Indian Act Amendment

Following the amendment made the previous year (see entry for Indian Act Amendment 1894 - this allowed the superintendent general the power to lease the land of any Indian unable to cultivate it without having to secure a surrender) a new amendment allowed the Superintendent General to lease without the surrender any Indian land he saw fit upon his request. ----------------------------------------- During one House of Commons debate regarding the proposed amendment, the minister of Indian Affairs noted “As the law stands, no reserve or portion of reserve can be sold or alienated unless surrendered to the Crown...What we do now provide that the SIG may lease for the benefit of any Indian the land to which he is entitled without the same being re-leased or surrendered. In a number of cases, particularly in Ontario, Indians have engaged in other occupations and are fairly well off…In a number of cases, the neighbours, through spite or pique, have used sufficient influence to prevent [Indians from engaging in other occupations]. This Bill provides that the SIG may lease these lands for the benefit of these Indians. This gives us no further power to alienate, but simply provides for the leasing of them.” The 1895 amendments to the Indian Act would entitle Indians who were "emancipated" (enfranchised) to receive their money and land benefits in a lump sum. The 1895 amendments also reinforced that the Indian Act had magisterial jurisdiction over the territories within their agency and beyond, and that when an Indian is admitted into membership to another band, he loses all interest in the lands and moneys of the band to which he was formerly a member. He is then entitled to the lands and moneys of the band to which he has been newly admitted.------------------------------- Section 88 was amended to read that Indians must possess exemplary good conduct and management of property to prove that they are qualified to receive their share of moneys of the band. Section 88.3 was amended to read that shares of money of unmarried children of full age would only be obtained if they were qualified by the integrity, morality and sobriety of their character. Otherwise, they would be required to pass through a probationary period. Section 117 was also amended to read that Indian Agents have the power and authority of two justices of the peace.

Total control over who was able to hold land was given to the superintendent general. It was suggested by the government that this amendment would stop Aboriginal people from refusing requested surrenders out of spite. It was also suggested by the minister of Indian Affairs that societal racism was a problem that had resulted in Indigenous people being unable to find success in occupations other than agriculture. Leasing these lands for the benefit of the Indians without requiring their permission was a paternalistic measure that would supposedly increase the amount of income which flowed into the reserve. Although, the leasing of such land would undoubtedly have benefited white settlers as well. In the long-term, it removed decision-making power from Indigenous people thereby undermining their economic autonomy and success. The amendment of legislation which enabled "emancipated" Indians to receive their money and land benefits in a lump sum ensured that the land base of reserves would be eroded, hastening the disappearance of reserves and of Indigenous people as a distinct ethnic group by increasing the rate of assimilation. The amendment of legislation which stated that an Indian loses all interest in the lands and moneys of the band to which he was formerly a member, and gains the land and moneys of the band to which he has been newly admitted was clearly gender biased, as it exclusively uses the pronoun "he." Women's rights to land and band money were not protected as such. These rights were definitely lost if women "married out," that is, married a non-Indigenous individual, although men were not subject to the same consequences. This discrimination was used to reduce the number of individuals who qualified for Indian status, thereby decreasing the government's financial obligations and increasing the rate of assimilation.---------------------------------------------------- In the 1894 amendment, the Indian Agent was granted the jurisdictional oversight accorded to a Justice of the Peace, further increasing 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 "savage" and "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. Increasing the power and authority of the Indian Agent to equate to two justices of the peace is indicative of the degree to which colonial officials perceived their dominance and control to be threatened by Indigenous contraventions of Eurocentric moral and legal standards. It is also representative of the desire to force assimilation through augmented disciplinary efforts.------------------------------------------------------ The overarching intention of these amendments was to hasten the assimilative process. The sections noted above (88, 88.3) contain references to "exemplary good conduct and management of property," and "integrity, morality and sobriety." While these descriptions of moral behaviour were intended to impose Victorian Judeo-Christian notions of right and wrong, they were also not specifically defined and thus provided greater leeway by leaving such decisions to the arbitrary discretion of the Indian Agent. The existence of such legislation was culturally oppressive by implying that Indigenous ethics and morality were inferior and incapable of maintaining a sufficient level of social order. In conjunction with the amendment of section 117, which increases the power and authority of the Indian Agent on the reserve but provides no system of democratic accountability or of checks and balances, these amendments were intended to make the reserves easier to control and to impose conformity to Eurocentric standards.---------------------------------------------------
Rural or Urban
Start Date
Sub Event
Increased Land Control Given to Superintendent General; Local Governance/Deposition of Life Chiefs; Moral Qualifications to Receive Band Monies