberta’s archives. This site’s focus on the Camsell is important because this hospital likely treated the most patients out of any other Indian hospital in Canada (due to the large geography it served and how long it operated).

Pelley, Lauren. “Mistreated: The legacy of segregated hospitals haunts Indigenous survivors.” CBC News, January 2018. https://www.cbc.ca/news2/interactives/sh/jTCWPYgkNH/mistreated/.

This “CBC Interactive” news article contains personal stories of Indian hospital survivors, many visuals from government and hospital archives, and interviews with academics who have researched Canada’s Indian hospitals. Pelley highlights the experiences of Annie Michael, an Inuk woman who was sent to the Queen Mary Hospital for Tuberculous Children in Toronto, and Teresa Leon, a non-Indigenous woman who stayed the hospital for a short time. Both spoke of the racism they witnessed, with Leon remembering that she was treated significantly better than the Indigenous patients. This piece also features a short video clip of Michael describing how hospital staff treated her and other patients like “savages.” Other survivors interviewed by Pelley spoke of the lasting effects of being removed from their families and growing up in a hospital for several years, such as losing their native language. Pelley’s goal is to show the mistreatment of Indigenous people by Canada’s Indian hospital system. This is effectively demonstrated through the variety of visuals and quotes from those interviewed. However, it should be noted that this source should serve primarily to show the effects on survivors, and to provide audio and visual components about this topic in an accessible way to the general public. It does not focus significantly on the Indian Act or other colonial policies. Given that the medium is a special issue news piece, this article is very brief look into the topic, but can act as a catalyst for members of the public to do more of their own research and read more detailed works about the Indian hospital system.

Stone, E. L. “Canadian Indian Medical Services.” Canadian Medical Association Journal 33, no. 1 (July 1935): 82-85.

This article was written by E. L. Stone, former director of medical services of the Department of Indian Affairs (DIA). Stone claims that this article does not “commend or apologize for” the medical services provided to status Indians, and neither does he argue for or against a state-controlled health care system. He states that his purpose is to provide an overview of the DIA’s provision of health care to status Indians for all those interested in studying how state-run health care systems operate. It is important to know that at the time, there was no universal health care system for the general Canadian population. Despite Stone’s claims to neutrality, this article has a clear viewpoint and is quite racist. Stone characterizes certain diseases by their supposed higher prevalence among Indigenous people, specifically tuberculosis. The article’s tone implies that the DIA is doing status Indians a favour by providing free health care, as Stone claims that no treaty states an obligation to provide health care (wholly ignoring the “medicine chest clause” in Treaty 6). He places himself in a spokesperson position for the health needs of status Indians, without reference to any patient testimony. The article also contains no citations to support any claims, and must be read through a critical lens to determine if what appears to be fact is actually Stone’s own opinion. However, Stone’s firsthand observations are still useful for understanding how DIA officials at the time viewed Indigenous people and the health services provided to them. This article was published before the post-WWII expansion of the Indian hospital system, and well before the 1953 Indian Health Regulations took effect. It is suggested to use this source only to understand the early beginnings of the Indian hospital system in Canada from the perspective of DIA officials, their general perceptions of Indigenous health care, what they reported to the public at the time, and how they presented this information.

Young, T. Kue. “Indian Health Services in Canada: A Sociohistorical Perspective.” Social Science & Medicine 18, no. 3 (1984): 257-64. https://doi.org/10.1016/0277-9536(84)90088-1. This work provides an overview of the Indian Health Services’ (IHS) operations from Confederation to the 1970s, and includes background information on the “medicine chest clause” in Treaty 6. Young primarily cites Department of Indian Affairs and Department of National Health and Welfare annual reports, which contain the observations of several Indian agents and health care administrators who were employed by IHS. The author’s assessment of these reports clearly characterizes the IHS as racist and grossly inadequate at providing health care; Young uses the oxymoronic term “benevolent paternalism” to describe IHS’ dominant philosophy. While arguing that federal health care services are still inadequate, Young acknowledges that they have improved slightly since major structural reorganizations and streamlining of medical services for people whose health care falls outside provincial jurisdiction, such as status Indians, Inuit, and the military. Many primary sources are used to support Young’s argument, which is generally strong. Although this article is a few decades old, it still contributes important historical context on the colonial management of Indigenous health in Canada. Young explains the structural issues the IHS faced, such as high turnover of physicians and nurses, and having to compete for labour with the private system that served affluent, white Canadians. In addition, this article describes the Canadian government’s intentional disregard of Treaty 6’s “medicine chest clause,” and of orally-exchanged promises to provide adequate health care in the negotiations of other numbered treaties. Young’s analysis demonstrates how this combination of systemic racism and structural issues in health care management contributed to the segregated environment in which a broken health care system for Indigenous people festered.

The Indian Act and Education – Annotated Bibliography

By Yuntian Shi

Written in 2021 for the University of Ottawa course HIS 4135 – The Indian Act, for Prof. Daniel Rück, edited by Daniel Rück and Sam Yee

Prior to European contact, education in Indigenous communities existed in the form of public and private tutoring. The community, or everyone in the community, could be the teacher of a child. They learned the basic life skills and culture of the nation in which they lived. When they grew older, they were able to choose a path and become an apprentice of a more senior member of the community. The goal of traditional Indigenous education aimed to pass on the cultural heritage and practical skills to ensure the individual’s and the community’s survival.

The arrival of missionaries transformed the educational landscape in First Nations communities. The school system they installed served the purpose of delivering the doctrine of Christianity and “enlightening” the Indigenous population. After the British took control of the territory we now call Canada, increasingly aggressive assimilationist policies were put in place. The idea of “civilizing” and Christianising became the guiding principle of Indigenous peoples’ education. The infamous Indian Residential School System (IRSS) was formed, which mandated schooling for Indigenous children from the age six until adulthood. The curriculum consisted of a combined education of literacy and vocational skills that aimed at raising “Canadian” farmers and craftsmen.

Such a system was oppressive in many ways. First of all, under the Indian Act, the federal government gained control over Indigenous education. It made attending residential schools compulsory, and Indigenous parents who kept their kids away from the system received criminal charges. Moreover, residential schools were boarding schools, and once students were in the system, they had very little contact with their parents and did not have a chance to raise them.

Another form of oppression of the IRSS was the destruction of Indigenous culture and identity. With its goal of assimilation, the curriculum and school administration forbade education on Indigenous languages and cultures. Indigenous people who went through the residential school system were distant from their own culture. To make matters worse, the church staff who ran the residential schools often believed that Indigenous cultures and people were inferior beings. Not only were measures such as name changes implemented, but the prejudice of the staff also led to the abuse of the Indigenous students in the schools.

Many studies, like Niezen’s Truth and Indignation: Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission on Indian Residential Schools reported that corporal punishment had been adopted in the teaching practices. Milloy’s work A National Crime: The Canadian Government and the Residential School System, 1879–1986, used church records to depict such oppression in detail. Sellar’s book They Called Me Number One: Secrets and Survival at an Indian Residential School documents Indigenous experiences of the residential school system using oral history. The Indian Act contributes to the Canadian government’s had a lack of accountability on Indigenous education.

The IRSS eventually lost its legitimacy over the course of the twentieth century. The goal of the federal government transitioned from assimilation to integration as Canadian society began to benefit from more diverse immigration. The end of the residential school system did not solve the issues relating to Indigenous education. As more Indigenous students were put into the regular Canadian curriculum, they had a difficult time transitioning towards a new culture, thus leading to high dropout rates. Also, for many years the Canadian curriculum lacked recognition of Indigenous cultures, histories, and contributions to Canadian history. These problems did not make Indigenous education any better than before. On the other hand, traditional education methods among Indigenous peoples lacked both institutional support and the recognition from authorities on public and private education, limiting the development of traditional education systems in the new era.

The topic of Indigenous education returned with Pierre Trudeau’s attempt to abolish the Indian Act. The White Paper suggested the childcare and education would be under the jurisdiction of the provincial government, as outlined in the constitution, to promote smooth integration. Other areas of education would be governed just like the rest of Canada. Indigenous advocacy groups strongly opposed this proposal due to its subordination of Indigenous governance by the Canadian government and its neglect towards the federal government’s responsibilities outlined in the Indian Act. As the withdrawal of the Indian Act was abandoned due to public discontent, Indigenous education remained at the status quo. The First Nations Education Council’s Report on priority actions in view of improving First Nations education provided a critical view of this period and argues that the Canadian government failed and lacked sincerity in implementing the Indian Act as Indigenous education suffered from funding shortages and non-Indigenous management. White, Julie and Beavon’s study Enhancing Educational Attainment for First Nations Children has shown the importance of funding, stable governance, and community support towards First Nations students’ attainment.

It was not until recent years that the topic of Indigenous education returned. In 2013, Bill-C33, the Indian Control Indian Education Act, was released by the federal government. It tries to establish a school board-like governance system in Indigenous communities and promote better integration of the existing education system. By doing so, the federal government claims that it will allow the band councils to control their own education and have a system that is accountable. Mendelson’s report Why We Need a First Nation Education Act has supported such a vision as he finds that Cree Schoolboard, which practiced this policy, has had a positive outcome on Indigenous education. However, it received massive protests from some Indigenous people who claimed that, firstly, it is against the principles of Indigenous nationhood, as the Act outlines a supervisor position from the government, and secondly, that the school board system is not familiar to Indigenous Nations. McPherson’s thesis Transfer of Jurisdiction for Education: A Paradox in Regard to the Constitutional Entrenchment of Indian Rights to Education and the Existing Treaty #3 Right to Education provides a legal argument for why Indigenous education falls under the jurisdiction of Indigenous people. The most important accusation is that the federal government has not consulted with Indigenous Nations, despite claims of doing so.

The Indian Act has remained the main piece of legislation governing Indigenous education in Canada at the federal level. Some efforts have been made on the provincial level where acts dedicated to Indigenous education have been passed. Kirkness and Bowman’s First Nations and schools: Triumphs and Struggles have given a closer detail of Indigenous education in action and have presented their results province by province.

Annotated Bibliography

First Nations Education Council. Report on Priority Actions in View of Improving First Nations Education. Wendake, QC: First Nations Education Council, 2012.

This report was produced by the First Nations Education Council and has three parts. The first part discusses what has to be done to improve the Indigenous education system. They state that their funding for education is significantly less than provinces have received. On top of Indigenous language education, the amount of funding is a vital factor in promoting Indigenous education. The second part argues that education is legally under the full control of the Indigenous peoples as the Canadian Constitution and the Indian Act have laid out. The current practices are undermining the autonomy and sovereignty of Indigenous peoples. Also, in response to some Canadian scholars recommending the use of a school board system, this report details an alternative structure of education governance.

The supporting sources used are similar to other reports discussed in this bibliography, employing scholarly articles from various fields as well as legal and governmental documents to support the presented claims. For those interested in the topic, this document is important for understanding the platform of First Nations and the ongoing debate between the Canadian federal government and Indigenous groups on the topic of education.

Kirkness, Verna J., and Sheena Selkirk Bowman. First Nations and Schools: Triumphs and Struggles. Toronto: Canadian Education Association, 1992.

This book is a collection of reports which focuses on the topic of Indigenous education in Canada. The source includes a wide range of reports on education policy, current practices of indigenous pedagogy, and educational performances. The author argues that Indigenous education has been undermined for over 300 years and should be revitalized in some way for a harmonious future between the Canadian state and First Nations. Through primary sources and surveys with Indigenous children, this book details the history of Indigenous education and the challenges that it faces today. This source is not a comprehensive history of Indigenous education in Canada, but it provides vital context for researchers in Indigenous education policy and pedagogy.

The authors have a simple argument, but it was strongly supported by the gathered data. Their findings ranged from native-language instruction to community involvement in federal day schools. All findings have pointed out that Indigenous culture, languages, and values are completely left out in the current system, and it has created an identity crisis for young Indigenous students and an inheritance crisis for the band. As both teachers and researchers, the authors executed their investigations in a professional and critical way, making this an essential source for future researchers in Indigenous education history, policy, and pedagogy.

Mendelson, Michael. Why We Need a First Nation Education Act. Ottawa: Caledon Institute of Social Policy, 2009. https://maytree.com/wp-content/uploads/820ENG.pdf.

This report focuses on the technical details of how to achieve “Indian controlled Indian education.” Mendelson argues that the choice of education is a fundamental right embedded in the Canadian Constitution, and that Indigenous Nations need to establish systematic and financial structures to support Indigenous education. Most of the sources to support his argument and ideas are secondary sources, including journal articles in education policy and economics. He also used examples such as the Cree School Board and British Columbia’s approach to education governance to say that Indigenous education could achieve autonomy through good mechanisms and adequate funding from the government. Those practices are mutually beneficial for the First Nation and the federal government.

His arguments are well supported. Quantitative data, including past findings and qualitative data like the example of the Cree School Board show the effectiveness of the school board’s mechanism for First Nation, and of continuous funding from the federal government. This source is important for anyone who is interested in the rationale behind Bill C-33 (2014), as the work is often cited in the Senate report. It is worth mentioning that this source analyzes the issue of Indigenous education from the Canadian government’s point of view, and overlooks the importance of the nation-to-nation relationship.

Milloy, John S. A National Crime: The Canadian Government and the Residential School System, 1879–1986. Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1999.

The residential school system is a combined product of white supremacy and the Indian Act. Milloy utilizes church records, internal memoranda, and department documents to show that the residential school system was an inferior form of education that failed to live up to the government’s promises to provide proper education to Indigenous children. He argues that the residential school system was flawed due to it often being in a state of mismanagement and chaos. Milloy uses his archival-research work to support his argument, which contains documents such as complaint letters and field inspector reports. The argument is well-developed. The comprehensiveness of the archive sources used provide a panoramic view of the residential school system and make it a holistic work for anyone who researches the topic.

Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. Developing a First Nation Education Act: A Blueprint for Legislation. Gatineau, QC: Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, July 2013. http://www.mushkegowuk.com/documents/fneducationblueprint.pdf.

In 2013, the federal government had an interest in reforming the Indigenous education system, and this source is their response. In the blueprint, the Ministry introduced and annotated the draft of the bill. The core ideas are the following; firstly, the ministry will set a minimum standard and the First Nation’s education program. Secondly, it will also provide support such as credential recognition for Indigenous students to enter post-secondary school more easily as well as the long-awaited funding. Finally, the draft ensures that the guardianship of the Indigenous parents will be respected, and that the First Nation is the main body developing the program.

This document once again demonstrates that the paternalistic position of the federal government has remained to this today. The source is valuable as it is the most recent action that the federal government took to tackle Indigenous education issues. One thing particular to this document is that the bill was put on hold until now because of heavy opposition from Indigenous peoples. The latter held a conference saying they were never consulted on the draft, and the draft disregards the sovereignty of Indigenous Nations. This is completely opposite as the source expressed as the blueprint claimed they had consulted the First Nation.

McPherson, Dennis. “Transfer of jurisdiction for education: A paradox in regard to the constitutional entrenchment of Indian rights to education and the existing treaty No. 3 rights to education.” LL.M. Thesis. University of Ottawa, 1997. http://dx.doi.org/10.20381/ruor-10227.

This source looks into the legal technicality on the transfer of jurisdiction from the federal government to the Treaty 3 Council. McPherson argues that education is a constitutional right of Indigenous peoples, and that it was not actualized until the day of the transfer. The author deploys legal codes and minutes of the negotiations and meetings to analyze the event. He felt that the negotiation and the transfer of education symbolizes that the First Nation is gaining its citizenship through taking responsibility for themselves, rather having the Canadian government act paternalistically.

McPherson’s thesis is well-supported though it has become the consensus in the field. Still, there is not much research in education law, especially considering this piece contains a large amount of legal research. This work is ideal for researchers wishing to take a closer look at law and Indigenous education.

Niezen, Ronald. Truth and Indignation: Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission on Indian Residential Schools. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2013.

This book discusses the journey of recognizing and acknowledging the tragedy of the residential school system in Canada. Niezen investigates the artificial factors that caused the death of residential school students. He argues that the residential school system has not only diminished the identity and cultural esteem of its students, but it also enabled physical and mental abuse to be inflicted upon Indigenous children, which has resulted in generational trauma that continues to impact Indigenous communities. He further questions the role of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in reconciliation with the victims of the residential school system. By deploying a wide range of methods and sources, including church records and Indigenous oral histories, the book revealed specific cases and found patterns in the residential school system. This book is a great resource when studying the Indian residential school system and also contemporary federal-Indigenous relations.

