VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – It has shaped, controlled, and constrained the lives of Canada’s Indigenous peoples for more than 140 years, yet most people aren’t even aware it exists.
The author of a new book about the Indian Act aims to change all that.
“It was designed to assimilate but it really has had the exact opposite effect,” says Bob Joseph, who wrote 21 Things You May Not Know About The Indian Act.
The book looks at the history of the document, and its continued impact. It started off as a blog post.
“And it went viral in the first month, sending 55,000 visitors to the website and has continued to send lots of people our way, over 190,000 at the last look just for the one article.”
It also tries to clarify misconceptions, the biggest one for Joseph being the claim that the Indian Act gives Indigenous peoples a free ride.
“‘Oh, wouldn’t it be great if I could get free housing and free education.’ What they don’t often see are the restrictions,” he tells NEWS 1130. “It banned potlatches for example, [it] made those cultural ceremonies illegal and actually sent people to jail for practicing their religious, spiritual beliefs.”
He adds if the Indian Act was designed to assimilate Indigenous peoples, it ending up having the opposite effect.
“How do you get people to assimilate when you put them under different laws than everybody else and you put them on different lands than everybody else?”
Joseph hopes the book will foster understanding and further Indigenous reconciliation, something he says is possible.
“I do workshops on this subject for governments and companies and I do see people coming to those sessions and really learning much more than they have in the past.”