Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Binnema, "Protecting Indian Lands by Defining Indian: 1850-76"

Another great find from our friends at the Canadian Legal History Blog: "Protecting Indian Lands by Defining Indian: 1850-76," by Ted Binnema (University of Northern British Columbia). The article appears in the Spring 2014 issue of the Journal of Canadian Studies/Revue d'études canadiennes. Here's the abstract:
In 1850, the government of the Province of Canada defined Indian for the first time. In the twentieth century, the legal provisions by which generations of status Indian women in Canada lost their status when they married non-status men became among the most controversial aspects of Canadian legislation relating to First Nations peoples. The government’s decision to define Indian, and its actual definitions, came to exemplify the coercive nature of Canadian Indian policy. This essay challenges many assumptions regarding the history of Canada’s definition of Indian. A close examination shows that officials only reluctantly decided to define Indian in law in 1850 in efforts to protect Indian land in Lower Canada. The evidence also shows that the first legal definition of Indian was intended to conform to the “ancient customs and traditions” of these Indigenous communities. Furthermore, government officials consulted meaningfully with Aboriginal leaders when they revised the definition between 1851 and 1876. During the entire period, the Aboriginal political elite were effective advocates for their own interests.
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