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Indian Status For Women

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      AUGUST 1981      v11 n08 p02  

The idea that native women in Canada should be able to keep their status as Indians after marriage to non-Indians is one whose time has long since come.

The fact that both Canadian law and tradition in many Indian bands has prevented this has meant hardship for a good many Indian women, some of whom have waged a long fight to bring about change.

Indian men, they argue, have never faced the same situation under law, and that in itself is an affront in a country committed to equality of men and women.

So it's worthy of note that three bands - one in B.C. and two in the Yukon have tossed out the old rule, taking advantage of an offer by federal Indian affairs officials last year to suspend the section of the Indian Act which took away Indian status after marriage to a non-Indian.

In addition, two Alberta bands successfully sought to have the "double-mother clause" of the act suspended. That section deprives an Indian of status at 21 if that individual's mother and grandmother weren't status Indians before marriage.

Such moves have been heralded by some as a breakthrough, though in light of the fact that there are 559* Indian bands in Canada, it can be seen that there is still a long way to go.

And some practicalities are involved, as has been stressed in the past by both male and female band council representatives. The regulation, which was instituted in the first place to prevent exploitation of special status accorded Indians, in a relationship between an Indian women and a non-Indian husband, is rooted in the mores of an era when equality of the sexes was given little priority, particularly in terms of property rights.

Thankfully, that era is gone for good. So it's fitting that the process of change has been launched officially in a handful of bands. That should point the way for the rest.

* EDITOR'S NOTE: There are 573 Chiefs in Canada.