1940 – 1960

First Nations are forcefully stating their displeasure with the residential school system and resulting political activity prompts a Special Joint Commission on the Indian Act and subsequent changes in federal policy. Assimilation was the previous goal of federal Indian policy to be accomplished by controlling all aspects of an individual’s life through residential, religious schooling. Once a satisfactory level of civilization was achieved, it was felt that the individual could then be enfranchised or absorbed into the larger society and no longer be of concern to the Crown. However, the process of assimilation was not working.

Then integration of the Indian into mainstream society through public schools became the new focus of federal policy. The new Minister responsible for Indian Affairs, J. Allison Glen, is recommending the retention of ‘native characteristics’ by the Indians, while they work towards assuming the full rights and responsibilities of democratic citizenship. This philosophy is to be carried over into law and the Indian Act is amended to allow communities to have greater control over local affairs.

Indians are now permitted to vote in provincial elections and Frank Calder, a member of the Nisgaa First Nation, is elected to the B.C. Legislature.

The Ktunaxa are maintaining their political alliances with the various provincial First Nation organizations, promoting the fair settlement of the ‘Indian Land Question’. The Department of Indian Affairs’ presence is still strong on a local level, but the Ktunaxa community governments are exerting their Indian Act authority to its fullest. Inherent jurisdiction still exists, but the federal and provincial governments do not acknowledge the existence of aboriginal rights in a modern age.