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Personal attacks were flung back and forth at the National Indian Women's Conference held in Saskatoon March 22, 23 and 24. Non-status Indian women wanted their status back. Mary Ann Lavallee called it the end of civilization. Other women saw it as the end of the reserve system.
Mrs. Cox of the North American Indian Women's Association put forward one solution which is practiced by American Indians.
"If a Non-Indian marries an Indian, it doesn't matter whether it is a woman or a man he or she is not put on the band roles nor do they become an Indian. The children of this marriage are classified as Indians and put on the band roles if they are up to one quarter Indian blood. After that they are not classified as Indians."
A Non-Indian has no land rights or treaty rights although he may live on the reserve.
Canadian Indians will soon have to come up with their own solution.
When the Laval case is taken to the Supreme Court, it looks like the court will probably rule in favour of her retaining her status. The government is pretty heavily committed to the findings of the commission on the status of women. The day he was married Trudeau made his pitch for equal rights for women.
The present government on the other hand has not supported Indian rights and is still pushing the white paper assimilation policies.
Indian organizations all across Canada were caught flat footed when the decision on the Laval case was handed down. Nobody had prepared for all the implications and legal nightmare this case had brought with it. The Indian organizations should have followed the case more closely especially the National Indian Brotherhood and the Union of Ontario Indians.
Indian people are once again caught fighting a defensive action and trying to clean up the government's blunders.
But it was bound to happen sooner or later and the Indian people should have been involved from the very first.
The root of all the problem goes back to the Indian Act. It contains a dirth of outdated racist legislation that must be rescinded or rewritten.
When the Trudeau Government came to power they promised a better deal for the Indian people. Indian Act consultation meetings were held across Canada. The Indian people stressed their wish for full recognition of the treaties. The Government brought out the infamous white paper which embodied everything we didn't want. The rest is history.
So now we're back where we started from rewriting the Indian Act.
This time let's do it right. The government should fund the Indian Organizations to do their own research and consultations. The rewriting should be coordinated by the National Indian Brotherhood and be done in at least two years so all the Indian views can be heard.
When the Act is before Parliament, the Indian leaders should be there to answer questions from the opposition.
This would be a major step in becoming masters of our own destiny. It would also put the Canadian people in a favourable light in world opinion for their treatment of a minority group.
As long as the Indian people are not in control of their own destiny we will continue to be caught in a legal trap concerning our self-determination. Today, it's the Laval case. Tomorrow who knows?