Sellars, Bev. They Called Me Number One: Secrets and Survival at an Indian Residential School. Vancouver: Talonbooks, 2013.

Sellars’ book is a primary source, written about her experience as an Indigenous woman living in Canada. Most of the chapters are dedicated to her experience in the residential school system in the 1960s. There is no overarching argument in the book; rather, it contains several reoccurring themes. The first theme is the abusive nature of the residential school system, both mentally and culturally. Sellars had been forced to convert to Christianity at one point, and although she felt very uncomfortable, she was not given a choice. Another theme is reconciliation. As her time in the residential school system ended, she had a hard time rejoining society due to the anger she felt towards the Canadian government, emotions that the publication of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission only further complicated. The book is an impactful autobiography of her traumatic experience. For those researching the details of the residential school system’s impact on the individual, this is a perfect source to provide pertinent and important information.

Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples. Reforming First Nations Education: From Crisis to Hope. Ottawa: Senate of Canada, Dec 2011. https://sencanada.ca/content/sen/committee/411/appa/rep/rep03dec11-e.pdf.

This report, produced by the Senate of Canada, is intended to provide an account of the issue of Indigenous education to the Canadian government. It describes both the history of Indigenous education in Canada, as well as the current system, in addition to admitting to the abusive nature of the residential school system and calling for action to establish an education system controlled by Indigenous people and supported by a federal funding framework. The report also states that the current Indigenous education system should be strengthened through administrative reform and enhanced accountability. The report was mostly drawn from other meeting proceedings where “witnesses” have spoken on the things that support the Senate position.

This source is similar to Mendelson’s report, as both encourage the federal government to reform the Indigenous education system, while still placing education under the common jurisdiction of the band council and the federal government. It is evident that the Senate holds a paternalistic view of Indigenous governance with regards to how the current system is not working, and believes the solution is to replicate the settler system of education. Besides its controversies, this report is still an important document for research in Indigenous education as it presents the federal view of the issue in recent years.

White, Jerry P., Julie Peters, and Dan Beavon. “Enhancing Educational Attainment for First Nations Children.” In Aboriginal Education: Current Crisis and Future Alternatives, edited by Jerry P. White, Julie Peters, Dan Beavon, and Nicholas Spence, 117-174.Toronto: Thompson Educational Publishing, Inc., 2009. https://ir.lib.uwo.ca/aprci/18/.

This report is cited in the First Nations Education Council report on improving Indigenous education (first bibliographic entry). For this report, the researchers used both quantitative and qualitative data to recommend ways to promote educational attainment among First Nations children. Besides points such as increasing funding, they also emphasize the importance of stable and understanding community governance to support the school system and improve its quality of education. They also believe that if testing is used in a positive way, teachers would receive feedback on their teaching methods and monitor class progress. This report is well written, and the points are well supported. One major difference that made this report unique is that it utilizes the provincial education system as a tool to improve Indigenous education, rather than suggesting subordinating the latter to the former as another report suggests. This report is also useful to see the current standing of Indigenous education and the challenges that they are facing.

The Pass System and the Indian Act – Annotated Bibliography

By Summer Sheridan

Written in 2021 for the University of Ottawa course HIS 4135 – The Indian Act, for Prof. Daniel Rück, edited by Daniel Rück and Sam Yee

The Indian Pass System was implemented in western Canada in 1885, following the North West Rebellion. Initially justified as a temporary measure to protect Indigenous peoples from settlers who would employ violence to seek retribution for the Rebellion, the system remained in place until the early 1940s in certain regions. The conception of the pass system can be traced back to Assistant Indian Commissioner Hayter Reed in his “Memorandum for the Hon the Indian Commissioner Relative to the Future Management of Indians” (1885) that was addressed to Indian Commissioner Edgar Dewdney. The intention of the system was to keep Indigenous peoples living on reserves in western Canada from leaving their reserves unless they had a formal pass from the Indian Agent. The more truthful reasoning for the pass system was to allow the Canadian government to control Indigenous peoples, while ensuring that settler and Indigenous communities remained separated. This separation allowed the Canadian government to control settlers’ perceptions of the Indigenous population, helping to ensure the smooth settlement of western Canada, further ostracizing Indigenous peoples of the region.

Despite being in place for over 50 years, the pass system went against treaty rights and was completely illegal – a fact that the Canadian government was well aware of, which is proven in written documents. However, the government was able to restrict Indigenous peoples to reserves without any legal basis due to an amendment to the Indian Act, which gave Indian Agents the power of justice of the peace to be able to enforce the Criminal Code provisions for vagrancy and loitering. This amendment created a loophole, so while it was still illegal to explicitly force Indigenous peoples to remain on reserves, it could be done by excluding them from spaces outside of reserves. The Canadian government’s high success in impeding Indigenous peoples from pursuing any legal claims against the government helped to ensure that any potential legal recourse to object to the pass system would not be exercised by Indigenous peoples. The pass system had significant negative social, political, and economic impacts on Indigenous communities, in addition to lasting trauma that has become inter-generational.

Historians rely on a very limited number of primary sources when studying the topic of the pass system. The historiography points to this being directly the result of the circular letter dated July 11, 1941 from the Director of the Department of Mines and Resources. This letter is contained in the listed source that is entitled “The Reserve Pass System and Its Impact on Treaty Relationships”, which called for the return of all pass books from Indian Agents to Ottawa in order to be destroyed. As a result, very few primary source documents concerning the pass system exist. In fact, Bennet (1974) was undertaken simply in order to validate the existence of the system. As a result, much of the historiography relies on the same primary source documents. One such document, which is included in this annotated bibliography, is Reed’s Memorandum however other documents include government correspondences within and between the federal government, the Department of Indian Affairs and the North West Mounted Police.

Because the limited number of written sources are mostly governmental documents, the vast majority of the historiography focuses on the inception of the pass system, the government’s reasoning for its implementation, and how it was able to be sustained despite the knowledge that it was illegal. Much attention is also paid to the role of Hayter Reed in the system. This is in part due to the fact that he is credited as the creator of the system, but also because much of the government documentation concerning the topic involves Reed in some capacity. Without at least partially examining the role of Reed, it would be very difficult to understand the history of the pass system.

While approaching the study of the pass system from the perspective of the government and its policies is an important aspect of the topic, the lack of focus on the lived experiences of Indigenous peoples is a large gap within the historiography, as it results in the minimization of the cruelty that was the realty of the system. By focusing heavily on the political side of the pass system, the historiography has failed to present a holistic account of the personal implications of the pass system in Canada. For this reason, if you are to only look at one source from this annotated bibliography, let it be the documentary, The Pass System. Not only does it provide all of the necessary key information, including explicit references to primary source documents, it emphasizes the importance of oral history and witness testimony in understanding the personal impact of the pass system rather than simply the political and economic impacts. That being said, Indigenous peoples are not ignored in the historiography of the pass system. Specifically, within their greater work, Miller examines how Indigenous peoples resisted Indian Agents’ attempts to implement the pass system. Additionally, Bourgeois employs an analysis of the pass system to understand how modern-day stereotypes and prejudices of Indigenous women were crafted, concluding that colonial policies like the pass system have had long lasting negative impacts on Indigenous peoples. While not the focus of the historiography, it cannot be said that Indigenous peoples are ignored in discussions of the pass system, but going forward, it would be beneficial for historians to pay greater attention to this aspect of the topic.

Annotated Bibliography

Barron, Laurie F. “The Indian Pass System in the Canadian West, 1882-1935.” Prairie Forum 12, no. 2 (Fall 1987): 25-39. https://www.saskarchives.com/sites/default/files/barron_indianpasssystem_prairieforum_vol13_no1_pp25ff.pdf

Utilized by numerous scholars since its publication, Barron filled a gap in Indigenous historiography by providing an in-depth exploration of the pass system that was instituted by Indian Affairs in Canada at the end of the 19th century. Prior to her work, few scholars had dedicated much attention to the topic of the pass system and those that did had not written more than a few pages. Barron’s article provides a detailed analysis of the inception of the pass system, the Canadian government’s reasoning for its institution, the attempted legal justifications used to maintain the system, and the reasons for why the system inevitably ceased to exist. Relying on primary sources including government documents, police communications, and a newspaper article, as well as existing works by historians, Barron is able to critically engage with the subject matter while providing a detailed overview comprehensible by those unfamiliar with the topic. Adding to the continued relevance of the piece is Barron’s extensive use of examples. When analyzing each of the aforementioned subtopics of the pass system, Barron employs a variety of supporting evidence. These examples not only serve to support Barron’s work, but provide the reader with a more thorough understanding of how the pass system affected the everyday lives of Indigenous peoples living on reserves, as well as the logic of government officials when implementing the system. Rather than presenting Indigenous peoples solely as victims, and settlers solely as perpetrators, Barron provides a more complex understanding of the topic by highlighting resistance to the system that occurred by both peoples. Evident by its continued use, Barron’s work provides a strong analysis of the pass system.

Bennet, B. Study of Passes for Indians to Leave their Reserves. [Ottawa, ON]: Indian and Northern Affairs, 1974.    

Bennet’s work is a government inquiry into the existence of the pass system that was implemented by the Canadian Department of Indian Affairs at the end of the 19th century. As explained by other sources included in this bibliography, the Canadian government lacked any historical evidence in its archives to validate the existence of the pass system. Thus, the inquiry is a compilation of all historical documents including previously issued passes and a variety of government correspondences to prove the existence of the system. This source is extremely valuable because it offers access to all the physical government documents about the topic that could be found at the time of publication. While Bennet’s work seems redundant now, when it was published it would have been ground-breaking for the historiography of the pass system. At this point in history, settlers still did not value Indigenous peoples’ oral histories and thus would not have taken their accounts as evidence of the pass system. Additionally, practically no scholarly works had addressed the system save for a few pages due to the general lack of evidence available on the topic. Therefore, by compiling and presenting all of the existing documents on the subject, Bennet helped enable further academic study of the pass system. Despite the numerous works that have been done since the publication of this report, it remains relevant, as it provides the reader unbiased and unfiltered access to pertinent primary sources.

Bourgeois, Robyn. “Race, Space, and Prostitution: The Making of Settler Colonial Canada.” Canadian Journal of Women and the Law 30, no. 3 (2018): 371-397. DOI: 10.3138/cjwl.30.3.002

While not focused on the pass system, Bourgeois’s work demonstrates how its impacts are still present in modern-day. Using Sherene H. Razack’s analytical and methodological framework, Bourgeois seeks to examine the interconnections of settler-colonialism and prostitution through the analysis of key events in Canada’s settler colonial history: early settlement in British Columbia, the Indian Act, the pass system, and Vancouver’s missing women. Although a large portion of the piece draws from Razack’s work, Bourgeois employs numerous other scholars to support her analysis; however, her failure to utilize primary sources slightly weakens her historical arguments. That being said, Bourgeois’s work is a strong contribution to the historiography of the pass system, as it explores the system’s lasting implications on the treatment of Indigenous women in present-day. Bourgeois states that in addition to attempting to quell any potential military threats, the pass system was implemented to keep “immoral” and “corrupt” Indigenous women from negatively influencing settlers, specifically through prostitution. This served to reinforce settlers’ moral superiority while establishing Indigenous women as potential “immoral contaminants” that needed to be excluded, if not contained. The lasting impact of this system is the inherent view of Indigenous women as less than, which can be seen as having a direct correlation with the continued crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. Bourgeois’s article may not direct much focus on the pass system, but it presents an interesting understanding of its continued negative impacts that have thus far been rarely explored.

Carter, S. A. “Assault upon the ‘Tribal’ System: Government Policy after 1885.” In Lost Harvests: Prairie Indian Reserve Farmers and Government Policy, 130-158. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1990. https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/ottawa/detail.action?docID=3246494

Being published shortly after Laurie F. Barron’s work on the pass system, Carter’s work helped fill a gap within Indigenous historiography. Chapter 4 of Carter’s book focuses on four aspects of Indigenous policy at the turn of the 19th century – agriculture, the attempted elimination of the tribal system, the pass system, and the permit system. Carter employs the work of other authors combined with numerous primary sources including government communications, experts consulted by government committees and newspaper articles in order to present evidence in support of her arguments. Looking specifically at the section on the pass system, Carter examines how the system was created, employed, and maintained, with specific attention paid to the role of Hayter Reed and the illegality of the system, which was well known by government officials throughout its implementation. While she focuses heavily on the influence and involvement of Reed in the pass system, Carter is careful not to minimize the role of other colonial actors in the establishment and enactment of the system. The role or simply lack of resistance by various actors including Prime Minister John A. MacDonald, various employees in the Department of Indian Affairs and the North West Mounted Police is highlighted in addition to Reed’s strong involvement. Another strength of the piece is the strong emphasis placed on the fact that the government of Canada was aware of the illegality of the system even prior to its inception, yet continued to implement it. With this fact, Carter is able to demonstrate how inhumane the pass system truly was.

Miller, J.R. “Owen Glendower, Hotspur, and Canadian Indian Policy.” Ethnohistory 37, no. 4 (1990): 386-415

Employing oral history, pictorial evidence, and government and missionary records, Miller attempts to answer how effective the Canadian government was at controlling and assimilating Indigenous peoples at the end of the 19th century, specifically examining the policies of the pass system, prohibition of religious ceremonies and residential schools. Rather than focusing on the various ways in which these policies oppressed Indigenous peoples, Miller adds to the Indigenous historiography concerning the pass system and the Indian Act by analyzing how Indigenous peoples actively resisted these policies. Using numerous examples, Miller portrays Indigenous peoples as independent actors, rather than as passive and comparable to children, which he claims was often done in other works of the period. While this approach risks underplaying the atrocities committed by the Canadian government using these policies, Miller is careful to emphasize the oppression that occurred without presenting Indigenous peoples solely as victims lacking autonomy.

Nestor, Robert James. “Hayter Reed, Severalty, and the Subdivision of Indian Reserves on the Canadian Prairies.” MA diss. University of Regina, 1998. https://www-proquest-com.proxy.bib.uottawa.ca/docview/304375416?pq-origsite=primo

Relying on a plethora of sources including numerous works by other historians and primary sources, specifically government documents and communications, Nestor uses the second chapter of his dissertation to examine Hayter Reed, the mind behind the creation of the Indian pass system. Within this chapter, Nestor provides a biography of Reed, explaining how he became not only involved but influential in the Indian Department and how his prejudiced views of Indigenous peoples had a lasting impact on the Canadian government’s Indian policy. Primarily relying on Reed’s “Memorandum for the Hon the Indian Commissioner Relative to the Future Management of Indians” and communications between Reed, Indian Commissioner Edgar Dewdney, and Prime Minister John A. MacDonald, Nestor explains and analyses the rationale behind the creation and implementation of the pass system. His work contributes to the historiography by linking the pass system as having stemmed from Reed’s desire to reinforce the policy of self-sufficiency. By focusing on this relationship, Nestor is able to explain how the pass system became an important tool in controlling Indians, as well as managing the settlers’ perception of Indians under the MacDonald administration. Rather than focusing on the impact of the pass system on the various members of Canadian society, Nestor explores how the system came to be created, not only from a policy perspective but as a result of Reed’s view of Indigenous peoples.

Reed, Hayter. “Memorandum for the Hon the Indian Commissioner Relative to the Future Management of Indians.” Native Studies Review 2, no. 2 (1986): 127-130. http://iportal.usask.ca/index.php?sid=168308311&id=33613&t=details

This primary source was written by the Assistant Indian Commissioner, Hayter Reed to the Indian Commissioner, Edgar Dewdney, on July 20, 1885. The memorandum is a list of ­­Reed’s recommendations for how the Canadian government should manage “Indians” following the North West Rebellion of 1885 and includes Dewdney’s comments in the margins. Reed crafted his recommendations based on his bigoted views of Indigenous peoples, which were formed in part by his experiences as Indian Agent at Battleford. Most relevant to this annotated bibliography is recommendation seven, which suggests the implementation of a pass system that would restrict “Indians” from leaving their reserves without written permission. Although it is short, this document is an extremely important source for understanding the pass system in Canada, as historians consider it to be the foundational document that initiated the creation of the system. As a primary source, there is no analysis of the implications of what Reed is suggesting, but in reading his recommendations, readers can get a sense of the government’s overall sentiment towards Indigenous peoples during the time period, and thus, understand how it was possible to have such an archaic system approved.

