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1876 – 1900

March 2, 2011 by  
Filed under Timeline

The Indian Act is created by the amalgamation of all of the previous laws dealing with Indians and Indian lands. The three main areas addressed by the Act are lands, membership and local government. The federal government is concerned with preparing the First Nations for integration into the mainstream of Society by introducing them to New World religion and teaching them how to farm. Federal policy encourages assimilation of the Indian into Canadian society, by providing the children with an education designed to civilize them. The federal government makes provisions for the purchase of educational services from the provinces or religious organizations to assist with this process of civilization. The enfranchisement (right to vote – become a Canadian citizen) of educated Indians remains a goal. The Act also prohibits First Nations from practicing any traditional forms of government, such as the Potlatch and the Sundance. The Act now requires First Nations or Indian Bands, as they are legally described, to elect their Chief and Council, under the terms described within the Act. Traditional leaders are forced underground or out of office. Corruption within some communities is now becoming evident, as local, traditional laws are no longer enforceable and cultural moral values are being weakened. The Ktunaxa Chiefs meet with P. O’Reilly, Indian Reserve Commissioner, to discuss the boundaries for the reserves. These reserves are later surveyed, with adjustments, and the boundaries set. Local land disputes arise when the Ktunaxa are forced to leave the lands that they have camped on for generations and settle on the reserves. The Ktunaxa oppose the establishment of the reserves. A church is built at the St. Eugene’s Mission with money from the Moyie silver mine; that is founded by a Ktunaxa and staked by Father Coccola. A wooden day school building offers education to the local Indians but residential schools are becoming the generally accepted method of providing an education to Indians. Most of the schools are operated by religious orders. Locally, the Catholic Church receives the federal contract to provide educational services and plans are made for the building of a school. The St. Eugene’s Mission Residential School opens and Ktunaxa children are now required by law to attend. This school is attended by children aged 6 through 18 and the focus of instruction is on religion, farming and household chores. The academic program is secondary to the teaching of ‘civilized ways’. Children are forbidden to speak their own language and are punished when they do. In some instances, children are taken from their homes without the knowledge or consent of their parents. Parental consent is not required. Children from as far away as the Yukon Territory attend the St. Eugene’s Residential School during its nearly one hundred years of operation. Of all the legislation that exists, this single federal policy, compulsory residential school attendance has the most lasting and detrimental effect on the Ktunaxa language and culture. The forced removal of the children from home and community collapses what is left of the once secure family and extended family structure that made up the Ktunaxa Nation. Inherent jurisdiction still exists, but the validity of Ktunaxa social and cultural values is put to question in the minds of the youth. The traditional education system no longer exists. The Nation’s adults and elders lack purpose. The government believes the adult Indian to be a hindrance to the civilization of the children and their influence is not wanted. Within these residential schools, generations of Indian children are subjected to mental, physical, emotional and spiritual abuse. Their very existence is put to question and their rich culture and history treated as insignificant. Thousands of years of cultural evolution within natural synchronicity is halted. The Ktunaxa society ‘goes to sleep’ as the transmission of traditional knowledge is interrupted. The Indian Agents are taking census of the Ktunaxa populations and many people are not included on the lists. Women who marry non-Indians are removed or not included. Many people who are visiting in the U.S. portion of the Ktunaxa territory or who are out on the land are also excluded from these lists which would later provide the foundation for Band Membership and Status lists. These federal population statistics determine who is eligible for benefits as an Indian, under the Indian Act. Other commercial activities are now springing up all over Ktunaxa territory, with lumber mills and logging camps dotting the landscape. Mining is also expanding at a rapid rate. The First Nations of the Peace River area of northeastern B.C. sign Treaty 8 with the federal government. This treaty extends into B.C. from Alberta.