Of Indian Government
JUNE/JULY 1977 v07 n06 p08
The following principles of Indian
government are outlined
in the report on Indian government recently released by the
- Indian rights to nationhood and
self-government are backed by historical evidence that Indian
governments existed long before the founding of Canada and that
those governments had the allegiance of thousands of people.
- The British North America Act gives the federal
government authority to legislate and regulate Canada's
relationship with Indian nations in the same way they have
authority to regulate Canada's relationship with other nations. The
Act does not give the federal government authority to manage the
internal affairs of Indian nations.
- Through treaties, parliamentary legislation and the
administrative actions of the Canadian government, Indian
governments have lost or surrendered, the exercise of some of their
inherent sovereign powers.
- The authority and jurisdiction of Indian governments is
greater than what is presently being recognized or exercised.
- The direction, status and nature of Indian government
will be decided and acted upon by Indian people.
- The government of Canada, as trustee for Indian rights
and lands, must abide at all times by the rule that it act in the
best interest of the beneficiaries, the Indian people, even if such
action is to the trustee's own detriment.
- When Indians signed treaties, the signatories held back
or reserve certain lands for Indian people. It was, and still is,
- The signatories also held back or reserved certain rights
and powers of Indian governments. These are not mentioned in the
treaty articles because they were not subject to negotiations.
- Canadian constitutional doctrine and constitutional
misconceptions have played, and continue to play, a role in
distorting the pattern of governmental response to obligations to
- The BNA Act refers to "Indians and lands reserved for
Indians," not to "Indians, on lands reserved for Indians." The
relationship between Indians and the federal government, as well as
the jurisdiction of Indian government, extends to Indians whether
they are on lands reserved for Indians or not.
- The words "lands reserved for Indians" refer, not only to
Indian reserves, but to all lands reserved, upon any terms and
conditions, for Indian occupation.
- Indians retained title to their lands, and the role of
trustee played by the federal government is simply to hold that
title in-trust for future generations of Indians. Canada does not
have any proprietary rights in lands reserved for Indians.
- The government of Canada had, and has, no right to take,
title through surrenders of lands reserved for Indians, nor to make
grants of such lands. The titles held by those who were granted
such lands, as well as the titles held by their successors in
title, are invalid.
- The agreements concluded between Canada' and the
provinces to facilitate the alienation of surrendered reserve lands
are in direct violation of Indian treaties with the Crown.
- Since Canada does not have any proprietary rights to
Indian lands, and since Indian treaties were made with Canada and
not the provinces, Indians retain these proprietary rights and the
accompanying legislative authority with respect to lands.
- Since it is clearly recognized in Canadian legislation
that "all laws of general application from' time to time in force
in any province" are subject to the terms of any treaty, it is
equally clear that the terms of the treaties take precedence over
all legislation-federal or provincial-and that Indians retain
legislative authority. This authority includes, but is not limited
to, such areas as: justice; trade and commerce; taxation;
education; health; economic development; social services;
citizenship; housing;, policing; corrections; government, and;
land use management.