Smith, Keith D. Liberalism, Surveillance and Resistance: Indigenous Communities in Western Canada, 1877-1927. Edmonton: AU Press, 2009. https://www.aupress.ca/books/120157-liberalism-surveillance-and-resistance/

Smith’s book explores how liberalism, usually seen as a foundational component to freedom, was used in the creation of Canada to suppress Indigenous peoples during westward expansion. While Smith covers a variety of topics, only the section on the pass system is relevant to this work. In this section, it is argued that the pass system is an example of the Canadian state’s employment of exclusionary liberalism, which Smith supports by examining how the pass system was used to limit the freedom of Indigenous peoples living on reserves and ensure that the inequality between Indigenous peoples and settlers persisted. The section details how the idea of the pass system was conceived and later put into action through a joint effort between the Department of Indian Affairs and the North West Mounted Police. Smith focuses primarily on how as a result of the system’s illegality, it was enforced through “persuasion” rather than force; additionally, the author addresses how “persuasion” could most often be understood as coercion. Drawing on the works of previous historians, in addition to a large array of primary sources (which include internal government communications, newspaper articles, and even the journal of an Indian Agent), Smith is able to present a convincing argument supported by numerous examples. His focus on how the pass system influenced and was influenced by the overarching political agendas of the Canadian government provides the historiography with a deeper understanding of the political theory behind the inception of the system.

“The Reserve Pass System and Its Impact on Treaty Relationships.” Provincial Archives of Saskatchewan. 2011. https://www.saskarchives.com/Reserve_Pass_System

This source does not present any arguments, but rather provides numerous primary source documents related to the pass system, in addition to a brief explanation of the system. The primary source documents included are an example of the pass books that were used by Indian Agents, issued passes and the circular letter that officially ended the use of the system in Canada. While not an analytical examination of the pass system, this source is highly important to the historiography as it contains numerous documents that serve as the foundation for historians’ examination of the topic. Without these documents, it would be extremely difficult to prove to those that do not accept oral histories and personal testimonies as valid sources that the pass system ever existed. The numerous examples of issued passes provide information into who these passes were issued to and for what reasons. Additionally, the passes span from 1889 to 1934, directly contradicting the circular letter dated July 11, 1941 from the Director of the Department of Mines and Resources, which claims that the pass system was ended in the 1920s. By presenting the information without analysis, the source allows the reader to draw conclusions based on the primary source evidence and form their own opinions as to the level of truth of the letter that finally ended the system, which is also one of the only government documents acknowledging the system’s existence. The Provincial Archives of Saskatchewan have allowed those interested in the topic to easily access numerous primary source documents which prove the existence of the pass system in Canada.

Warden, Kathryn. “Indian Act: Permit to Control a Culture.” The Star Phoenix 11, no. 6 (1993): 7-8. https://ammsa.com/publications/windspeaker/indian-act-permit-control-culture

Warden begins her article by exploring how the permit system combined with the pass system ensured that Indigenous peoples in Canada remained economically disadvantaged in comparison to their settler counterparts. Adding to the historiography on the pass system by making the information more easily accessible for the average reader lacking any previous knowledge on the subject, Warden details how the system was implemented despite it being illegal. Although the government lacked any legal grounds to restrict Indigenous peoples to reserves, an amendment to the Indian Act that gave Indian Agents the power of justice of the peace to enforce the Criminal Code provisions for vagrancy and loitering enabled the creation of a loophole. While Indigenous peoples still had the legal recourse to object to the pass system, Warden emphasizes how the Canadian government was highly successful in impeding Indigenous people from pursuing any legal claims against the government, ensuring that readers do not place blame on Indigenous peoples for not taking action. While the lack of supporting evidence and reference to supporting documents weakens the piece, as a newspaper article that is quite succinct, the piece has a far greater reach, as those with little interest in the topic are more likely to read it than a lengthy piece. The strongest point of her work though, is its ending in which Warden emphasizes that although the pass and permit systems are now terminated, the Canadian government continues to exercise immense control over Indigenous peoples lives, serving to remind readers that these are not simply issues relegated to the past.

Williams, Alex, dir. The Pass System. 2015; Toronto: Tamarack Productions. https://gem.cbc.ca/media/films/the-pass-system/38e815a-012c997d6a5?cmp=sch-the%20pass%20system.

Through the use of eye-witness testimonies, a variety of primary sources and interviews with historians, Williams gives a detailed history of the pass system in Canada with specific attention paid towards the impact of the system on the lives of Indigenous peoples living on reserves. Whereas other sources question how thoroughly the pass system was implemented, by using the testimonies of those who experienced the pass system or oral history recounted by descendants, Williams does not theorize but is able to provide a first-hand account of the realities of life under the system. This is the biggest strength of the film as it effectively conveys to viewers that although no longer in practice, the pass system only ceased to exist within the lifetimes of those still presently alive. As a result, it is much more difficult for the viewer to disconnect from the subject matter, as it would not simply be ignoring the political aspects and institutional implementation, but rather the lived sufferings of another tangible human being. Supported by interviews with historians who are experts in the field, these testimonies are strengthened to the point of irrefutability. Not only does Williams contribute more facts to the historiography of the pass system, but he also enables the contribution of the lived experiences of Indigenous peoples, as well. 

Women and The Indian Act – Annotated Bibliography

By Isabelle Loranger

Written in 2021 for the University of Ottawa course HIS 4135 – The Indian Act, for Prof. Daniel Rück, edited by Daniel Rück and Sam Yee

Since its beginnings in 1867, the Indian Act has aimed to control, assimilate and ultimately eliminate Indigenous peoples. The Indian Act had many policies that severely restricted the independence and rights of individuals, as well as communities as a whole. One of the most notable inequalities that the Indian Act perpetrated was the discrimination against Indigenous women. In particular, Section 12 of the Act caused the loss of identity, legally and emotionally, for Indigenous women, as well as caused deterioration within communities and family structures. Gwen Brodsky’s article highlights some of the effects of the sexually discriminatory policies found in the Indian Act. Section 12 of the Indian Act revoked Indian Status from women who married non-status men. It also allowed non-status women to be awarded status when they married a man with status. The inequality of women is not traditional in many Indigenous communities, according to Douglas Sanders’ article “Indian women: A brief history of their roles and rights.” Angela Sterritt explores the lasting emotional and psychological impacts of enfranchisement on women in her book. Involuntary enfranchisement (caused by ‘marrying out’) meant a woman could no longer live on reserve land and her legal identity as an Indigenous woman was forcibly stripped away. Section 12’s continued damages are well described in Elizabeth Jordan’s work: A woman who lost status due to the ‘marrying out’ rule also lost her ability to pass on status to her children. Martin J. Cannon also describes the forced patrilineal structure as an act of colonialism. Section 12 introduced what is commonly referred to as the ‘double mother’ clause. The ‘double mother’ clause aimed to revoke status based on matrilineal lines, despite the status of the father. If a child’s mother and grandmother only obtained status through marriage, said child would not be eligible for status.

Because of the discriminatory policies of the Indian Act, several legal cases have ensued in an attempt to both rectify status and force change. One of the most notable cases is that of Jeannette Corbiere Lavell, as discussed in Peter Kirby’s article “Marrying out and Loss of Status: The Charter and New Indian Act Legislation.” Lavell married a non-status man in 1970, and lost her status as a result. In 1971, Lavell fought against Section 12 on the grounds that it directly went against the equality clause found in the 1960 Canadian Bill of Rights. Despite the clear inequalities, Lavell lost her case. She did, however, win after she appealed the case. In appeal, Lavell’s case was joined with another case that was filed on the same subject. Yvonne Bedard fought for her equality after she was forced off her reserve due to losing status after marrying out. These cases went as far as the Supreme Court of Canada in 1973. Bedard and Lavell ended up losing their cases; neither regained status, and Section 12 was not revised. Another influential person who sought to bring change to the discrimination was Sandra Lovelace. Lovelace first appealed her loss of status to the Supreme Court in 1974, and lost. She then took the case to the United Nations Human Rights committee to fight against the injustices caused by policies found within the Indian Act.  In 1981, the UN agreed with Lovelace that Canada was breaching the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The decision made by the UN, and Lovelace’s determination influenced some major changes. A year following the UN’s decision, the Canadian constitution was amended to include the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

In 1985, an amendment to the Indian Act was passed. Bill C-31 aimed to remove gender discrimination within the Act, and correct the mistakes of the past. However, Bill C-31 further perpetuated discriminatory policies, as described in Shari Narine’s news article: “Canada continues to fail Indigenous women under the Indian Act.” The amendment abolished enfranchisement, ending the ‘double mother’ rule, the ‘marrying out rule’ of Section 12, as well as the ability to obtain status through marriage. Jo-Anne Fiske and Evelyn George describe how Bill C-31 also reinstated status to those who lost it. However, the efforts to reinstate status were poorly conducted and largely unsuccessful. The Federal Government required formal documentation to be presented to prove heritage, and this was very difficult to obtain due to poor record keeping. Additionally, misspelling of names and communities was very common due to language barriers. In order to have status restored, applications would need to be submitted by the woman who was personally enfranchised, and then those from the matrilineal line would also need to apply for status. The work to gather documentation from generations of people was an immense task, and many enfranchised women or their families were not able to do it successfully. Lynn Gehl documents her personal battle to have status restored to her and her family in her article. 

Bill C-31 also introduced sectors of status. Two classes were developed, the categories labelled as 6(1) and 6(2). Those classified as 6(1) ‘Indians’ were considered to have full status, with the ability to pass their status down to their children. In comparison, 6(2) ‘Indians’ reaped the ‘benefits’ of being considered status, without being able to actually pass down their status to their children. Due to the inclusion of the 6(2) status, a ‘second generation cutoff’ was developed. Cheryl Simon and Judy Clark use a personal approach to explain the damage of the second generation to their family in their article. The cutoff affected the children of those who married out; they would be deemed 6(2), which meant despite their Indigenous heritage, should they also marry a non-status person, their children as a result would not be eligible for status. Shelagh Day discusses the effects of 6(1) and 6(2) status in further detail in her article. In short, the classification of 6(1) and 6(2) attempted to define indigeneity, determining whether an Indigenous person was Indigenous ‘enough’ to be recognized federally. Bill C-31 did however allow more freedom and independence for bands. The amendment allowed bands to control and manage memberships. This small piece of independence is meagre in comparison to the restrictions previously found, as highlighted by Wendy Cornet. While the amendments to the control on band memberships were a step in the right direction, overall, the Indian Act has remained discriminatory on the basis of sex. Equality under the Indian Act has not yet been reached despite the amendments made, as well efforts made to fight for justice through the court systems.

Annotated Bibliography

Day, Shelagh. “Equal Status for Indigenous Women–Sometime, Not Now: The Indian Act and Bill S-3.” Canadian Woman Studies 33, no. 1-2 (2018): 174-85.

In this peer-reviewed article, Shelagh Day explores the relationship between the sex discrimination found in the Indian Act and the continued violence against Indigenous women. The Indian Act has caused generations of women to be vulnerable, who are now, as a result, more subject to violence. Day uses numerous government reports, bills and committee notes to develop her research. These sources anchor the paper in historical fact. The Indian Act segregated Indigenous women into different levels of status, and for many women, removed status entirely. Bill S-3 is an example Day uses to reinforce her findings. It was passed in October 2016 and later corrected in May 2017. This bill was referred to as “6(1) all the way”; its goal was to reestablish full status to women who lost it prior to 1985. During the time Day’s paper was written this bill was not in effect. Day’s paper puts into perspective just how unhelpful amendments like Bill S-3 have been. This paper exposes the realities of the ‘attempts’ made to change sex discrimination that have not led to any progress. Equality, in regards to status and treatment of individuals, is still merely hoped for.

Sterritt, Angela. Racialization of Poverty Indigenous Women, the Indian Act and Systemic Oppression: Reasons for Resistance. Vancouver: Vancouver Status of Women, 2012.

Angela Sterritt is a Gitxsan reporter who aims to identify residual effects of the Indian Act’s treatment of women. This non-peer-reviewed article investigates the racialization of poverty. Sterritt reveals how the Indian Act pre- and post-Bill C-31 has caused cyclical poverty for Indigenous women. Enfranchisement, specifically because of the physical displacement that came with a loss of status, has negatively impacted the financial well-being of Indigenous women. Sterritt has recognized that through ‘marrying out,’ some Indigenous women have been forced into survival sex work, faced homelessness, loss of culture, poverty and more. Sterritt also highlights Bill C-31 in her paper. She uses this bill to prove that despite Lovelace’s resistance, the amendments still discriminate against Indigenous women. Bill C-31 also places value on families based on their ability to provide documents proving ancestry. Sterritt does not focus on using federal sources or archives. She relies instead on papers and books written by a variety of authors. These sources specifically focus on the impacts of Bill C-31, Indigenous feminism, and sovereignty. Sterritt uses these sources to share anecdotal stories that back up her central claims. In using previously acquired information, she is not directly conducting research on communities or people. However, the original sources would have conducted research around the experiences of people who are directly affected in order to acquire the information she shared. Sterritt is able to use multiple sources detailing the experiences and histories of community members and their communities. These sources add a lot of value to the paper because they all support the same conclusion despite different authorship. This paper focuses on the emotional impacts of Bill C-31. The direct quotes and descriptions used allow a greater understanding from the reader. The reader, as a result, is able to recognize the affected women and communities as people, rather than statistics.

Gehl, Lynn. “‘The Queen and I’: Discrimination Against Women in the ‘Indian Act’ Continues.” Canadian Woman Studies 20, no. 2 (2000).  

Lynn Gehl explores her experience of Indigenous identity in this peer-reviewed article. Gehl speaks about her own experiences with the discrimination that the Indian Act has caused, not only federally but also within her own family. The Indian Act created a definition for what was or was not considered an Indigenous person, using a patriarchal framework. Being status or not is an important and relevant part of many Indigenous people’s identity, including Gehl, who struggled with her own indigeneity without status. Gehl specifically connects the feelings of loss of identity to the previous Section 12 of the Indian Act that forced enfranchisement, as well as the discrimination that Indigenous people are faced with when applying for the status their family lost. Essentially, the system to regain status was set up for failure. Gehl found there to be a lack of the required archival material (birth and marriage certificates), and many documents were not eligible because of misspelled names due to language barriers. Despite all the difficulties that Gehl had in locating documents, the government was unsympathetic and denied her status. She uses additional sources to support her research including archival records, books, scholarly journals, as well as her personal experiences.

Cornet, Wendy. “First Nations Governance, the Indian Act and Women’s Equality Rights.” First Nations Women, Governance and the Indian Act: A Collection of Policy Research Reports 117 (2001).

Wendy Cornet’s peer-reviewed research report funded by Status of Women Canada’s Policy Research Fund, focuses on the effects of Section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act. She also discusses how Section 67 caused further inequality within the Indian Act. Section 67 allowed complaints with the Indian Act to be disregarded. Later, it was proposed to remove Section 67 in hopes of this fixing the discriminatory portions of the Indian Act, but ultimately this exemption was not removed. During the time that Cornet wrote her report, Section 67 was still in place, but it was repealed in 2008. Cornet has a valid and logical argument: that in order for the government to expect Indigenous peoples to abide by and practice their laws, the federal government in turn needs to support Indigenous peoples and their rights. Cornet also brings into consideration the lack of ability to truly self-govern Indigenous communities because of the restrictions and control placed on self-governance. Cornet uses very technical sources, particularly law journals. This allows Cornet to write and interpret the ongoing sources of discrimination without influence of opinions or feelings that can come along with anecdotal evidence. With this clear source of information, Cornet is able to construct a very technical piece that states facts and their impacts. She is also able to avoid trauma-based research by utilizing sources that are not personally connected to trauma. This is a very relevant report as it establishes how complex and deeply rooted sex discrimination is, and not solely within the Indian Act itself.

Simon, Cheryl, and Judy Clark. “Exploring inequities under the Indian Act.” UNBLJ 64 (2013): 103.

Simon and Clark’s peer reviewed article uses a unique approach to demonstrate the discrimination caused by the Indian Act: the personal history of four generations of their family. The authors use experiences to prove the degradation of Mi’kmaq culture and values that was caused by the discrimination of women through the Indian Act. The governance structure of the community became more male-dominated, and loss of band membership occurred with the implementation of 6(2) status, which also negatively affected Simon’s perception of her own identity. Simon’s own son did not receive status because she ‘married out.’ Simon and Clark use records of court cases and bills as the majority of their sources.

