WINNIPEG – “The Indian Act creates the legal fiction known as the ‘status Indian’. This legal fiction has provided for the ongoing justification of colonization. Through capitalism, its application and interpretation has monetized and commodified the original peoples of this land. As a result, it denies our true identity as human beings living in our ancestral lands, capable of self-determination and self-government outside a colonial framework” stated Grand Chief Derek Nepinak.
Indian Act a Hoax – AMC Grand Chief
“Canadians must learn about hoax of the Indian Act and finally work together with us to change it,” implored the Manitoba Grand Chief.
A long and impassioned debate by the Chiefs in Assembly ended with a majority of Chiefs agreeing to abolish the archaic Indian Act that was created over a century ago. They also directed the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs to conduct a technical and legal review to begin to deconstruct the 1876 Indian Act and identify a process on how to abolish it, and Section 91.24 of the Constitution Act, 1867.
Section 91.24 of the Constitution Act, 1867 unilaterally granted Canada its own authority over “Indians and Lands reserved for Indians”. Less than ten years later, Canada attempted to legitimize its power through the Indian Act to govern matters pertaining to “status Indians”, “bands” and “reserves”. During these ten years, treaties were negotiated between the Crown and First Nations.
However, First Nations’ inherent jurisdiction and original law are found in the ceremonies of our people. These ceremonies are thousands of years old. They still exist. Clan mothers and ceremony keepers know these original instructions. While colonization and the Indian Act attempted to erase this reality, it is these laws that must be used to replace the Indian Act.
A mass majority of the Chiefs were optimistic while some were cautiously optimistic. Chiefs noted that the land is ours and that First Nations must assert their authority as sovereign nations. Getting rid of the Indian Act is the first step toward emancipation. Other noted that any approach dealing with the Indian Act must be well considered and not leave First Nations in an even worse situation. No doubt it will take time, money, planning and perseverance. Throughout the years attempts have been made to dismantle the Indian Act and failed, but Chiefs noted once the Indian Act is done away with, only then will First Nations have control of our own destiny to become self sufficient and self-governing.
Grand Chief Nepinak stated, “Manitoba Chiefs again seek to end the colonial paradigm perpetuated by the Indian Act. We are all in this together – ‘status Indians’ vote for Chiefs and Council, whom vote Grand Chiefs including myself. ‘Status Indians’ create ‘bands’ that are eligible for ‘reserves’. Even our treaty freedoms have nothing to do with the Indian Act containment system. Our treaty freedoms remain intact”.
In conclusion, Grand Chief Nepinak said, “This work will be a difficult, but we can do it if we agree to be kind to one another. We must recognize that the work that we engage in today is to create a proud legacy for our children’s children.”
The AMC will host a forum in May 2016 to begin the process of deconstructing the Indian Act with the involvement of Elders, youth and leadership on how to move forward. All Manitoba Chiefs are encouraged to attend at Niagara Falls in July 2016 to present AMC’s position to the AFN Annual General Assembly.