JANUARY 1977 v07 n01 p21
are we changing the present Indian Act?
This is the big
question being discussed among Indian people. Through extensive
research and studies, it has become apparent this present Act has
to be completely changed if we as Indian people want to get ahead
socially and economically. Following is a list of facts relating
to some reasons why this change has to come about.
- Completely disregards our basic rights
under our Treaties - it ignores our cultural values as Indians,
i.e., "Treaty" not defined in present Act;
- Has obviously
shown it was made under and geared for basic European values.
Indian people were never involved in the making of this Act;
Encourages the Canadian Bill of Rights to continue challenging our
basic cultural rights as spelled out in our Treaties. We as Indian
people have our own Bill of Rights;
- Encourages provincial laws and regulations to undermine our rights. i.e.,
health and welfare services;
- Has continued to ignore the true "voice"
of Indian people-the Band Council. Efforts and results of Indian
people usually remain within the reserve boundaries;
Indian Affairs has continued to suppress and discourage Band
Councils operations, i.e., heavy administrative guidelines. Band
Councils continue to be interfered with in their efforts to
meaningfully get ahead;
- Allows the Minister to continue
having almost total one-sided control of Indian people. He
obviously has too much authority-much of this power has to come
down to the Band level. The once meaningful trust-relationship has
obviously disappeared! This "authority" continues to affect the
every day life of most reserve Indians, resulting in many cases of
poverty. Many Bands are discouraged by the continued turn down
from District and Regional offices;
- Allows the Minister to
veto the power of the Band in passing effective by-laws. By-laws
are effective in assisting good local governments;
large land-holdings by individual Indians in certain reserves thus
creating discontent among people. Often these "controlled people"
have no say in Band Council affairs and have to continue their
dependency on welfare. The once common Indian concept of "working
and sharing" together has now almost disappeared. Definition of
"reserve" - "a tract of land, the legal title to which is vested
in Her Majesty, that has been set apart by Her Majesty for the use
and benefit of a Band."
- Encourages Senior Civil Servants to
continue coming out with "guidelines and regulations" without any
attempts at consulting with Indian people. Efforts have to be made
now to stop this!
These above facts have to
be seriously looked at if this revision is to be successful. Although these are only some facts, much has to be considered. Other areas like hunting and fishing rights, exemption from
taxation, education, elections, etc. have to be studied and any
changes have to come from us Indian people. The importance of
developing an Act that will protect the Indian Treaties and land is
imperative. In, the coming months, Indian people of Saskatchewan
are encouraged to participate through their elected leaders,
District and Band meetings. It might be noted that "this is the
most important piece of legislation ever undertaken by Indian
people." It will mean a big improvement socially and economically
for all Indians in Canada.