Brodsky, Gwen. “Indian act sex discrimination: enough inquiry already, just fix it.” Canadian Journal of Women and the Law 28, no. 2 (2016): 314-320.

Gwen Brodsky researches the link between sex discrimination and the Indian Act.  She explores how the Indian Act has caused increased vulnerability for Indigenous women, thus increasing their likelihood to experience violence. In her peer-reviewed paper, Brodsky argues that unless the discriminatory terms in the Indian Act are addressed and corrected, the ongoing issue of violence against Indigenous women will not be end. While the Federal Government has been aware of the issues of discrimination, it has not been successful in ending it. In passing Bill C-31, some sex discriminatory policies were removed, but most continued. Brodsky argues that abolishing all sex discrimination in the Indian Act would not actually be difficult. She believes it would be fixed quite simply by creating equality between status men and women. Brodsky argues that the reason equality had not been achieved was due to the Federal Government’s incompetency. Brodsky is able to speak clearly and effectively on this topic due to her experience with discriminatory policies. She uses plain language which makes her paper more accessible to a larger audience; this is important to help generate more common knowledge on the topic.

Cannon, Martin J. Men, Masculinity, and the Indian Act. UBC Press, 2019.

Martin J. Cannon’s peer-reviewed book Men, Masculinity, and the Indian Act is not only about men, but it also discusses women’s roles and rights in the Indian Act. Cannon argues that the structure of colonialism is built upon racism against Indigenous peoples and sexism, and that the intention was to enforce paternalism. Policies regarding reserve land were also built on a sexist foundation: Cannon connects Section 12 of the Indian Act, the ‘marrying out’ rule, to reserve land, showing that the loss of status of a woman who has married a non-status man, also means the loss of her home on her community’s reserve. This would cause a loss of familial ties as well as significant financial distress. Indigenous women were also forcibly excluded from running in band council elections and voting, despite many communities being traditionally matriarchal and having had Indigenous women in positions of leadership. Cannon’s sources include books and scholarly articles about Indigenous women and their roles, colonialism, and reserved lands. This broad spectrum of sources allows for Cannon to have a well-informed view of his topic that covers the perspectives of multiple authors.

Sanders, Douglas. “Indian women: A brief history of their roles and rights.” McGill LJ 21 (1975): 656-672.

Douglas Sanders begins his peer reviewed article with a story of a surprised colonizer meeting an Indigenous woman in a leadership role, and succeeding in this role. He argues that in many Indigenous communities women were eligible for leadership roles, and in some cases membership and leadership was determined by female ancestry. This would mean that the forced patriarchy implemented by colonialism, and furthered by the Indian Act, goes against the social and political structures of many Indigenous communities, and that the Indian Act disregards Indigenous kinship systems. Sanders recognizes how first contact with Indigenous peoples led to conflict in relationships between settlers and the Indigenous population, particularly during marriages between fur traders and Indigenous women. He explores further acts of discrimination, recognizing the ‘marrying out’ policy in the Indian Act as being both an act of forced paternalism and sex discrimination. Despite multiple court cases fighting for gender equality under the Indian Act, an several amendments to the act, the Federal Government continues to enforce discriminatory policies. Sanders mainly uses documents from court cases, including the Lavell, Drybones and Canard cases, and is thus is able to create connections from the history of relationships between settlers and Indigenous people and the ongoing effects of those interactions.

Kirby, Peter. “Marrying out and Loss of Status: The Charter and New Indian Act Legislation.” Journal of Law & Social Policy 1 (1985): 77-95.

Peter Kirby’s peer-reviewed article opens with the Jeanette Lavell case, which is used to describe the loss of status experienced by an Indigenous woman. Kirby shows how Lavell and Bliss experienced the ‘equality’ that was meant to be brought with the amendments made to the Indian Act, and he argues that these changes did not truly change the foundation of sexual discrimination that the Indian Act is built upon. Kirby discusses a test of equality, made by Justice Ritchie during the Lavell trial. The test was used to determine the equality of policies, amendments and largely, the Indian Act. Section 12 of the Indian Act, which deals with the loss of status among status women who married non-status men, did not pass the equality test. Since the Supreme Court focused on the loss of land experienced while disregarding the effects of lost status, Kirby uses the Lavell case as an example of control over resources. Prior to Bill C-3,1 bands did not have general control over membership criteria. After the establishment of Bill C-31, bands were able to have some control over membership. Sanders consults court records of the Lavell and Drybones cases as well as scholarly papers on the traditional role of women within Indigenous communities.

Jordan, Elizabeth. “Residual Sex Discrimination in the Indian Act: Constitutional Remedies.” Journal of Law & Social Policy 11 (1995): 213-240.

Elizabeth Jordan’s peer-reviewed paper argues that the Indian Act continues to discriminate on the basis of sex, despite amendments. Jordan uses Section 12 of the Indian Act, the removal of an Indigenous woman’s status based on who she marries, as an example of a discriminatory policy on the basis of sex. This policy is an example of a patriarchal system that was imposed by European standards caused by colonialism. The patriarchal structure went directly against the social structure of Iroquoian and Algonquian cultures, who were the original communities on whom the Indian Act was imposed. During the Lavell court case, Jordan explains that the Crown believed they were protecting the land rights of Indigenous people by eliminating the risk of non-Indigenous men marrying into Indigenous families and taking control of their land. However, the policy also promoted coercive assimilation. Even after Bill C-31, there was continued sex discrimination, and many Indigenous women who lost status due to discriminatory policies, never regained it, and suffered as a result. Jordan uses court records of Jeannette Lavell’s experiences to support her argument, as well as a variety of academic studies. The sources allow Jordan to discuss the experiences of those who experienced degradation of their mental health as a result of Bill C-31 and Section 12 of the Indian Act.

Narine, Shari. “Canada continues to fail Indigenous women under the Indian Act.” Windspeaker. Vol. 34. Aboriginal Multi-Media Society of Alberta (AMMSA), 2016.

In this news article, Shari Narine argues that the discrimination against women in the Indian Act continues to worsen, despite efforts to correct the inequalities. Bill C-31 discriminates against children of Indigenous people who have lost status, in particular children whose Indigenous lineage follows their matriarchal line. Another attempt was made with Bill S-3, which aimed to fix the discrimination against cousins, siblings, and most minors. Narine uses the work of the United Nation’s Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination against Women to support her argument that the problems of discrimination can easily be corrected. The UN agreed that it should simply be a case of Indigenous women and men and their descendants being considered for Status. Passing Bill S-3 would prevent those who were victims of discrimination from receiving justice. Additionally, children born of sexual assault, prostitution, or simply a father unwilling to sign a birth certificate would still face discrimination. Narine’s sources include the Descheneaux and McIvor cases. Narine also uses information from The Native Women’s Association of Canada to support her arguments. Narine’s article may be short, but it uses accessible language that is comprehensible by a broad audience.

Fiske, Jo-Anne, and Evelyn. George. Seeking Alternatives to Bill C-31 from Cultural Trauma to Cultural Revitalization through Customary Law. Ottawa: Status of Women Canada, 2006.

Jo-Anne Fiske and Evelyn George’s research paper, funded by Status of Women Canada’s Policy Research Fund, argues that the Federal Government was not successful in improving the gender discrimination of the Indian Act. Particularly, in 1951, many changes were made to the Indian Act, and Fiske and George use Jeannette Lavell’s experiences in their paper to demonstrated the continuing sex discrimination of the Indian Act. After Lavell lost her status in 1969 after marrying a non-status man, she argued that by revoking her status based on who she married, the Indian Act violated the Canadian Bill of Rights. In 1985, amendments were made to the Indian Act which was required due in part to Lovelace v. Canada, a case which determined that the Indian Act violated the rights of Indigenous women. But Bill C-31 continued to discriminate against Indigenous women, and Fiske and George found that Bill C-31, and the Indian Act in general, caused particular distress to matrilineal Indigenous communities.

The Indian Act, Treaties, and British Columbia – Annotated Bibliography

By Kaitlynne-Rae Landry

Written in 2021 for the University of Ottawa course HIS 4135 – The Indian Act, for Prof. Daniel Rück, edited by Daniel Rück and Sam Yee

Treaties are the mechanism by which parties formally express their relationships and responsibilities – in this case, the parties being Indigenous nations and the federal and provincial governments. The Indian Act was imposed on Indigenous groups by the federal government in 1876 – and subsequently amended numerous times. It impacts most aspects of Indigenous life. In this way, treaties and The Indian Act, seem to work against each other. Treaties, on one hand, imply a nation-to-nation relationship – a recognition of title, capacity, and agency. The Indian Act, by contrast, subjugates Indigenous people to be wards of the state: historically, and currently, it reduces their agency, has controlled their movement, and can be argued to have the goal of assimilation rather than the protection of Indigenous people.

Treaties can be divided into two main categories: historic and modern. The dividing point of these two categories is 1927 and the amendments that were passed to The Indian Act. As discussed in “Land Claim and Treaty Negotiations in British Columbia, Canada: Implications for First Nations Land and Self‐governance” by Curry et al., the 1927 amendments halted all treaty negotiations by making it illegal for First Nations to hire or fundraise for representation for land claims. When these restrictions were removed in 1951, a different structure would take the place of historic treaties: the Comprehensive Land Claims (CLC) policy.

Madill’s British Columbia Indian Treaties in Historical Perspective inner working paper from the Department of Indian Affairs provides a solid foundation for understanding the historic treaties that impact British Columbia: the 14 Vancouver Island Treaties and Treaty 8 (which covers a section of the northeast corner of the province).

Modern treaties almost always include a self-governance component. As discussed by Kim Baird in “Away from the Indian Act – Treaty Governance at Tsawwassen First Nation,” these treaties and agreements serve the purpose of moving bands beyond the constraints and oppression of The Indian Act. Baird’s opinion is of particular interest as she was chief of the Tsawwassen First Nation throughout the negotiation process. Her article, written two years post-implementation provides an Indigenous viewpoint on the obstacles (both internal and external), concerns, and motivations behind the TFN’s decisions. Baird’s reading, when read alongside Curry et al., provide a robust understanding of the TFN CLC.

When discussing modern treaties it would be remiss to neglect to mention the vital importance and dramatic impact of Calder et al. v. Attorney General of British Columbia. Before this Supreme Court ruling, the question of Indigenous title was largely ignored by the Canadian government (see Harris and Penkitt). This case, which consisted of 5 band chiefs suing (on behalf of themselves and their fellow band members) for their unextinguished land title rights was found in favour of the government. However, it was a split decision of the closest of margins: a victory that hinged on the technicality that the complainants had not received a fiat (decree) from the Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia. Such a marginal victory, especially with the written decisions, recognized the continued existence of Indigenous land title. In other words, Indigenous title was recognized as being unextinguished and therefore something that the government needed to confront and negotiate with. This ruling would form the foundation of the Nishga Treaty, the first modern land claim to be resolved in British Columbia.

The written Calder et al. v. Attorney General of British Columbia ruling is heavily technical, but the Greymorning article offers a critical review of the ruling and discusses how ethnobias played a huge role in the deliberations and verdict. This discussion of ethnobias (and European ethnocentrism) is echoed in Penikett’s Reconciliation : First Nations Treaty Making in British Columbia. Penikett’s book is essential reading for this topic – it provides excellent context, critically examines the negotiation process, and provides recommendations on how it can be improved.

Harris expands on the legal background that has emboldened Indigenous land claims in “A Court Between: Aboriginal and Treaty Rights in the British Columbia Court of Appeal.” In this journal article, he underlines the importance of the movement between the fixation on the letter of the law and the spirit of the agreement. That is to say, the decision of the government, in the wake of near legal defeat, to approach negotiation in a way that considers the spirit of the agreement instead of adhering strictly to the letter of (settler) law.

Alcantara and Flanagan present other perspectives and options for First Nations bands as mechanisms to work within or outside of The Indian Act to regain independence and economic capacity. Ironically, where these accounts may be lacking is in their failure to consult or consider Indigenous viewpoints. However, their works are still worth reading, especially for their discussion on how The Indian Act continues to actively inhibit First Nations from economic success.

A final perspective worth considering regarding how The Indian Act and treaties interact is that of Specific Claims. Specific Claims are essentially grievances by First Nations against the government for promises not kept or duties broken or unfulfilled. Dickson covers this topic thoroughly in By Law or in Justice : the Indian Specific Claims Commission and the Struggle for Indigenous Justice. Specific Claims are a replacement or alternative to the legal system for bands seeking redress. Of significance is that the same delays, stonewalling, and procedural shenanigans that have been expressed by many of the authors discussed are once again echoed here. Frustration seems to be systemic across Indigenous-Crown relations.

The major limitation of this historiography at this point is the disproportionate number of settler voices in the literature. Academia, as argued by Greymorning, has much of the same ethnobias that we see in our court system and society as a whole. Research and publications – and their link to funding – are far from immune to the pressure of systemic racism. While, as noted, there are certainly some emerging sources that feature Indigenous voices, considering that treaties and The Indian Act are both so intensely linked to the experience of Indigenous people within Canada, this representation must be increased.

Annotated Bibliography

Alcantara, Christopher. “To Treaty or Not to Treaty? Aboriginal Peoples and Comprehensive Land Claims Negotiations in Canada.” Publius 38, no. 2 (2008): 343-69.

The article, along with the book by the same author and Flanagan, present right wing political viewpoints on the issue of treaties and Crown-Indigenous relations. Of note in this article is the fourth section which discusses other options that Indigenous groups have outside of treaties, otherwise known as the Comprehensive Land Claims (CLC) process. Citing institutional changes, the author argues that there is a broadened set of options available for Indigenous people including Self-Governance agreements, Bilateral Agreements, and the First Nations Land Management Act. The author suggests that these options are preferable, at least until the CLC process is adequately reformed.

A limitation to this article, much the same as the book by the same author and colleagues, is that it seems to approach the issue from a diligently capitalist frame of view. It fails to incorporate Indigenous or collective viewpoints. Perhaps ironically, the author, while criticizing the CLC process and colonial history for being against the best interests of Indigenous people, does not seem to concern himself with the will and desire of those people. By focusing on a rather sanitized structural approach, the author misses the cultural nuance of the situation.

Baird, Kim. “Away from the Indian Act – Treaty Governance at Tsawwassen First Nation.” Aboriginal Policy Studies 1, no. 2 (September 7, 2011). https://doi.org/10.5663/aps.v1i2.11688.

This article is written by the Chief Kim Baird of Tsawwassen First Nation (TFN) and is an account of TFN’s experience of the implementation of a Comprehensive Land Claim/modern treaty. This treaty was the first urban modern treaty in British Columbia. Baird’s reflections speak of the importance of moving beyond the constraints and oppression of The Indian Act towards self-governance as the most important part of reconciliation. The commentary discusses various options and, ultimately, decisions that the TFN choose to take. For example, they chose to “jump right in” as opposed to a more incremental plan for exercising their jurisdiction.

The author speaks from a point of strength as the chief during the process, however, this position comes with inherent bias due to her closeness to the proceedings. The format of the article is a commentary as it does not reference or cite external sources. While this makes this commentary weak in terms of a traditional academic source, it advances the historiography due to Chief Baird’s personal connection and experience with the matter. The commentary was written two years after the implementation date of the treaty, allowing for limited retrospection on the process and implementation. It would be interesting to pursue Baird’s more recent thoughts.

Calder et al. v. Attorney General of British Columbia [1973] SCR 313.

The Calder decision is known as a turning point in the Canadian government’s consideration of Indigenous land title. In this case, Calder and four other appellants sued the Attorney General of British Columbia to assert that “aboriginal title, otherwise known as the Indian title, of the Plaintiffs to their ancient tribal territory…has never been lawfully extinguished.” Frank Calder, James Gosnell, Maurice Nyce, W.D. McKay and Anthony Robinson were each suing on their own behalf and on behalf of all members of their First Nation bands. The case is known as the Calder case after Nishga chief Frank Calder. The case was dismissed at both lower courts and found itself before the Supreme Court, ending in a split decision.

