The Indian Act of 1876 was designed to control the First Nations people. Major highlights of how this Act unfolded included the First Nations people to sign specific agreements which were commonly known as “The Numbered Treaties”. Children of First Nations’ families were kidnapped and put in residential schools and were forced to learn a new language and to practice a new religion. Later on, the Canadian Government changed the Indian Act to ban traditions and celebrations such as the potlatch.
It is without a doubt that the Indian Act should be revised, because they should’ve treated the First Nations’ with respect, they should have kept their promise to the Natives and should’ve also not taken the advantage of the First Nations’ knowledge about English, and, they should allow the Natives to live freely by their own will. The Numbered Treaties which the First Nations people signed were considered unfair and the treaties never came into effect because the Canadian Government didn’t keep their promise to the First Nations.
From 1871 to 1877, seven Numbered Treaties were signed between the Canadian Government and the First Nations people who lived between Lake Superior and the Rocky Mountains” (Arnold 2000, p. 207). These treaties were often considered unfair and were not executed by the Canadian Government. The First Nations people received promises from the government that they would have access to natural resources. However, that promise was not kept (Arnold 2000, p. 208). They were also permitted a promise that they could have hunting, fishing, and mineral rights from the Canadian government.
Once treaties were signed, settlers began to move across Canada to occupy the lands where the First Nations people had lived (Arnold, 2000, p. 207). In the end, the Canadian government should’ve kept their promise to the First Nations people and should have not taken advantage of them because of the fact which they did not understand what was implied in the treaties. Another major highlight in the history behind the Indian Act is that children from First Nations communities were kidnapped from their tribes and taken to rigorously governed residential schools.
The children were taken away to these schools for most of the year (Arnold, 2000, p. 209). The people who took them away (often Indian agents assigned to the school) were luring the children into doing a fun activity However, in reality, they were being kidnapped. When the children were studying, the books which they used referred to First Nations people as savages (Arnold, 2000 p. 209). The books also taught the children that the beliefs of non-Aboriginals were better than the beliefs of any other society. The children were often beaten badly if they misconducted themselves or if they spoke their native languages (Pittman, 1989).
In 2008, the Canadian government issued a statement of apology to the First Nations people of Canada. This is a first step in preventing any more harassment to the First Nations people and to provide a better quality of life, for not just the First Nations people, but for all Canadians. In 1884, the Indian Act was changed to ban certain First Nation religious ceremonies and celebrations such as the potlatch. The potlatch was an elaborate giveaway ceremony of many First Nations people living on the West Coast (Arnold, 2000, p. 210).
Some activities which took place during the potlatch included dances, speeches, and a big feast. The above also took place on special occasions, such as a wedding. The ban of the potlatch threatened that anyone who continued to hold them will be subject to imprisonment (Arnold, 2000, p. 210). However, potlatches continued to be celebrated, but they were held secret from the government. Sixty-seven years later in 1951, official approval to revive the potlatch custom was given when the Indian Act was revised, (Arnold, 2000, p. 210).
When the otlatch was revived, the government was allowing the First Nations people to live by their own will and today the tradition of holding potlatches still continues. It was one of the many steps which Canada had to take to become a multicultural living society. The Indian Act consisted of Numbered Treaties which the First Nations people described as unfair and the government broke many promises to the First Nations people. The children of First Nations people were forced to attend residential schools and to believe in the same religions as that of the Non-Aboriginals.
Over the course of sixty-seven years, the Indian Act kept on changing to ban certain festivities, which included the potlatch. It is without a doubt that the Indian Act should be revised, because they should’ve treated the First Nations’ with respect, they should have kept their promise to the Natives and should’ve also not taken the advantage of the First Nations’ disability to understand English, and, they should allow the Natives to live freely by their own will. The Canadian Government only fulfilled two out of three points which were mentioned previously, but they are still assessing a bright disguise.