Indian Act Amendment

Section 80 of the 1880 Indian Act forbade First Nations from trading or bartering the presents that they were granted as part of treaties. This 1880 amendment also called for a repealing of section 20 of the Indian Act, which was then replaced with a new section regarding the devising of property by will upon the death. The amended section stated in 20.2 that in order for a widow to receive up to one third of her husband's land, she must be of good moral character, living with her husband at the time of death. The amended section also stated in 20.7 the Superintendent General of the Department of Indian Affairs "shall have power to decide all questions which may arise respecting the distribution, among those entitled, of the land and goods and chattels of a deceased Indian, and also to do whatever he may, under the circumstances, think will best give each claimant his or her share, according to the true meaning and spirit of the Act."


Andrews, Isabel. “The Crooked Lakes Reserves: A Study of Indian Policy in Practice from the Qu’Appelle Treaty to 1900.” Thesis, 1972.

An integral way of earning money or supplies necessary for First Nations was selling or trading goods they were granted through treaty payments, and this amendment cut off a source of needed revenue for Indigenous peoples.--------------------The amending of section 20 gave an inordinate amount of power and control to the Indian Agents and the Department in arbitrarily deciding what constituted "good" and "moral" behaviour, and demonstrates an inappropriate level of interest in the marital and sexual habits of women on the reserve. Racial narratives in Canada portrayed Indigenous women as particularly likely to be promiscuous and immoral, and often placed blame on them for the existence of marital problems such as a partner's infidelity. The surveillance of Indian Agents often resulted in the trapping of Indigenous women in violent, unhealthy, or otherwise undesirable unions. Please see related entry on the "Racist and Gendered Perceptions of Indigenous Women."
Rural or Urban
Start Date
Sub Event
Prohibition of Trading/Bartering Treaty Gifts; Gender-Biased Legislation of Victorian Judeo-Christian Moral Principles