While the case was adjudicated against Calder and the Nishgas, the court’s finding acknowledged Aboriginal title in much of the rest of what is now Canada. In the ruling, three of the judges disqualified the Nishga’s claim because their territories were not under British protection at the time of the British Royal Proclamation of 1763. Another three ruled in favour of the Nisghas. The tie-breaking judge dismissed the case on a technicality; ruling that the Supreme Court did not have jurisdiction to make a ruling in the absence of a fiat (decree) of the Lieutenant-Governor of British Columbia. While this technicality did not aid the Nishgas in this lawsuit it had lasting ramifications with regards to the recognition of Aboriginal title as a legal right based on occupation of traditional territories. Such a close decision, won only on a technicality, spurred the government to act proactively. It was clear that further challenges would follow, with the requirement of a fiat being satisfied.

This case would come to serve as the foundation for the Nisgha Treaty of 2000, the first modern land claim in British Columbia.

Canada. Indian Act, R.S.C., 1927.

Pieces of legislation are living documents: they are often amended as necessitated by time, political will, and public opinion. It is important to take these amendments in mind when examining the historical impact of any piece of legislation – especially one as long living as The Indian Act, which was initially passed in 1876. The Indian Act is important in how it has changed over time, but no version is more critical to this discussion than the 1927 version after the amendments passed on March 31, 1927. These amendments included Section 141 which made it impossible for First Nation bands to raise funds or hire a lawyer for the purposes of land claims without the government’s approval. This section placed the punishment not on the band, who might be willing to take a fine or imprisonment, but rather on the legal counsel hired or otherwise engaged.

This amendment, as discussed in other sources, effectively ended any new treaty making. This chill remained until future amendments in 1951. When treaties and land claim negotiation restarted, a different approach was taken resulting in a very different process. This results in the division that exists between historic treaties and comprehensive land claims (modern treaties).

Curry, John, Han Donker, and Richard Krehbiel. “Land Claim and Treaty Negotiations in British Columbia, Canada: Implications for First Nations Land and Self‐governance.” The Canadian Geographer / Le Géographe Canadien 58, no. 3 (September 1, 2014): 291–304.

This article presents two case studies of comprehensive claims made in British Columbia. One, which our focus is on, is the successfully implemented agreement of the Tsawwassen First Nation (as discussed in Baird). The article also lays out some groundwork history, notably that the 1927 Indian Act halted all treaty negotiations. When they were eventually restarted after the Calder decision, they took on a new form: comprehensive claims. This is important for our understanding of how treaties interact with The Indian Act and provides a clear division point for the types of agreements we will be looking at. The three authors used a series of interviews with members of the First Nation to inform their insights on the agreements’ reasons for success or failure.

This work is important to the historiography because it provides a separate account of the Tsawwassen First Nation Comprehensive Claim from a more traditionally academic standpoint. By providing a second case study, in which the agreement failed to be ratified by members, it also provides us with potential explanations of factors that contribute to the success or failings of comprehensive claims. This work shines light on different ways modern treaty processes can be optimized to ensure community buy-in and success going forward.

Dickson, Jane. By Law or in Justice: the Indian Specific Claims Commission and the Struggle for Indigenous Justice. Vancouver: Purich Books, 2018.

This book was written by a member of the now defunct Indian Specific Claims Commission and is a reflection on the legacy of the government’s handling of specific claims brought forth by Indigenous groups. Specific claims can be generally defined as grievances levied against the government for promises not kept or duties neglected. The introduction gives a succinct, yet thorough history of the origins of settler-Indigenous relations, what Specific Claims are, where they come from and how they interact with both historic treaties and The Indian Act. Included in this summary is some of the bad faith actions that marred treaties from their very creation. The book continues with a discussion of the fundamental conflict of interest the government encounters when weighing its fiduciary duty against their own desire to balance budgets and protect their self interests.

The author provides concrete examples of claims and cases submitted to the Specific Claims Tribunal – some accepted, some rejected – and the motivations behind these decisions. This is important to the historiography because specific claims were and are the only way for bands to assert their grievances. This work handles the explanation of the intersection of treaties and The Indian Act regarding these sorts of complaints. It examines the history of government policy and attitude towards Indigenous populations in relation to these claims, in order to shed light on the frustration facing First Nations.

Flanagan, Thomas, André Le Dressay, and Christopher Alcantara. Beyond the Indian Act: Restoring Aboriginal Property Rights. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2010.

In this book, the authors connect the present levels of Indigenous poverty in Canada back in history through The Indian Act and to the Royal Proclamation of 1763. Their argument is that the restrictions placed on the land have been fundamental in crippling the economic capabilities of Indigenous people. Specific examples of policies mentioned include: land could only be ceded to the Crown, the reserve system, and the lack of private property rights.

This piece is important to the historiography in that it is from a right-wing political source, as indicated by the authors’ past articles. Flanagan et al. have a much more pessimistic view of Crown-Indigenous relations and the new comprehensive claims than most, but that is not surprising given some of Flanagan’s previous works. He is well-known for his fervent belief in free market economics, so his disdain of something so structured and removed from such a market is understandable. These values, however, do not mesh with more collectively-minded Indigenous populations.

Greymorning, S. Neyooxet. “Calder V. Attorney General of British Columbia: Aboriginal Case Law in an Ethnobiased Court.” Canadian Journal of Native Studies 26, no. 1 (2006): 71–88.

This article examines the reasons behind the Calder ruling as an example of a systemic issue in the courts: the lack of cultural relativity in Aboriginal case law. The article posits that the idea that Indigenous title had to be debated at all is rooted in “ethnobias” and an entrenched belief in the political and cultural superiority of Europeans. It highlights the fact that in Canada, the idea of Aboriginal title being granted into creation by the Crown (through the Royal Proclamation of 1763) is rooted in the doctrine of discovery. When considered as such, ‘discovery’ grants the Crown the sole right to extinguish title. The article argues that the Marshall decision in Johnson v. McIntosh has been misinterpreted, or at best, oversimplified.

The article contests the settler idea that the Nishga had no concept of individual ownership based on missionary accounts and the fact that treaties and purchases continued to happen. It points out the hypocrisy that is denying Indigenous title while also buying land from them. It highlights that Marshall clarified that extinguishment of Indian title was done by purchase or conquest. However, as the court system in which these cases are heard was and is intrinsically and systemically bias, the Eurocentric view prevailed. The conclusion paints a relatively pessimistic view of the future: while the Nishga Agreement did result in a self-governance agreement, the message is maintained that the state will continue to control Indigenous people.

This article is important to the historiography because it provides the ethnocultural context of the Calder case. It is a markedly more progressive and critical look at the proceedings than is presented in most other texts, and especially in government documents.

Harris, Douglas C. “A Court Between: Aboriginal and Treaty Rights in the British Columbia Court of Appeal.” BC Studies, no. 162 (Summer 2009): 137–64.

This article reviews the decisions of the British Columbia Court of Appeal in the domain of Aboriginal and treaty rights and reflects on the court’s role in defining the content of those rights. It begins with R. v. White and Bob and Calder v. British Columbia. Whereas other sources focus on Calder as a turning point in the consideration of Aboriginal land rights, this article also focuses on cases from 1982-1992 where Aboriginal land rights were infused “with substantial legal effect.”

The work covers these important rulings that made it clear that there would be a focus on “common understanding” and not “rigid rules of constructions without regard to the circumstances.” This was significant as it brought an end to a period of narrow consideration and marked the beginning of a push towards the spirit of a particular negotiation. This change towards a common understanding, as opposed to the letter of the law, is something worth identifying. For so long, the letter of the law has been used to minimize government obligations to the bare minimum. This piece also shows the different approaches and understandings taken by Canada as a whole compared to British Columbia.

This sort of case-by-case review is essential for the historiography as these legal rulings had a fundamental role in the establishment of the comprehensive claims and the movement towards negotiation, as opposed to pure stonewalling. This journal article further focuses on the role of the British Columbia Court of Appeal being the court in between: it makes rulings more specific for the British Columbian situation (unique within Canada due to the general absence of historical treaties), but still heavily aware of the presence (and therefore influenced by) the Supreme Court of Canada.

Madill, Dennis. British Columbia Indian Treaties in Historical Perspective. Ottawa: Research Branch, Corporate Policy, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, 1981.

This internal working paper, written by a member of the Department of Indian Affairs (but not necessarily reflecting the opinions of the Department) serves as a guide regarding the historical treaties that are present in British Columbia. When generalizing, it is tempting to see British Columbia as a province wholly without treaties. This is not the case. The 14 Vancouver Island Treaties of 1850-1854 and the “almost accidental” inclusion of the northeast corner of the province in Treaty 8 cannot and should not be ignored.

The 14 Vancouver Island Treaties were simple in comparison to the numbered treaties. In contrast to the numbered Treaties, which had benefits and relationships going forward, the Vancouver Island treaties instead were a more direct agreement: property rights were exchanged for a lump sum payments – in this case, some blankets and a small reserve land. The involved bands did, however, retain their right to hunt and fish on unoccupied lands.

This source is important to the historiography due to the insight it provides into the mindset of the Department of Indian Affairs. It works to lay out historical context for the impetus for both treaties, and situate the motivations of those negotiating these limited historical treaties. As such, this source can be used to contrast with the approach to modern treaties. The working paper also discusses how the circumstances of both treaties (how they were negotiated, who was involved, etc.) play a role in the confusion and unresolved issues that impact current discussion. This source also has a wealth of other sources in footnotes for additional reading should more in-depth reading on these limited historical treaties be of interest.

Penikett, Antony. Reconciliation : First Nations Treaty Making in British Columbia. Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 2006.

This book, written by Antony Penikett, who has a storied career including significant time spent as a negotiator on Indigenous land claims (albeit for the provincial and federal governments), provides a reflection on his time and experience negotiating claims. In doing so, Penikett provides remedies to problems that he sees as encumbering the current process. Penikett identifies three stages in the long history of treaty making: Legal Slaughter, Assimilation Games, and Reconciliation Debates. In his words: “in British Columbia, settler resistance, Aboriginal anxieties, and political indifference have for too long hobbled treaty negotiations.”

Through discussing these stages he outlines the Canadian, and more specifically British Columbian context that has led us to current day. He provides a frank look at how the pace (demonstrably slow) impacts Indigenous people. He discusses how the impacts of historical treaties (or lack thereof) are still being felt today, and he situates treaties in the overall systemic racism that Indigenous people face. He admonishes that “the rule of law requires that treaty makers address ancient grievances as current events.”

This book complements the Greymorning article in that it discusses ethnocentric illusions while underlining the need to respect the wisdom of other cultures. Throughout the book, Penikett uses historical and international context to add greater depth to the discussion. This work is incredibly important to the historiography as a solid overview from someone with a wealth of experience within the government, and who knows its policies and the impact of treaty negotiations. One caveat, the irony that the author recognizes and discusses, is that the length and bureaucracy of negotiations for treaties has created a whole industry of lawyers, negotiators, researchers, and support staff who all have the goal of facilitating these lengthy and arduous processes. Penikett was a part of this industry. While Penikett is a settler, his commentary appears balanced, if not sympathetic to the circumstances that Indigenous people have persevered from contact to present. The strengths of this source lie in the depth of coverage, the insights into potential changes, and the lived experience that inform it. It might make most sense to read this source first, and then the other, more precise sources, to add to this base level of expertise.

The Indian Act, Farming, and the Permit System – Annotated Bibliography

By Rhys Groen

Written in 2021 for the University of Ottawa course HIS 4135 – The Indian Act, for Prof. Daniel Rück, edited by Daniel Rück and Sam Yee

In the late 19th and 20th century, government officials recognised that agriculture on Indigenous reserves was largely a failure. However, those same officials failed to account for why agriculture was unsuccessful. The usual explanation at the time was that Indigenous people were either too lazy to farm or that they rejected agriculture altogether because of some deep rooted and illogical disdain for it. These racist notions held sway in settler studies about Indigenous agriculture until the end of the 20th century. The collection of sources below have been collected to present a newer and more accurate narrative of why agriculture failed on Indigenous reserves, and how it was in many cases intentionally disrupted by the Department of Indian Affairs and its successors.

Many treaties between Indigenous people and the Crown promised Indigenous people that they would be provided with a way to sustain themselves through agriculture. This promise was largely not kept by the government of Canada. The first barrier to agriculture on reserve was the reserve itself, which in many instances was located on land which was unsuitable to farming. This poor farmland inhibited Indigenous people’s ability to farm, and that inability to farm was later used as justification to further limit the sizes of reserves since the land was supposedly not being adequately used. Despite these and other barriers, Indigenous farmers on certain reserves realized some success in the 1880s. What really halted this prospective industry for Indigenous people was the imposition of the Pass and Permit systems.

There has been relatively little academic work written recently on agriculture and the Indian Act, particularly of the Permit System, which worked in conjunction with the Pass System to limit the activities open to Indigenous people on reserve, particularly in the prairies. In the same way that the Pass System worked to limit the physical movement of Indigenous people by restricting them to their reserves, the Permit System worked to limit the economic activities of Indigenous people. This Permit System was in part implemented because of the surprising success at which Indigenous People in Saskatchewan had in the late 19th century at agriculture, which at times out-competed white settlers. For further information on the Pass System, please watch the documentary of the same name by Alex Williams. While this documentary is not directly related to Indigenous agriculture, the Pass System and the Permit System were two policies which worked hand in hand to limit the rights and ways Indigenous people on reserve could live. Without the Pass System, the Permit System would not have been nearly as detrimental.

Of crucial importance to this narrative of Indigenous agriculture is the Permit System. This was a system put in place by an Act to Amend “The Indian Act, 1880” which prohibited the sale of agricultural products grown on reserves except in accordance with the government regulations. This forced First Nations farmers to receive a permit if they wanted to sell any agricultural products such as grain, hay, produce, or farm animals. The permit system is explained in depth within two relatively short blog posts cited below, one by Indigenous Corporate Training Inc, and the other by Living Sky School Division. These two short blog posts serve as a brief introduction into readings on agriculture and the permit system. For further readings on this subject, please read Rebecca Bateman’s “Talking with the Plow,” or Sarah Carter’s “Lost Harvests.” Carter’s work on this subject provides a thorough and in-depth analysis of agricultural policy in the prairies and represents a turning point in the narrative of Indigenous agriculture. For a less academic approach to the Permit System, please look at the short story “Peggy” by David A. Robertson which can be found in the anthology, This Place: 150 Years Retold. In this text, the Permit System plays an important role in the story and is a good example of the ways in which the harm caused by the Permit System played out.

There are a few additional readings which do not centre agriculture, but deal instead with the history of labour in Canada and the relationships between Indigenous peoples and settlers. The first is David Camfield’s Settler Colonialism and Labour Studies in Canada: A Preliminary Exploration which details and explains what settler colonialism is, and how it effects labour studies in Canada. This is a beneficial text as it delves into how settler colonialism infiltrates into every aspect of study and how these fields can be decolonized. The focus on labour studies in particular is important as it relates this text back to agricultural labour. The other is John Lutz’s Makúk: a New History of Aboriginal-White Relations, which presents a new history of Indigenous-white relations through a lens of labour. This is applicable to various branches of the economy, but also includes sections detailing agriculture. It does an excellent job of breaking down certain stereotypes which are still held by some today, and it how these shaped the minds of many policy makers historically as they implemented the various restrictive policies around agriculture.

I hope that this list of sources below will highlight an aspect of Canadian, and Indigenous, history which is often left uncovered. Through a reading of these sources an explanation of certain pervasive and harmful stereotypes of Indigenous people will be discovered and disproved. The intentional disruption of Indigenous agriculture by the Canadian State is a subject which often goes overlooked within both studies of Indigenous history and Canadian history more broadly, though this is of central importance to understanding many of the systemic injustices which still face Indigenous communities today.

Annotated Bibliography

Bateman, Rebecca. “Talking with the Plow: Agricultural Policy and Indian Farming in the Canadian and U.S. Praries” The Canadian Journal of Native Studies XVI, 2(1996):211-228.

This article examines the agricultural policy imposed on Indigenous people by the United States and Canada in each country’s Prairie region. Bateman argues that preconceived notions held by lawmakers in both countries impeded the advancement of agriculture among Plains people, this view is opposed to certain other arguments which propose that the advancement of Indigenous agriculture failed due to some inherent shortcoming in either their ability or willingness to farm. This is done through a comparison of Canadian and U.S. Indian Policy in the late 19th century and how it contrasted to the willingness of Indigenous peoples to adapt to these aspects of farming. Bateman describes how agents in both countries consistently looked for reasons to blame Indigenous peoples for their failings at farming instead of analyzing the failure of the policy put in place.

This article is well argued and uses secondary sources to trace the development of agricultural policy in the United States and Canada with regards to how Indigenous people could farm. However, there are scarcely any citations of primary sources which would benefit this paper immensely. An analysis of primary sources of agricultural policy, or further elaboration on quotes from Indigenous peoples on the Plains in response to these policies would likewise be beneficial. Overall, this article builds off of the work of previous historians while failing to add new primary documents to the discussion which could develop the argument further.

Camfield, David. “Settler Colonialism and Labour Studies in Canada: A Preliminary Exploration.” Labour / Le Travail 83 (2019): 147-72.

This article discusses the lack of current research around Canadian settler-colonialism and labour studies and largely works as an introduction into further research around the ways that settler-colonialism can be used as a lens through which to view labour-studies. Camfield argues that it is important to understand Canada as a settler-colonial society and then offers some preliminary ways of integrating analysis of settler colonialism into research around labour history and labour studies. As such this articel introduces the reader to the concept of Canada as being a settler-colonial society, describing the history of how this came about and how it still effects contemporary Canadian society. The argument then logically follows that to study labour history in Canada, an analysis of settler-colonialism must also be present, in two primary ways. First, Indigenous labourers who have been excluded from labour history in many ways should be centered, and second, that the non-indigenous working class has been shaped by settler-colonialism, and thus must be understood as such.

This article works well as an introduction into the understanding of settler-colonialism and does an adequate job of tracing its trajectory, and this is done by re-presenting the work of previous anti-colonial scholars, although in a new context which centers labour. However, as this text is an introduction to the concept of settler-colonialism, it adds little to the scholarly debate around it and instead serves as a jumping-off point for future scholars of labour in Canada to do further research.

Carter, Sarah A. “Lost Harvests: Prairie Indian Reserve Farmers and Government Policy.” Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1990.

This text is intended to work against traditional narratives held at the time of how and why farming was not successful in Indigenous communities in the prairies. The widely held view at the time was that the reason why farming did not take off was due to a hostility to farming held by Indigenous people themselves. In this view, Indian Affairs did its upmost to ensure the success of Indigenous people. Carter’s book rejects this view and instead argues that many Indigenous people on reserve initially responded positively to agriculture. This initial inclination to agriculture did not result in any real successes, and Carter explains this was the fault of government policies which aggravated the conditions of Indigenous farmers, and made them unable to compete with their white counterparts who did not have these restrictions.

This text is incredibly useful and is perhaps the most extensive text on Indigenous agriculture in the Canadian prairies. This text presents a break from previous scholarship which suggested that agriculture failed on reserve because of Indigenous people’s refusal to take it up, and instead explains the causes for this as a failure of government policy. However, this text is quite dated now, being more than 30 years old, and as such this work could be expanded upon building on newer research as well. Though, disappointingly, there is a lack of recent scholarship on this topic.

Robertson, David A. “Peggy” in This Place: 150 Years Retold. Winnipeg, Manitoba: Highwater, 2019.

This short story is about Francis Pegahmagabow, or Peggy, the most decorated North American Sniper of World War I. Without detailing too much of the plot of this story, Peggy shows how the achievements of Indigenous people went unrecognised by the Canadian State. The story of Peggy also deals with the Permit System, and as such can be used as a sort of primary text to view how the policy of the Permit System altered and disrupted the lives of Indigenous people.

This text is different from the others listed here since it is short and can be read in less than 30 minutes, taking the form of a graphic novel. As such it is able to ground discussions of the Permit System and other injustices in reality through images. Additionally, as the Permit System and agriculture do not take centre stage in this text, other aspects of Indigenous history are discussed, broadening the scope of understanding.

Flanagan, Tom, Christopher Alcantara, and André Le Dressay. “Customary Land Rights on Canadian Indian Reserves.” In Beyond the Indian Act, 73–. MQUP, 2010.

This chapter discusses the emergence of customary rights, the range of their formalization, and their treatment by the Canadian courts through a conceptual survey of traditional allotments on Canadian Indian reserves. This is done through an analysis of the admittedly scant quantity of literature and case law on the topic, particularly relying on the fieldwork of various anthropologists. In short, this paper discusses the laws around the allotment of land on Indigenous reserves. It is then argued that customary land rights are the least economically efficient property rights system available to Indigenous peoples in Canada. While criticizing the poor choice of property rights system used by Indigenous peoples on reserve, Flanagan neglects to include a history about how this system came about, opting to instead analyze it as it exists in the present without understanding the context for how it emerged.

Indigenous Corporate Training Inc. Blog, “Indian Act and the Permit System”, June 10, 2015, Accessed July 8, 2021, https://www.ictinc.ca/blog/indian-act-and-the-permit-system-.

This website is part of a series of blog posts by Indigenous Corporate Training Inc., an organization created to provide non-indigenous people with training to “work effectively with Indigenous Peoples” through teaching people about Indigenous history and contemporary issues. This post is about how the Indian Act and the Permit System worked together to limit the ability of Indigenous peoples to farm effectively on reserve. This post argues that these two policies worked in conjunction to limit the abilities of Indigenous people to farm effectively. While this is a blog post on a public website and as such does not hold extensive academic research on the topic, nor does it build on previous research, it still uses academic sources to support its information. The purpose behind this article is to teach and educate the public, and is thus constructed to be shorter and easier to digest than academic articles.

Living Sky School Division. “First Nations Farming”, Treaty 6 Education, Accessed July 6, 2021, https://treaty6education.lskysd.ca/firstnationsfarming.html.

This website post was created by the Living Sky School Division, a part of the Treaty 6 Education system. This page discusses the practices of Indigenous agriculture and how they had been restricted due to policies put in place by the Canadian Federal government, particularly the Pass and the Permit systems. It argues that First Nations were just as successful, and at times more successful, at farming than non-indigenous people, and that it was the introduction of government policy which failed the First Nations treaty rights to pursue agriculture.

This website is intended to serve as a collection of posts presenting information for the use of teachers in the Treaty 6 Education system. The argument is supported through the citation of various sources, though the sources used are not cited properly and as such cannot be used to search whether or not the depictions of them are accurate. Though this is still a useful source, particularly for the reading of the public as it presents an often-untold part of Canadian history, which is that of Indigenous farming from an Indigenous perspective.

Lutz, John S. “Makúk: a New History of Aboriginal-White Relations.” Vancouver: UBC Press, 2008.

Makúk is a Mowachaht word meaning, “let’s trade,” which characterised the early relationship between white settlers and the Mowachaht of present-day British Colombia. This book attempts to tell a new history of Indigenous-White relations with a particular focus on the present day Canadian West Coast. It focuses on a tale of exchanges between these two people groups. Of particular importance for this collection of readings is the emphasis placed on the nature of work-for-pay exchange between Indigenous People and European settlers. It is additionally presented that there were different conceptions of what constituted productive time. To European settlers, the view of productive labour was one which produced goods or services. They attempted to impose this view on Indigenous people. In contrast, many Indigenous societies valued “leisure time” which contrasted with this notion of productive labour.

The goal of this text is to reverse the narrative of Indigenous people being separate from the early capitalist economy of the emerging state of Canada. It instead posits that the labour of Indigenous people was essential to that early formation of capitalist economics.

Nickels, Bret. “A Field of Dreams: The Story of the Manitoba Indian Agricultural Program.” Doctoral Thesis, University of Manitoba, 2003.

In this dissertation, Nickels outlines the history of the now defunct Manitoba Indian Agricultural Program (MIAP) and the insights an analysis of this program can provide on the problems and prospects of First Nations agriculture in general. This is done through a presentation of the historical background of First Nations’ agriculture in Manitoba as well as a brief history of the MIAP. This research project concludes that the problems faced by the MIAP originated from failed government policy which resulted in a lack of commitment for funding, long term programming, and farmer education, combined with a lack of accountability and sufficient checks and balances within the MIAP’s Board of Directors. This research is done through a review of program descriptions and literature of the MIAP, a review and analysis of archival documents of the operation of the MIAP, and interviews with former Board Members, staff, clients, and other officials involved in the operation of the MIAP or organizations around it. This dissertation serves as a micro-focus on the MIAP but also provides useful background information around the history of Indigenous agriculture in Manitoba.

Williams, Alex, and Tantoo Cardinal. The Pass System. 2015.

This documentary presents the story of the Pass System and the ways in which it fundamentally disrupted the lives of Indigenous people. The Pass System was a system which restricted Indigenous people’s ability to leave their reserves. In order to leave the reserve, a person would need to submit a request to an Indian Agent who would then either accept or refuse their request. These requests could be to leave for a day to go into another town or reserve for supplies, to leave for a week to go hunting, or to request to leave to see a relative in another location. These requests could be accepted or refused for any reason. This documentary does not deal directly with agriculture, but it does weave in other policy, such as the Permit System, to paint a better picture of how Indigenous people’s lives were fundamentally controlled and restricted by the Canadian Government. This documentary itself it very well made and makes its point clearly with good use of the medium of film. This representation of the Pass System illuminates an aspect of Canadian history which often goes overlooked in a medium which can be appreciated by anyone. It presents history typically relegated to the academy in a form suitable for popular consumption.

Sexual Health and Marriage Inequality among Indigenous Communities Under the Indian Act – Annotated Bibliography

by Anna Dahlgren

Written in 2021 for the University of Ottawa course HIS 4135 – The Indian Act, for Prof. Daniel Rück, edited by Daniel Rück and Sam Yee

The Indian Act has had a significant impact on the expression of sexuality and matrimony within Indigenous communities due to historically assimilative policies that aimed to regulate the sexual practices and marriage between Indigenous people and settler society. The purpose of this annotated bibliography is to explain how the Indian Act attempted to force Indigenous people to adhere to a hetero-patriarchal social hierarchy and how sexual repression and abuse, incited by other policies implemented under the Indian Act, continues to oppress Indigenous communities. The main goal of this annotated bibliography is not to examine the immediate causes of gender stratification under the 1876 Indian Act, but to demonstrate the inadvertent and collateral damages caused by assimilative policies. When studying how the Indian Act affected the sexual and marital practices of Indigenous communities, it is important to first understand the importance of sexual culture, access to sexual health services, and gender stratification within Indigenous communities. Sexual culture is best described as a group’s established norms and practices surrounding sexual exploration and identity. Though sexual culture varied community to community, settler histories often described a homogeneous Indigenous sexual culture. This generalization gets in the way of addressing the ongoing sexual health and gender inequality crises plaguing Indigenous communities because it does not acknowledge the variations in sexual culture between groups. These generalizations bleed into the lack of access to community-based sexual health services.

The Indian Act is directly responsible for the social and technological limitations of medical and sexual health services available to Indigenous communities, specifically in their ability to address the spiritual and cultural needs of Indigenous groups regarding sexual health and discussions about sexuality. As the Reeves, Macdonald, and Hackett articles discuss, the Indian Act is responsible for creating opportunities for sexual and emotional abuse within Indigenous communities, as well as perpetuating inequality between Indigenous and settler youth in regards to access to modern sexual health services and counselling. The third theme in the following articles is gender stratification within Indigenous communities and academic representation regarding marriage and sexual health research. Authors listed below, such as James and Maclellan, examine how enforcing a hetero-patriarchal social hierarchy on all Indigenous communities under the Indian Act, regardless of their traditional social orders, continues an assimilative prerogative. Sexual culture, access to sexual health services, and gender stratification are all areas of Indigenous cultures that have been affected by the Indian Act and forced enfranchisement through bio-politics.

The titles included in this annotated bibliography have been compiled in order to demonstrate the pervasiveness of trauma that the Indian Act causes in Indigenous sexual cultures, community access to sexual health services, and gender stratification. Additionally, it also demonstrates the importance of recognizing path dependency and the importance of relationships in Indigenous research and academia. Path dependency is a methodological approach that helps readers understand how all current and future decisions are influenced by previous decisions or actions made in our past. For example, the crisis of gender inequality in Indigenous communities has has its roots in the 1876 Indian Act as many women and children were denied status due to their sexual and marital relations with white settlers. Despite amendments made to promote equal access to Indian status, families affected by previous status annulments cannot claim their status due to previous policy decisions. Path dependency is important for understanding how previous policies implemented under the Indian Act, such as the right to status after marriage, residential schooling, and medical care infrastructure, continue to cause sexual health crises and gender stratification. The following articles, books, and resources reflecting sexual health and marriage inequality deal with how previous policies implemented under the Indian Act continue to foment mistrust between healthcare professionals and Indigenous communities, as well as economic and social gender inequality. The goal of this annotated bibliography is to expose readers to a wide variety of issues regarding sexuality, sex, and marriage, in order to demonstrate the pervasiveness of sexual regulations and barriers afflicting Indigenous communities, even after years of amendments to the Indian Act.

Annotated Bibliography

Barker, Joanne. “Gender, Sovereignty, Rights: Native Women’s Activism against Social Inequality and Violence in Canada”. American Quarterly, 60, no. 2, 2008, pp. 259-266.

Joanne Barker’s article offers an analysis of Indigenous relationships between status men and women since the implementation of the Indian Act. Her article aims to examine the degree of political and social privilege status men experience compared to Indigenous women. Barker acknowledges that the Canadian government has made amendments to the Indian Act to rectify the gender stratification between status men and women, specifically that Indian women may now keep their status if they choose to marry a non status man. However, Barker argues that the implementation of the Indian Act itself greatly exacerbated social tensions between men and women, devalued women’s work, and as a result of gender stratification, Indigenous women faced more violence, poverty, and illness than Indigenous men. Barker’s methodology is based on a feminist realist approach towards understanding the significance of the Indian Act in the context of contemporary trends of violence in Indigenous communities. It is a significant piece for this annotated bibliography because it examines one of the most fundamental complications of the Indian Act – gender stratification. Barker’s article provides context for how the Indian Act caused, or significantly exacerbated, gender stratification in Indigenous communities during the 20th century.

Cannon, Martin. “The Regulation of First Nations Sexuality.” Canadian Journal of Native Studies, Vol. 18, No. 1, 1998, pp. 1-18.

In this article, Cannon examines the nature of gender and sexuality in Indigenous communities prior to European oppression, and analyzes racialized sexism in the Indian Act. He discusses how the Indian Act relied on institutionalized racism and sexism in order to transform, or completely eradicate, traditional Indigenous practices. Cannon first examines written testimonies from white settlers who saw instances of Indigenous non-heteronormative sexual norms. He demonstrates how sexual conservatism was an immediate impact of European intervention rather than a natural or inherent socialized norm. He uses testimonies from Jesuit settlers and French Catholic priests who, in the early 19th century, were either appalled or confused by Indigenous people’s seemingly genderless approach to sexual and social development. Cannon’s methodology in collecting and analyzing sources lacks diversity as it specifically focuses on the European accounts of Indigenous sexuality. His article could have also provided a better analysis of Indigenous gender and sexual identities had he focused on the practices of a specific community or nation. The article is best read as an introduction to understanding the regulations enforced by the Indian Act that controlled the sexual culture of Indigenous communities. While this is an excellent source for a broad analysis on the sexual and social conditioning of Indigenous communities under the Indian Act, it is important to recognize that sexual cultures vary between Indigenous groups and should not be generalized.

Cannon’s main argument is that by restricting non-heteronormative sexual practices under the Indian Act, Indigenous communities were forced to assimilate into the heteropatriarchal settler society. The Jesuit and settler testimony substantiates that the restriction of sexual exploration and non-heterosexual relationships were correlated to an individual’s accessibility to Indian Status, since status was claimed through heteronormative marriages and gender roles under the Indian Act. The sources used, such as diaries and legal documents, are credible, and Cannon explicitly discussed the assumptions made by the historical authors. He contextualizes the assumptions about hetero-normative marriages as well as spirituality regarding the objections to Indigenous sexual freedom. However, a shortcoming of Cannon’s text is that he does not discuss the Indigenous responses to sexual restriction and state-sanctioned gender oppression. For both of these reasons, Cannon’s text is important to the historiography of understanding how the Indian Act affected Indigenous sexuality and marriage. He provides a preliminary, and easily digestible, analysis of the ways the Indian Act enforced enfranchisement through the use of sexual restrictions and heteronormative familial development in Indigenous communities. Ultimately, Cannon’s text is an excellent starting place for contemporary students aiming to understand more about how the Indian Act directly affected Indigenous sexuality and marriage, as it also helps students and keen learners to formulate important questions regarding Indigenous history written by settlers.

