21 things Indian Act



Over the past few months there has been much awakening about the stories and problems that can be found in American history and ongoing in terms of black lives.  As a Canadian woman, I know we have many issues with racism here as well and I feel particularly drawn to understand more about what has occurred with the native population.

Just to be clear, I want all people everywhere to have human rights and freedoms but for me personally the plight and struggle that I have seen and read about in terms of native Canadians feels important for me to share about today.

When I was in my 20’s and I lived in Toronto I would often see homeless people.  In many cases these people were native.  Often they said things to me like god bless you when I walked by and spoke to them.  Even then I was always so disturbed by this experience.  It just screamed what a mess we have made of the native culture.  I had no idea at the time the depth of the racism and cultural genocide we were a part of but I knew it felt wrong.

How did I get to this book

Once we were allowed to get out shopping again after the COVID lockdown, I knew I wanted to find a good indigenous book to read. I wasn’t sure what it was going to be and I had a long list of options in my head. When I walked into the bookstore they had a whole native section at the front and so I searched through the selections.
When I found this book, in all honesty I thought it was going to be a super boring book.  There was a piece of me that felt I should know the exact history of this act.

A bit of me felt like I owed this small sacrifice to all the native peoples of Canada – to read through this boring book to understand what we have created here (obviously this line of thinking doesn’t even make sense but I’m sharing some of my inner journey with you!).

Onto the book review

As I started reading this book, I actually had a hard time putting it down. Not only was it easy to read and to digest, so much was made clear to me about how things have occurred in our Canadian history.

For those of you who are unfamiliar, the Indian Act is the law that was passed in Canada in 1876.  It has been the cause of so much pain and suffering in Canada since then.  It is what we used in Canada to try and erase a culture, and create systemic trauma that has lasted through generations.  It is what was put into place to fix “our Indian problem” (these are not my words but those of gov’t men quoted in the book).

Reading through this book to understand how our government systematically tried to erase a culture was an important act for me.  In order to change things going forward I needed to fully comprehend what had occurred.  There were many pieces that I was unaware of.

From my perspective, if you are Canadian and you consider yourself an ally of the native culture you need to read this book.

What I really loved about this book is that it was not boring.  It did not feel dry.  It didn’t feel clinical.  It felt factual but so informative.

Understanding the Indian Act from its beginning roots to the current state of things creates a sense of power within me.  I know where we have been, I know where I want to move towards and I also know the ways in which I can do my part.

This book not only covers the 21 things (check out this blog article to see a quick summary) , it also offers a chronology of the residential school disaster, there is a call to action report from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada,  as well as classroom support for those wishing to incorporate this into the curriculum (which I strongly believe it should be).

Although there were many parts that felt uncomfortable, I am so glad I read this book and would definitely recommend you check it out if it feels right for you.

I want to acknowledge that only because I have had the privilege of being a white woman raised middle class do I even have the capacity to hold space for this.  I know that because I have done years of my own work I am able to absorb and move forward through this learning. 

I know this is not a privilege that all have and certainly many, many natives are still suffering the effects of systemic trauma from the Indian Act.

One of the things that I am committed to do in my business is to offer support for those who are interested in my work and have been affected by our Indian Act.

If this is you, please reach out and let me know that you would like to work together.  I know I can’t fix it all, but I am committed to being a part of the solution in the ways in which I can.


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