What We Can Learn From The Indian Act

A former student of mine and delightful Instagramer, Hilary Angus (aka slow.road), posted recently on Bob Joseph’s 21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act.

Slow.Road’s August 2020 post

Joseph’s point-by-point analysis of the Indian Act succinct demonstrates how the Canadian government sought to annihilate indigenous peoples by undermining their tribal council systems, denying woman status, Christianizing their names, creating reserves, and denying them access to markets and arms, to say nothing of alcohol. The Indian Act prohibition set the stage for the pervasive stereotype that Indians suffered from alcohol intolerance. It was a stereotype that played nicely into the federal government’s stance that Indians were savages that needed to be “lifted up”, or more accurately broken down bit by bit.

Excerpt from Bob Joseph’s 21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act

Joseph goes on to explain that, while the federal government have conceded that aboriginal peoples have the right to self-government and has apologized for the residential school system that it savagely implemented, there is still a very long road ahead. As Ms. Angus notes in her post, this book should be included in the Canadian high school curriculum, and I think many other sources on indigenous history should be included as well, such as Alanis Obomsawin’s film Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance and Gord Hills’ 500 Years of Resistance Comic Book.

Today’s world leaders have finally been pushed into a corner. People are demanding change. But will any of it be meaningful? Doubts abound. The systematic abuse of the disenfranchised peoples of the world was always a terminal issue from inception. How we ever allowed any of this to happen remains a humiliating and damning fact, but here we are, and the next chapter could really be something, as long as we stay informed. 

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