Cavanagh, Sheila L. “The Somatechnics of Sexuality in Canada.” Somatechnics 7, no. 2 (2017): v–vi.

            Sheila Cavanagh’s article is an excellent source to understand the importance of path dependency and knowledge in Indigenous research. Cavanagh’s article gives a synopsis of how the Canadian government, as of 2017, has begun to acknowledge some of the historical wrongdoings against Indigenous communities, but not the ongoing conflicts regarding gender inequality. Cavanagh explains in-depth how not including the importance of lineage and sexually-determined heritage in modern discussions about Indigeneity discredits biopolitics as a legitimate defence against forced enfranchisement. Cavanaugh speaks about some of the important recent events that have taken place between Indigenous leaders and the Canadian federal government regarding accessibility to Indian Status. She points out that despite Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s rhetoric of equality and progressiveness, he does not publicly acknowledge that the Canadian government has been cited by the UN for human rights violations for the treatment and lack of care for Indigenous women, and that the Canadian government voted against gender equality under the Indian Act as recently as 2017. The article is included in this annotated bibliography because of its readability and briefness, which gives readers a chance to familiarize themselves with the important basic themes reflected in the more complicated readings.

Hackett, Lisa, Maya Biderman, Nicole Doria, Julien Courville, Emma Bogner, Rebecca Spencer, Dave Miller, Jane McMillan, and Matthew Numer. “A Rapid Review of Indigenous Boys’ and Men’s Sexual Health in Canada.” Culture, Health & Sexuality 23, no. 5 (May 4, 2021): 705–21.

This article examines how Canadian legislation, such as the Indian Act, has created a series of sexual health epidemics in Indigenous communities. These epidemics include HIV infections, domestic violence, and sexual violence against women, men, and children. Hackett et al.’s article is unique to the majority of Indigenous sexual health research because it focuses on the importance of men’s sexual and mental health in Indigenous communities. The authors argue that the neglect of men’s mental and sexual health within Indigenous communities stems from both the lack of access to healthcare, as well as the lack of support for Indigenous men who identify as two-spirit or non-binary. The authors argue that through forced enfranchisement and child apprehension, as supported by the Indian Act and residential schools, Indigenous men received teachings that led many to engage in sexually and physically damaging relationships and lifestyles. In the authors’ qualitative review of the current academic literature on Indigenous men’s sexual health in Canada, they found that out of a sample of 1550 studies, only two specifically focused on Indigenous men’s sexual health, and only one focused on the immediate sexual health of queer, two-spirited, or non-binary Indigenous men. They found that, when coupled with the ongoing refusal to discuss the importance of men’s and boys’ sexual health, colonial policies implemented through the Indian Act and residential school system continue to exercise a negative effect on the male-sexed Indigenous population in Canada. The article also includes a useful historiographical overview regarding Indigenous sexuality, marriage, and the Indian Act which demonstrates how the historical roots of colonial oppression continue to cause harm.

James, Rocky. “An Evolution in Queer Indigenous Oral Histories through the Canada Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement.” The International Journal of Human Rights 24, no. 4 (April 20, 2020): 335–56.

James’s article is both a testimony of a gay Coast Salish man, as well as a reflection on the residential school settlement agreement. The central argument of James’ article is the necessity of listening and respecting oral testimonies and Indigenous research methods. He argues that the use of oral testimony and talking circles used by Indigenous researchers have allowed residential school survivors and children of residential school survivors to to discuss the trauma and abuse that was inflicted upon them. James also discusses the importance of decolonizing sexuality and promoting a healthy understanding of victimhood among sexually struggling residential school survivors. What this means is that James is interested in how residential schools and assimilative policies of the Indian Act have changed how Indigenous adults discuss sexual freedom and sexual identities. This article also deals with the importance of understanding path dependency and the value of relationships within Indigenous research. James finds that many of the survivors who were abused by same-sex pedophiles subsequently struggled with their sexuality as an adult. A significant issue for reversing the damage caused by the Indian Act and residential schools is that many Indigenous communities affected by residential schools do not differentiate between sexual abusers and homosexuals due to their intergenerational experience of abuse.

MacDonald, Cathrine. Ruth Martin-Misener, Audrey Steenbeeek, Annette Browne. “Honouring Stories” Mi’kmaq Women’s Experiences with Pap Screening in Eastern Canada.” Canadian Journal of Nursing 47, no. 1, (McGill Universiy: 2015), 72-96.

MacDonald et al.’s article examines how the lower percentage of Indigenous women seeking Papanicolaou (PAP) screenings and sexual health services is related to the higher rates of Indigenous women diagnosed with cervical cancer than non-Indigenous women. The article also contributes to our understanding of how Indigenous communities have changed their discussions about sexuality and spirituality as a result of European colonization and the post-residential school era. Specifically in their discussion about “The view of the body and self,” MacDonald et al. discuss how many Mi’kmaq women identify their genital and perineum regions as a sacred area” (82), and over the years of child apprehension policies (Indian Act. R. S., c. 43, s. 1. 1884) and patrilineal determinations of status and identity, pathways for Indigenous women to discuss sexual health with their community have been removed.

The authors explain how residential schools and child apprehension, as enforced under the Indian Act, led to sexual abuse; this in a context where it was taboo to discuss this topic in both settler and Indigenous communities. This meant that discussions between community members about sexual health were suppressed and that Indigenous women were deterred from seeking sexual health treatment in Canadian institutions. One woman quoted in the article stated that many Mi’kmaq women view the body’s health, physical, mental, and sexual, through a holistic lens. This could explain why women who have not been abused sexually, but have been physically or emotionally abused, would choose not to seeking sexual health related services. Secondly, the authors find that women have been less inclined to seek sexual health services due to the abuse, sterilization, and death of children in residential schools. Pap-screening, the test required for cervical cancer screenings and STI checks, made many women feel violated, and they would often not return for follow up consultations due to these experiences. The authors were very thorough in determining the reasons as to why Indigenous women are less inclined to seek sexual health services, and in their post-colonial feminist approach, their use of talking circles and oral testimonies helped strengthen the article’s demonstration of Indigenous respect and appreciation for the interviewer’s stories.

MacLellan, Matthew. “Indigenous Infopolitics: Biopolitics as Resistance to White Paper Liberalism in Canada.” Theory & Event 21, no. 4 (10, 2018): 914-936.

MacLellan’s article examines how the Canadian government has both segregated and enfranchised Indigenous people through policies that rely on biological lineage for membership and exclusion. He specifically examines the Indian Act with a discursive approach in order to determine how Canadian policy makers aimed to maintain two Canadian polities. He finds that the Indian Act, as well as the 1969 White Paper, ensured that the language used to describe the proposed policies were to create a supposedly inclusive and unified Canadian society. However, they stipulated that laws for Indigenous communities would be separate from others. MacLellan argues that by using explicitly anti-segregation language, in contrast to the United States Jim Crow laws, any political violence against Indigenous communities would be legitimized by the popular settler desire to resolve the costly issue of maintaining two polities. Thus, Canadian politicians, such as Trudeau and Chretien, drive a narrative that has Indigenous populations are antagonists who opposed innovation or improvement. The proposals made by Chretien and Trudeau in 1969 was a demonstration of political aggression and explicit ethnic cleansing masked by an offer of inclusion. MacLellan’s article is significant to the historiography of the Indian Act and its relationship to Indigenous marriage inequality because it examines how Canadian policy makers continue to veil Indigenous genocide by negating the discussion of biopolitics and the importance of ethnic lineage and membership.

Reeves, Allison Jane. “Honouring Womanhood: Understanding the Conceptualization and Social Construction of Young Adult First Nation Women’s Sexuality in Atlantic Canada.” MA Thesis, Dalhousie University, 2008

Reeves examines how Indigenous women in Canada continue to disproportionately struggle with sexual health conditions such as cervical cancer, HIV/AIDS, abuse, and suicide when compared to Canadians in general. This disparity stems from historical policies rooted in the assimilation, child apprehension, and cultural disconnect. Reeves uses testimonies by Indigenous women to gain insight into how they understand these questions. One of Reeve’s most notable arguments regarding the use of the Indian Act was how it continues to degrade and affect Indigenous women and girls’ self worth and self-identity. While there are explicit consequences of the Indian Act, there are also implicit consequences of sexual genealogy and cultural worth, specifically when they are coupled with the sexual integrity of the individual. The testimonies Reeves uses are well implemented since they directly reflect the emotions, views, and understandings of Indigenous women facing sexual health issues ranging from inadequate healthcare, self-neglect, and sexual violence. Reeve’s methodology of doing informal interviews with Indigenous women and healthcare providers, coupled with a qualitative review of sexual health statistics and literature on Indigenous sexual health, support her argument that the colonial roots of gendered oppression are causally related to the ongoing trends of cervical cancer, HIV/AIDS, and other sexual health issues.

Stevenson, Allyson D. Intimate Integration: a History of the Sixties Scoop and the Colonization of Indigenous Kinship. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2020.

            Allyson Stevenson’s book discusses sex and kinship in the context of Indian Act directed forced enfranchisement of children. The book discusses how settler Canadians were encouraged to adopt Indigenous children as a way to encourage the assimilation of Indigenous children. Another section of the book examines how the disconnect between federal land regulation and provincial welfare systems further stratifies gender inequality in Indigenous marriages and kinship arrangements. Stevenson also discusses differences in the way male and female Indigenous leaders have approached discussions on self-determination, membership, and marriage. This book is important to the historiography of the Indian Act regarding sexuality and marriage because it discusses the topics of kinship, right to status, and gender stratification in depth through an Indigenous research approach. Stevenson employed talking circles, informal interviews, and even personal notes in order to demonstrate the pervasiveness of sex and marriage regulation under the Indian Act.

Thompson, Debra. “Racial Ideas and Gendered Intimacies: The Regulation of Interracial Relationships in North America.” Social & Legal Studies 18, no. 3 (2009): 353–71.

Debra Thompson’s article examines three important instances of state intervention in Indigenous sexual and marital life. She examines how Canada and the United States compared in sexual regulation of Indigenous communities by examining legislation produced in both political environments. Thompson’s article is significant to the Canadian historiography because, first, it demonstrates that while the Canadian Indian Act was not immediately punitive against Indigenous same-sex or inter-racial relations, its aims were to destroy Indigenous sexual cultures through settler assimilation. Second, it demonstrates how Canadian lawmakers were equally as racist, and increasingly manipulative, as the United States.

Gender Discrimination Against Indigenous Women through the Indian Act – Annotated Bibliography

By Tegwyn Skye Curtis

Written in 2021 for the University of Ottawa course HIS 4135 – The Indian Act, for Prof. Daniel Rück, edited by Daniel Rück and Sam Yee

For those looking to research gender discrimination and the Indian Act, your initial efforts may seem more difficult than you planned. Many of the resources that come up, whether through Google or other search engines, are not set in Canada. Instead, they discuss gender discrimination in the state of India, and different acts that have been put in place there. This annotated bibliography can be both a starting point for those interested in exploring this topic, while also offering a deep dive into the intersection between Indigenous women and the Indian Act. The sources offer both law-based and experience-based resources and analysis, covering everything from introductory topics to more in-depth sources, and including academic articles, books, and magazine and digital articles. I have chosen to focus mostly on recently published sources.

A few of the sources given in this bibliography provide readers with basic information on the topic of women and the Indian Act. Katrina Harry’s primer published through the Battered Women’s Support Services is meant to be a guide for front line workers, but offers researchers a quick breakdown of the different aspects, both current and historical, and much of the terminology along with it. Angela Sterritt’s book gets into further analysis, but has the added benefit of breaking down most of the key terms you will come across when researching women and the Indian Act. The primer from the Assembly of First Nations is the next piece when looking for an introduction, as it breaks down two of the major bills that brought amendments to the Indian Act, and the impacts of those amendments. Once you have read these introductory pieces, you can explore other academic articles, books, and the dissertation that dive further into the issue, and provide more analysis on both a historical context, as well as a modern one.

Bob Joseph’s book 21 Things You May Not Know About The Indian Act is a good starting point for delving deeper. While it covers a variety of the issues and topics relating to the Indian Act, he does highlight how it affects women, and places it within the context of the rest of the Indian Act. It contains both information, as well as annexes with further reading and documents that play major roles in the Indian Act. The second book, Talking Back to the Indian Act by Mary-Ellen Kelm and Keith D. Smith, is a harder read than Joseph’s book, but brings a different, equally important aspect to the conversation. Chapter 4 focuses exclusively on the topic of women and discrimination against women in the Indian Act, but there are also several other points in the book that bring Indigenous women into the conversation.

The Amnesty International article, the book Disinherited Generation, and the testimony from Denise Stonefish and Perry Bellegarde, emphasize the perspectives of Indigenous people themselves. They also focus on how amendments to the original document could cause harm, or that they were empty words that would bring no real change. Many of these sources introduce some of the important legal cases that took place, and the stories they tell are anotherlook at how the Indian Act has discriminated against Indigenous women. There are also articles that offer further analysis of the Indian Act’s discrimination against women. The Barker & McCreary article, the Brodsky article, the Cannon article, and the Narine article introduce some of these cases. Some of the sources, including the Gehl and the Green articles, look specifically at the concept of citizenship and Indian Status, and how this has discriminated against Indigenous women. Some of the resources in this bibliography show how Indian Act gender discrimination allowed for other forms of discrimination and assault. Gwen Brodsky’s article connects the historical discrimination against Indigenous women to the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls today. An important piece of the literature on gender discrimination and its connection to other issues is Karen Stote’s dissertation on the forced sterilization of Indigenous women. Her dissertation also leads to further discussions of Canada’s eugenics movement.

This bibliography will help guide you through the many layers that come with researching gender discrimination against women through the Indian Act. It offers specific experiences through the voices of Indigenous women in Canada through their personal articles and books, while placing the Act in larger contexts of history, politics, and law. The bibliography is meant for those who are simply interested and looking for an introduction to the topic, but also offers you a chance to get further into the analysis, and understand how many of the intersecting issues persist in politics and social life today. Good luck with your research!

Annotated Bibliography

Amnesty International. “End sex discrimination in the Indian Act now! In conversation with Éloïse Décoste from Quebec Native Women.” AmnestyInternational.ca. June 19, 2019. https://www.amnesty.ca/blog/womens-human-rights/end-sex-discrimination-in-the-indian-act-now-in-conversation-with-eloise-decoste-from-quebec-native-women/.

This article lays out, from the perspective of First Nations woman and analyst with Quebec Native Women, Éloïse Décoste, how the Indian Act discriminates against women. It is also a call to action to end gender-based discrimination in the law, and it explains that the UN has already ruled that it is a discriminatory bill. Décoste offers not only an Indigenous point of view on the issue, but also her expertise as a legal and policy analyst. This article is very easy to read because it is done in an interview style with Décoste, so it is broken into sections with each question as an effective title. Therefore, readers can read the whole thing through, but it also has headers that allow them to find answers to quicker questions they may have. Décoste goes over a range of topics on how the Indian Act affects women and girls, and the types of discrimination that come through in it, connecting that discrimination with the violence against this population. She also explains why the changes that have been made to the Bill were not adequate, and why the government continues to resist making more changes to the Indian Act. She touches on a lot of the major points that are seen throughout other articles, such as the McIvor case and Bill C-31. She ends the article by calling on citizens to pressure the government to make the changes needed to protect Indigenous women and girls.

Assembly of First Nations. “What is Bill C-31 and Bill C-3?” AFN.ca

This is a short primer from the Assembly of First Nations, which breaks down Bill C-31 and Bill C-3, discussing what the bills are, the amendments they made, and the issues that came with them. Bill C-31 and C-3 both aimed to remove the gender-based discrimination mostly targeted at women. This source should be used as a primer and not a main source, as it does not explicitly state its sources besides Bill C-31 and Bill C-3. It breaks down Bill C-31, touching specifically on how it affects band membership. It also explains some of the fallout of Bill C-31, who was affected and who could seek status – and what that meant. The graphic at the end of the source is a useful visual for how status could be regained after Bill C-31 and Bill C-3. It drives home the point that the outcome is unknown after two generations, leaving readers with question marks.

