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Indian act band councils vs sovereign nations


Assignment topic: Indian act band councils vs sovereign nations

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Number of pages: 7 pages / 1925 words


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The individuals who the Indian act applies consider it as an essential constitutional document which has shaped their lives. Indian act provides the people with information about their entitlements and rights, citizenship and relationship with both the provincial and the federal government (Morden, 2016).  Indian Act band councils are responsible for the administration and governance of specific group affairs such as education, community schools, water and sewer, and other community business and services. The band administrations were controlled by chiefs or council. Traditionally some indigenous nation’s leaders were hereditary. Band council structure has replaced the hereditary leadership with elected chiefs. For Canadians, the Indian act defines the relationship with the Indigenous people, thus contributing to interactive and respectful living within the community. A sovereign nation is a self-governing group of people who have well-defined borders to mark their territory. Sovereign nation’s territory, one culture and specific set of laws are imposed by force due to the availability of diverse individuals within the country by the either civilian or military administration. In sovereign nations, there is a specific and absolute uncontrollable power by which political and economic powers are derived. Sovereign nations contain recognized boundaries with regulations governing foreign and domestic trade. Therefore, this article aims at addressing how the Indian act impacted indigenous governance system in countries.

The traditional governance system of the indigenous people in Canada was affected by the adoption of the Indian Act in the year 1876, leading to the creation and formation of community councils. According to the procedures defined in the Indian Act, band councils comprised of chiefs and councillors who were elected by community members after a specific duration of time under clear election procedures.  Band councils altered traditional sovereignty by introducing formal governance as they did not trust culturally and traditionally of administration. Assimilation of the Indian Act was a way to prevent growth and diversification of the first nation way of administration.

Effects of nationhood and self-determination

Nationhood is the state and sense of belonging to a large group of people united together by common economic life, culture or language (Cornell, 2015). For example, Canada is united by a large group of people who share a similar culture, political and economic factors. The main aims of the nationhood are to achieve specific goals which are determined by the national leaders and to ensure the safety of the people within the nation. Self-determination is the process through which a particular group of people who have a specific national consciousness, form their states and choose their administration. 

The first nation people in Canada had their form of governance despite the fact of colonization. The indigenous people had a well-organized way of political community supremacy before domination and exclusion by foreign peoples. The first nation people of Canada had already and existing form of governance, which constituted a vital part of their political and economic lives. The forms of power which were practised by the indigenous people include traditional institutions, diplomatic practices and collective organizations such as families, bands, clans and ceremonial activities. The clans and family members were dedicated to helping each other within the society as a way of promoting the well-being of every family number (Cornell, 2015). Most of the activities were performed in groups and organizations that worked together to achieve a specific goal. Generally, the indigenous people practised communal way of doing activities within the society. The political structure which was used by the indigenous people were later channelled to colonial power political structure by force or choice which included band councils and judicial adjudicative panels.

Colonization threatens the culture, religious beliefs, and identity views of many first nation people in Canada, thus leading to the extinction and suppression of many tribal nation activities. Upon colonization, the indigenous people life started gaining formalities as some were forced to leave their norms, and others choose to leave their practices. The European settlers used the clan elders and the councils to exercise power to the indigenous people. The leaders of the clan were given powers to make a decision that affected the lives of community members without even consulting the council of elders. This contributed to the pronounced shift from racialization to nationhood, where people started to obey and live according to laws made by some group of organized clan elders and chiefs.

After setting up a formal type of governance within the indigenous tribes in the nation, the European settlers imposed band, council and the chief system. The system of governance was organized in such a manner that the authorities were able to maintain control and surveillance of the indigenous community activities. Self-determination of the colonial government made some indigenous tribes to adopt their system of governance and forget their cultural and political activities. The indigenous community practised less communal activities, making them have less minimal accountability to the community members. The colonial type of leadership was less democratic compared to the traditional administration of the indigenous people.

The problem with the Indian Act was that the administration and power were not bi-directional. It flowed from the federal government to the community members that are federal to chief and council the to the community members. The situation facilitated the formation of a situation where the chief and council had either too much or too little power. During this period chiefs and council had a lot of authority and powers over possession of land and property. To tame the indigenous community, the Indian Act allowed the authority to overrule traditional government and assimilate the community members to the new form of governance. The colonial government offered ensured that members of the society had access to treaties which enabled them to live and maintain community ties. The native families who were away when the government was doing registration never made treaty lists and ended up being categorized as half breeds. Generally, the whole bands who were out during the signing of treaty never acquired Indian status thus ended up being half breed communities—acquiring of property and rights to own property and lands within the community. This type of administration greatly affected the indigenous society leading to the destruction of community belies, cultures and traditions.

Impacts of Indian Act to First Nations Strength

The first nation was dispossessed of their land, traditional economies and the traditional foods that had sustained them since their existence (Poucette, 2018). Failure to access and eat the traditional foods compromised the immune system leading to a variety of infection. When the European settlers arrived in Canada, they looked for the most productive lands which were owned by the indigenous people and took the grounds by force. The first nations lacked places to cultivate food which affected their way f live as they started to depend on the European settlers for jobs and food. The traditional economies or the first nations were affected, leading to reduced access to resources which greatly affected their well-being. The strength of the indigenous people went deteriorated with time as they were unable to access the traditional foods and many health problems which led to death and high dependency ratio.

The self-sufficiency of the indigenous people was destroyed and replaced by dependency on government organizations. Most of the indigenous people in Canada were able to sustain their needs before the European settlers came in the region. Through cultivation and mining of resources, the first nations were able to trade, and in return, they were able to gain what they needed for survival (Poucette, 2018). When the colonial government set in, the indigenous people were denied the right to access areas which had valuable resources, and their fertile lands were taken, which made them dependent on the government for essential needs. The government offered the services provided the people worked on the firms and the mining areas. The actions taken by the colonial, government made the natives submissive thus depending on government for much of their survival which affected their strength and killed their morale to perform essential tasks which determined their survival and community well-being.

The culture and traditions of the first nations were ruled illegal, thus affecting the well-being and the strength of the community. