The Indian Act, passed by the federal government in 1876 and still in force today, is the most significant piece of legislation impacting First Nations. The Act is just one of the methods the government used to assimilate First Nations.
Note: The term Indian is an outdated term and is no longer appropriate to use today. The term is used in this section when referring to the Indian Act and its terms, and when quoting an Indigenous person who has chosen to use this term.
The Indian Act, which was passed by the federal government of the new Dominion of Canada in 1876 and is still in place today, is the most important law for First Nations. The Indian Act was another attempt by the Crown to assimilate First Nations people with the rest of Canadian society. This legal document sets the rules for Indian status, reserves, and bands (Wilson and Hodgson).
Source: Pulling Together: Foundations Guide (Kory Wilson and Colleen Hodgson | Métis Nation British Columbia, CC BY-NC)
"Status Indians" are individuals who are registered under the Indian Act. As an individual with "Indian status", they get specific benefits and rights, and can be eligible for certain services and programs offered by the Canadian government or other non-government groups (Government of Canada). Under the Indian Act, only First Nations (and not Inuit and Métis) peoples may have Indian status.
Sources: About Indian status (Government of Canada)
Since the Indian Act was passed in 1867, it has had considerable impact on Indigenous communities, way of life, and government. The Act's gender discrimination had a huge impact on First Nations women. Until 1985, women with Indian status who married people without status lost their status rights whereas men did not lose their status the same way. The Act discriminated against women by giving priority to male lineage even after Bill C-31 restored many women's status rights in 1985. Amendments from 2011 and 2017 attempted to address these problems. The remainder of Bill S-3, which aims to eliminate persisting sex-based inequities in the Indian Act, was implemented by the federal government in 2019 (The Canadian Encyclopedia).
Source: Women and the Indian Act (Canadian Encyclopedia)
The Indian Act is still in effect today and continues to affect Indigenous Peoples. Impacts of the Indian Act include:
Source: 21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act (Bob Joseph)