Barker, Barbara & Tyler McCreary. “‘Any Indian Woman Marrying Any Other Than an Indian, Shall Cease to Be Indian.’” Briar Patch 37, no. 2 (2008): 9–11.

This short article lays out the case of Sharon McIvor, an important legal challenge involving her loss of Indian status. It highlights not only historical issues of Indigenous women and their children losing status, but also how the amendments fell short in helping Indigenous women. It does not offer the sources it is based on, but it appears that most of it is based on the proceedings of McIvor’s case. Barker and McCreary show how the Indian Act aimed to assimilate Indigenous Peoples, and they discuss issues concerning assimilated Indigenous people, especially how these affected Sharon McIvor’s case. This is a useful article for looking at both the legal action that was taken, as well as the real impacts of these policies.

Brodsky, Gwen. “Indian Act Sex Discrimination: Enough Inquiry Already, Just Fix It.” Canadian Journal of Women and the Law 28, no. 2 (2016): 314–20. https://doi.org/10.3138/cjwl.28.2.314.

Brodsky writes this article in the wake of the calls for an inquiry and plan around missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. She starts by reminding readers that the Canadian government had not acknowledged the role of the state in contributing to the violence that Indigenous women experience. The article’s main purpose is shown through connections between the gender-based discrimination in the Indian Act with current violence against Indigenous women in Canada. Brodsky provides evidence on how the Act created vulnerabilities that people were able to exploit, and brings in other documents on human rights in Canada. Brodsky also discusses multiple landmark cases, such as the Lavell and McIvor cases, as well as older documents such as a report from the Royal Commission on the Status of Women in Canada, and Bills C-31 and C-3. She lays things out in point form to both emphasize each issue, as well as making these multiple, complex documents into readable bites. The article encourages us to not simply continue discussing the problem, and instead start bringing in actual changes to better protect Indigenous women now and in the future. Brodsky’s article documents and contextualizes the violence against Indigenous women and girls we see today. It is also a call to action for the government. Having laid out all the evidence as to why action is needed, Brodsky argues that action is not as difficult and complicated as it is sometimes said to be. This is an important piece of the literature on Indigenous Women and the Indian Act because it not only places it in a modern context, and calls for changes to be made.

Cannon, Martin John. “Race Matters: Sexism, Indigenous Sovereignty, and McIvor.” Canadian Journal of Women and the Law 26, no. 1 (2014): 23–50. https://doi.org/10.3138/cjwl.26.1.23.

Cannon argues that law, and the Indian Act in particular, is at the heart of continued colonial and assimilative efforts. He uses works from Mohawk writer Patricia Monture to help illustrate how these laws were not made for Indigenous people, and were instead wielded against them – for control and assimilation. He also delves into the McIvor case to show how the Indian Act and sexism are inseparable. This is a strong article because of the case and evidence Cannon bases his article on, and gives readers a greater understanding of how the McIvor case highlights the true issues with the Indian Act as well as its amendments. Cannon looks at in in terms of how the government has limited the definition of what it means to be “Indian”. He then discusses how this limited definition allowed the government to both control women and to reduce the number of people with Indian status by taking it away from their mothers.

Carter, Sarah A. The Importance of Being Monogamous: Marriage and Nation Building in Wester Canada in 1915. Edmonton: The University of Alberta Press, 2008. https://www.aupress.ca/app/uploads/120144_99Z_Carter_2008-Importance_of_being_Monogamous.pdf.

Sarah A. Carter’s book The Importance of Being Monogamous explores how laws affected Indigenous communities in a specific way. Her book explores how monogamy was required and enforced in Canada. Chapter six, “Creating ‘Semi-Widows’ and ‘Supernumerary Wives’: Prohibiting Polygamy in Prairie Canada’s Aboriginal Communities” looks at how the government outlawed polygamy, and tried to figure out how to do this in the context of aboriginal communities. It highlights many of the patriarchal aspects of the Canadian Government, such as how they used their power over Indigenous communities. The chapter highlights the different ways dismantling polygamy happened, but more importantly, it highlights one of the ways that Indigenous women lost their autonomy. Other chapters in the book look at marriages in Western Indigenous communities, how many Indigenous women were married to settlers, and other topics that explore how women were discriminated against and their autonomy was violated.

Carlson, Nellie, Kathleen Steinhauer, Linda Goyette, & Maria Campbell. Disinherited Generations: Our Struggle to Reclaim Treaty Rights for First Nations Women and Their Descendants. Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 2013.

This book is an autobiography of Nellie Carlson and Kathleen Steinhauer, two women from Saddle Lake Cree Nation in Alberta. It goes through their story, including surviving a residential school that was also brought in by the Indian Act. The book also highlights a few other First Nations women who were important activists, placing Carlson and Steinhauer’s stories into a larger narrative of a fight and struggle for their rights. While the book tells the story of Carlson and Steinhauer’s lives, it is meant to show how two women navigated life under the Indian Act, and how both lost their Indian Status when they married non-Status Indian men. The book explains the struggles the two women faced, how the Indian Act impacted their lives, and how they became activists during their fight for the rights through organizing the Indian Rights for Indian Women movement. This book relies mainly on the personal experiences of Carlson and Steinhauer, with each chapter divided into background information, and then their personal stories to create a narrative on the topic. They also bring in the Indian Act, and how it created the conditions that led to their stories being what they are.

Day, Shelagh. “Equal Status for Indigenous Women–Sometime, Not Now: The Indian Act and Bill S-3.” Canadian Woman Studies 33, no. 1-2 (2018): 174–85.

Day utilizes the evidence in the 2015 report on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in British Columbia, Canada from the Inter-American Commission on Human rights, to show that the current violence against Indigenous women has deep roots in the Indian Act. Day demonstrates that the Canadian Government has not acted to protect Indigenous women and their rights. Day also discusses the way the 2017 Senate Bill S-3 was changed by the Government of Canada to not allow women and their descendants to reclaim their Indian status. Day lays out both timelines to better understand the work going into dismantling the sexism in the Indian Act, as well as the decisions that were made and how they still continue to negatively impact women. In some ways, this feels like a response to Brodsky’s article, which called for the need to act now, and how two years later relatively little had changed.

Gehl, Lynn. “The Queen and I: Discrimination Against Women in the Indian Act Continues.” Canadian Woman Studies 20, no. 2 (2000): 64–69.

Gehl’s article is an important piece of the literature on Indigenous women and the Indian Act. It lays out the different movements over the 20th century to end gender-based discrimination in the Indian Act, and introduces some of the important activists from those movements. One of the people highlighted is Mary Two Axe Early, a well-known activist who started speaking out against discrimination against Indigenous women in the 1950s. The article looks mainly at the effects of the Indian Act’s section 12 (1) (b), which is the section that removes status from a woman who marries a non-Status man, and thereby taking away status from their descendants. Gehl breaks down the different aspects of the amendments brought to the Indian Act, what they mean for Indigenous women, and the struggle to getting to the legal Indian status. This article is especially impactful because it goes beyond using literary sources such as articles and books, or primary sources such as the Indian Act. It brings in a personal story – that of Gehl’s experience. In her article, she discusses the impact of discrimination she has personally experienced, as well as working towards understanding her identity as an Indigenous woman who did not have status.

Green, Joyce. “Canaries in the Mines of Citizenship: Indian Women in Canada.” Canadian Journal of Political Science 34, no. 4 (2001): 715–38. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0008423901778067.

Green’s 2001 article looks at the idea of citizenship, and adds to the early 21st century conversations about what citizenship means, and how it affects Indigenous women in Canada. She explains the difficulty of citizenship in Canada, where the state has been – and in most ways, continues to be – the oppressor of Indigenous peoples. She gives a strong look at how women navigate citizenship and identity, especially when many have lost their citizenship to their bands through the loss of their Indian status, and how it goes on to affect their children. Green highlights the ways sexism, racism, and colonialism play roles in this conversation. She also explains how differing concepts of citizenship have affected Indigenous people and Indigenous women. Green utilizes a lot of sources, pulling from literature on both citizenship, and the Indian Act, to further explain the differences and dichotomies of how it has affected women. The article highlights how citizenship, and the loss of it, can affect traditional life. Green concludes that the state continues to fail Indigenous women by taking away their rights and that discrimination against them continues. This is a multi-faceted article, that explores many different ways that Indigenous women who are not Status Indians try to navigate the world, and the larger human-rights effects of these policies.

Harry, Katrina. “The Indian Act & Aboriginal Women’s Empowerment: What Front Line Workers Need to Know.” Battered Women’s Support Services. January 2009. https://www.bwss.org/wp-content/uploads/theindianactaboriginalwomensempowerment.pdf.

This is a useful primer meant for people working with Indigenous women. It lays out many different parts of the Indian Act, the amendments, and its impacts. It has a useful, fully cited glossary of many of the terms that come up when discussing women and the Indian Act. It lays out some of the history of Indigenous peoples in Canada, with a focus on Indigenous women, and traces them through early contact, before the Indian Act, and after the Indian Act. It also discusses other legislation, and the ways that Indigenous women are still affected by all these different policies. This would be a really great starting point for anyone looking to learn more about the Indian Act and its effects on women, and the different things that can affect them. It also touches on topics such as what it means to be a Status Indian and part of a band.

Hurley, Mary C, and Tonina Simeone. “Bill C-3: Gender Equity in Indian Registration Act.” Aboriginal Policy Studies (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada) 3, no. 3 (2014): 153-172. https://doi.org/10.5663/aps.v3i3.22232.

Mary C. Hurley and Tonina Simeone’s article, originally published in 2010 and republished in 2014, looks at Bill C-3, and how it was put forth to respond to the Court of Appeals’ decision in the McIvor v. Canada case. It was an amendment to the Indian Act that was trying to reduce gender-based discrimination. Hurley and Simeone dive into the history of sexism in the Indian Act. The article is easy to read, as it is broken down into the different eras. The 1970s saw an increase of opposition to the Indian Act, and more organized efforts by First Nations people and particularly First Nations women to fight against the discrimination within it. The next section is 1982-1984, which explains the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and its relationship to the Indian Act. From there, Hurley and Simeone move to 1985, explaining Bill C-31, and examining the literature to explain the responses to this Bill. They move into the 21st century with a jump to 2007, using the McIvor Case as a starting point. Hurley and Simeone then go in to explaining Bill C-3, describing that the Bill has ten clauses and is meant to start making amends, and that it was started in response to the McIvor case. They break down each of the ten clauses, and some of the responses of First Nations people and the government. This is a strong article on the policy surrounding women and the Indian Act, how it has both been changed over the years, yet continues to discriminate.

Joseph, Bob. 21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act : Helping Canadians Make Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples a Reality. Port Coquitlam, BC: Indigenous Relations Press, 2018.

Though not very long, this book is very effective. The first part of the book echoes the title and breaks down 21 aspects of the Indian Act. The second part of the book moves away from the history of the act, looks to the future. The book touches on different ways that the Act affected women. In one of the first of his 21 points, Joseph explains that the Act removed status from women, and touches on how Bill C-31 and Bill C-3 impacted this situation. At the end of the book, Joseph also includes several appendices. Among these are the 94 calls to action in the 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Report, which includes call 41. Call 41 is meant to highlight the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, and calls for an investigation into this and its link to the history of residential schools. This book is both a resource and a starting point for anyone looking to learn about women and the Indian Act. It also includes many Indigenous women’s voices as resources to underline some of the information and thoughts presented throughout the book.

Kelm, Mary-Ellen, and Keith D. Smith. Talking Back to the Indian Act : Critical Reading in Settler Colonial Histories. Toronto, Ontario: University of Toronto Press, 2018.

Mary-Ellen Kelm and Keith D. Smith’s book Talking Back to the Indian Act is a strong addition to the literature surrounding the Indian Act. The book, broken in to six chapters to cover a variety of topics, focuses on sharing primary sources to convey a political view of the Indian Act. Among the documents they share are memos, political speeches, and responses from different Indigenous populations. Chapter 4 focuses specifically on the Act’s impact on women and how many of them lost their Indigenous status, but readers would be well to read the whole book, as multiple issues are interwoven and are brought up multiple times throughout the book. The book also offers a level of guidance for people researching Indigenous topics, setting out several steps from both a colonial historical research point of view, as well as working in Indigenous research perspectives, such as the ideas of respect and reciprocity. Kelm and Smith help guide their readers through the documents presented by starting each chapter placing them in a historical context and political context, offering guiding questions in each chapter.

Narine, Shari. “Canada Continues to Fail Indigenous Women Under the Indian Act.” Windspeaker, Aboriginal Multi-Media Society of Alberta (AMMSA), 34, no. 16 (2016): 7.

This short article is in response to Bill S-3, and highlights the voices of Indigenous women, such as legal scholar Pam Palmater. It provides a very brief descriptor of the history, but looks more at why the efforts being made are not truly effective efforts on the part of the Canadian Government. In it, Shari Narine brings in important legal case sources including McIvor v. Canada and Deschenaux v. Canada. It highlights as well that the Indian Act is not the only piece of legislation that is misogynistic towards Indigenous women, and ends with a call to further the efforts towards protecting and supporting Indigenous women. This short article is an important piece of the literature on women and the Indian Act for the sources it utilizes and the discussion around the issue, but also because it is presented in a way that is easy to read. It gives readers a strong starting point, especially with the use of legal cases.

Sterritt, Angela. Racialization of Poverty: Indigenous Women, the Indian Act and Systemic Oppression: Reasons for Resistance. Vancouver: Vancouver Status of Women, 2012.

This book highlights several different aspects of the lives of Indigenous women, starting with their traditional roles, the effects of church and state policies, and the continuing oppression through the removal of their status and the subsequent loss of status for all their future generations. In many ways this book is a primer for those looking to learn more in an in-depth way about the ways the Indian Act has affected Indigenous women, as well as the historical roots for much of the discrimination against Indigenous women we can still see today. The work is based archival sources and published articles to create a narrative take on gender discrimination in the Indian Act and its effects today.

Stonefish, Denise and Perry Bellegarde. “Gender Discrimination and the Indian Act.” Policy Options (Online), Nov 25, 2016.

This is a transcript of a testimony that was given to a Senate committee by Denise Stonefish and Perry Bellegrade during the discussions around Bill S-3. Denise Stonefish is the Chief for Delaware Nation in Ontario, and Perry Bellegrade was the Chief of the Assembly of First Nations at the time. This is the third attempt to amend the Indian Act to stop its gender-based discrimination. The testimony lays out the former attempts, and how they failed to end gender-based discrimination. It also raises issues with Bill S-3, specifically how it was not addressing other types of discrimination. Stonefish and Bellegarde discuss how children of women who lost and regained their status cannot pass status on to their children, by using the McIvor and Lovelace cases. They bring recommendations from the Assembly of First Nations, which include recommendations to work more directly with First Nations, and to start moving away from the colonial basis and bring important voices into the conversations. Stonefish and Bellgarde point out that doing this would allow for the right to self-determination, something they are being denied in the current legislation, which is also a direct violation of international human rights law.

Stote, Karen. “An Act of Genocide: Eugenics, Indian Policy, and the Sterilization of Aboriginal Women in Canada.” PhD Dissertation, University of New Brunswick, 2012.

Stote’s dissertation has since been turned into a book, though it is not available online. It looks at both the government’s abuse of Indigenous peoples, in the context of the eugenics movement. It examines the ways in which policy was used to justify the forced sterilization of Indigenous women in Canada, while also noting some of the non-legislated ways it took place. Stote argues that this comes down to being a part of genocide, as much as it is a misogynistic practice that was, at times, allowed to happen in legal ways. Early in Stote’s piece, she also explores some of the current reactions to this work, which brings in a social aspect of its importance. Stote starts by explaining what eugenics is and the dark history of eugenics in Canada, before presenting its correlation with the Indian Act in Chapter 3, and going beyond the Indian Act to look at other policies surrounding Indigenous lives that made it possible. Stote argues that the Indian Act gave the basis for control that allowed governments to coercively sterilize many Indigenous women, and discusses the impact this had on communities. She also explores how this forced sterilization was a direct act of genocide, which coupled with other policies, such as those of residential schools, were meant to eliminate Indigenous populations in Canada. Stote’s work also goes beyond the Indian Act to look at the lasting impacts of these policies, the settlements that came from it, and the current coercive birth control methods imposed on some Indigenous women. This is a very important text concerning women and the Indian Act, bringing in an aspect beyond the patrilineal system that many other works focus on.