1920 – 1940

As Bill 13 is passed, the McKenna-McBride Commission recommendations become law. While reserve lands are being reduced in size, the Indian Act is amended to make the raising of money or hiring of lawyers by Indians to pursue land claims illegal. This is the law for nearly 20 years. Canadian Indians are not considered to be citizens of Canada, and, as such, can not vote to change government policy.

Many Ktunaxa enlist to fight in the Second World War as a result of encouragement by the Indian Agent. The Department of Defense and the Department responsible for Indian Affairs work together to produce lists of men eligible to fight. On a per capita basis, the Ktunaxa are known as having one of the highest rates of enlisted men among the tribes of Canada. Most Ktunaxa veterans do not receive their veteran’s benefits upon returning home, as other soldiers do. In order to become eligible for veteran’s benefits the First Nation soldiers must first become Canadian citizens and give up their Indian status.

The hereditary system of chieftainship is being converted to an elected system. The Band lists, controlled by Indian Affairs, identify the electorate and the Indian Act describes the voting process. Voting is not a traditional form of decision-making to the Ktunaxa and it interferes with the process of unwinding an issue, through discussion, to arrive at consensus. This traditional process allows for the full understanding of an issue by all concerned and the identification of many options before a decision is made. Voting, by contrast, meant that a few people could make quick, indisputable decisions.

Corruption is beginning to be noticed in community affairs and some Indian Agents and others benefit personally from the management of tribal affairs. The Ktunaxa attempt to control the Indian Affairs politics within their communities; however, the Agent and other government officials retain power over funding and administration of community affairs, for the most part.

Families are noticing a further breakdown in their traditional support structures. Not only is the residential school affecting the immediate family, but the sexual discrimination of the Indian Act is resulting in many women being cut off from community and family life because they marry a non-Indian.

The Columbia River is dammed and thousands of years of socio-economic balance is overturned as the salmon are blocked from returning to many spawning grounds. The Ktunaxa and many other First Nations have depended on this major food source for as long as can be recalled and the traditional lifestyle is now being severely impacted by the assertion of jurisdiction by a new government. Aboriginal rights and the related responsibility to care for the land have been seriously interfered with. The Ktunaxa continue to lobby for settlement of outstanding land and resource issues. The Ktunaxa are promised canned salmon by the government, as compensation (this never happens).

Federal law also allows the government to enfranchise any Canadian Indian, without his or her consent, which means that he can not live or be buried on the reserve. Child apprehension laws are now enforced to compel school attendance. The mental, physical and sexual abuse common within the residential schools is now being felt within the communities, and the strength of family units is further eroded. The reduction of the status Indian population through the introduction of law is a federal goal.

Up until now, federal policy has acknowledged Indian title to land but laws have been created to interfere with this title under a system that is foreign to First Nations. Federal and provincial laws both serve to restrict the access of First Nations to the government’s legal mechanisms and to reduce the number of Indians through assimilation and enfranchisement. The government’s own policy of residential schooling, which is designed to encourage integration into mainstream society, serves to create a culturally void and dependent population.

Many of the traditional Ktunaxa leaders do not speak English well. Authority granted to Band governments empowered by the Indian Act, is in practice, little more than token. The Indian Agent assumes most of the responsibility for community affairs. Indians can not vote in municipal, provincial or federal elections and are slowly becoming wards in their own homelands.