Maxine Noel, who signs her art work by her Sioux name, Ioyan Mani, “to walk beyond,” attended a Residential School. It may have been a good residential school. There are times when one good person makes the difference.
After leaving Residential School, Maxine worked as a legal secretary, but decided to take a course on advanced design and was singled out as a particularly gifted and promising artist.
Her work is lovely. The flowing lines, the composition, the stylization (faces, hands), the graded colours. In the print shown above, the fanciful orangey dots gives a very successful sense of unity to Maxine Noel’s artwork.
“The Great aim of our legislation has been to do away with the tribal system and assimilate the Indian people in all respect with the other inhabitants of the Dominion as speedily as they are fit to change.”
John A. Macdonald
Canada’s first Prime Minister
Enfranchisement is “terminating a person’s Indian status and conferring full Canadian citizenship” (See Enfranchisement, Indigenous Foundations.)
Enfranchisement, i.e. terminating an Amerindian’s status, is the worst problem Canadian Aboriginals have faced since New France was ceded to Britain, and it was not addressed in the Canada Act of 1982. It is not stated that the Canada Act of 1982 terminates the Indian Act of 1876.
The purpose of Residential Schools was to enfranchise, or assimilate, young Amerindians. Therefore, the development of residential schools was one of many attempts to enfranchise Amerindians. Children are vulnerable and cannot defend themselves.
But let us list a few events:
- in 1857 the Gradual Civilization Act was passed;
- in 1869 the Gradual Enfranchisement Act was passed;
- after Confederation (1967), both Acts were incorporated into the Indian Act of 1876.
- in 1885, the federal government banned potlatches, the “Potlatch Law;”
- between 1885 and 1925 (1914 and 1925 to be precise), dancing was gradually prohibited: powwows and Sun Dances;
- in 1928 the Sexual Sterilization Act was passed in Alberta, allowing any inmate of a native residential school to be sterilized upon the approval of the school Principal. At least 3,500 Indian women are sterilized under this law. (See Hidden from History: The Canadian Holocaust.)
So assimilation, or enfranchisement, was the goal of the Indian Act of 1876 that followed Confederation. It was abusive and several clauses didn’t make sense. In Indigenous Foundations (University of British Columbia [UBC]), we read that:
“[t]he Gradual Enfranchisement Act also granted the Superintendent General of Indian Affairs extreme control over status Indians.” (See Indian Act, Canadian Encyclopedia.)
Of “good moral character”
For instance, as per the Indian Act of 1876, an Amerindian’s status did not depend on his or her being born a status Amerindian, but on his or her being considered a status Amerindian by the Superintendent of Indian Affairs, or another “official.” This policy can be construed as assimilative. A “good moral character” became the criterion used to determine whether or not one was a genuine Aboriginal, with all rights and privileges.
“For example, the Superintendent [of Indian Affairs] had the power to determine who was of “good moral character” and therefore deserve certain benefits, such as deciding if the widow of an enfranchised Indian “lives respectably” and could therefore keep her children in the event of the father’s death. The Act also severely restricted the governing powers of band councils, regulated alcohol consumption and determined who would be eligible for band and treaty benefits. It also marks the beginning of gender-based restrictions to status.” (See Indigenous Foundations, UBC [University of British Columbia].)
The White Paper of 1969: a turning-point
About a century later, assimilation remained the goal, but the rationale was somewhat different. Pierre Elliot Trudeau wanted to put all Canadians on the same footing. Consequently, the White Paper of 1969 reflected that goal. At the time, Jean Chrétien was Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. The White Paper proposed the assimilation of Canadian aboriginals. It therefore unleashed a furore and a ‘Red Paper’ was written. The furore then fizzled out, but the “white paper” was both the culmination of various assimilatory strategies and the beginning of an era when Aboriginals would be protected.
(See The White Paper, Indigenous Foundations [University of British Columbia] UBC.)
“In spite of all government attempts to convince Indians to accept the white paper, their efforts will fail, because Indians understand that the path outlined by the Department of Indian Affairs through its mouthpiece, the Honourable Mr. Chrétien, leads directly to cultural genocide. We will not walk this path.”
Harold Cardinal, “The Unjust Society” (See Harold Cardinal, Wikipedia.)
In order to keep this post relatively brief and precise, I will now use a few quotations.
Access to higher Education
“A First Nations person lost status or ceased being an Amerindian if they graduated university, became a Christian minister, or achieved professional designation as a doctor or lawyer.” (See Indian Act, Canadian Encyclopedia.)
Women could not “marry out,” but men could
Moreover, there was gender discrimination. A woman who married a non-status Indian, lost her status as an aboriginal. Men could ‘marry out.’
“In 1977, the Canadian Human Rights Act was passed. In it, Section 67 exempted it from being applied to provision in the Indian Act, largely understood to be an admission that the Indian Act would not meet human-rights standards. That section was repealed in 2008″ (See Indian Act, Canadian Encyclopedia.)
“In 1981, the United Nations Human Rights Commission ruled that Canada had violated Article 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in the case of Sandra Lovelace — a Maliseet woman who had lost her status through marriage.” (See Indian Act, Canadian Encyclopedia.)
The Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (1991)
Oka Crisis, 1990
“The Oka Crisis was a 78-day standoff (11 July–26 September 1990) between Mohawk protesters, police, and army [Royal 22e Régiment (the “Van Doos”)]. At the heart of the crisis was the proposed expansion of a golf course and development of condominiums on disputed land that included a Mohawk burial ground.” (See Oka Crisis, Canadian Encyclopedia.)
Meech Lake Accord, 1987
As for the Meech Lake Accord, it was an attempt on the part of Prime Minister Brian Mulroney to encourage Quebec to sign the Patriated Constitution of 1982. It was proposed that Quebec be looked upon as a “distinct society.” However, one of the ten provinces objected: Manitoba. “Phil Fontaine was one of the Manitoba First Nation leaders who led the opposition of the Meech Lake Accord.” (See Phil Fontaine and Ovide Mercredi, Wikipedia.)
The Commission found that a new beginning was essential. It produced a 4,000 page report recommending another Royal Proclamation and “set out a twenty-year agenda for implementing changes.” (See The Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, Wikipedia).
I should think that the Residential School Settlement Agreement (2007 – 2008) and the formal apology presented by Prime Minister Stephen Harper on behalf of all Canadians for harm inflicted on Aboriginals constitute a new beginning.
Let that be my conclusion.
- Residential Schools for Canada’s Amerindians (21 May 2015)
With kindest regards ♥
To Walk Beyond