RESERVES AND THE INDIAN ACT
After treaties transferred most of the Aboriginal lands to the Canadian government, the Aboriginal populations were granted reserve lands--small pieces of land set aside for Aboriginal peoples where other people could not settle, hunt, or fish.
The government had intended that the reserves be used to promote and develop an agricultural way of life and not to support a hunting and fishing economy as the Aboriginals had envisioned. The government, however, did not always allocate land that was suitable for agriculture. They also took land away from reserves when it was needed for their own purposes, and they did not provide enough money to the Aboriginal people to develop an agricultural society. Many Aboriginal people were also left out of the treaty process. The Metis and Inuit of the northern regions were not part of the reserve system.
The Indian Act of 1876 was set up to help the Aboriginal population become integrated into the now dominant European culture. This Act handed over control of the lives of Aboriginals to non-Aboriginal agents. These agents were made responsible for education, justice, language and travel outside reserves. Native people could have Canadian citizenship and vote, only if they gave up their Indian status. They also lost their status if they became doctors, lawyers, or ministers.
Finally, because the Royal Proclamation of 1763 stipulated that Natives could cede title to their lands only to the Crown, Natives could not mortgage their reserve lands to obtain capital for economic projects. The Indian Act clearly worked against the goals it was set up to achieve. Rather than encourage economic self sufficiency, the Indian Act set up a repressive system in which people needed an Indian Agent's permission to sell their agricultural produce, or even to leave their reserves. For many, the loss of power and the right to self-determination meant living a life of poverty apart from the mainstream of a new society.
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