Indian Act Amendment

In 1894, numerous amendments to the Indian Act were made which worked to undermine Indigenous autonomy and control by reallocating power to the Superintendent General: 1. The Superintendent General was given the power to lease land owned by those they deemed unable to cultivate it, such as disabled persons, orphans, widows, etc. 2. Band councils lost the power to control whether or not settlers could live on their lands, with this power bestowed entirely to the Superintendent General. 3. The superintendent general was given the power to stop the distribution of rations and annuities to any First Nations man separated from his wife or children, whether by choice or imprisonment. 4. Constables were given the power to arrest and detain any Aboriginal person found gambling or in possession of alcohol, and to do so without a warrant. 5. Indian Agents were allowed to act as a Justice of the Peace for Indian Act offences and prosecute accordingly. 6. Compulsory Residential school attendance was also included in these amendments.

Leads

CP, Statutes of Canada (57-58 Vic, cap. 32), p. 229-33.

Result
Within this particular amendment, a number of changes were implemented. For example, bestowing power upon the superintendent general to lease land owned by those unable to cultivate it represents an imposition of Eurocentric beliefs, in which land is commodified and valued primarily for its productive ability. Indigenous perspectives of land use, while numerous and diverse, generally posit that land has intrinsic non-monetary value and requires stewardship in a reciprocal relationship. ---------------- The amendment to stop the distribution of rations and annuities was a measure of retaliation and punishment for Indigenous people who did not prescribe to Christian moral codes in relation to family and cohabitation, as well as to codified law (resulting in incarceration, as the amendment suggests). This is a form of assimilation as it assumes that the social morals, laws, and systems of governance that Indigenous people had were inadequate and/or inferior to Western methods of justice and governing,----- Similarly, this is replicated in the amendment to arrest and detain Aboriginal persons found gambling or in possession of alcohol. This alteration to the Indian Act was informed by white supremacist views that Aboriginal peoples were biologically and morally inferior to settlers in that they were more likely to succumb to 'temptation'. As such, they were prohibited from partaking in either of these activities. In contrast, the recreational activities of settlers were not policed in a similar manner.----- Granting the Indian Agent the jurisdictional oversight accorded to a Justice of the Peace further increased the power imbalance between colonial authorities and Indigenous people, and enhanced the potential for abuses of such power. It appears as though no accountability structures or system of checks and balances were simultaneously applied to compensate for the powers afforded this expansion of jurisdictional oversight. This is indicative of the belief that it was "uncivilized" Indigenous people who posed a threat to societal order, and from whom society needed to be protected, obscuring their position of vulnerability to harm from the Indian Agent. There is also no discussion of rights of Indigenous people or potential routes of advocacy in the case that they are unjustly accused of activities construed as criminal. ----- Lastly, schooling was one of the primary means through which young Indigenous people were assimilated into Euro-Canadian worldviews and socialized to internalize Western values. By mandating attendance, gradual erosion of the "Indian Problem" through assimilation was thought to be assured (historically, we know that that was untrue).
Rural or Urban
rural
Start Date
1894-00-00
Sub Event
Increased Land Control Given to Superintendent General, Ability to Stop Distribution of Annuities, Ability to Arrest for Gambling or Intoxication
Community
Documents
File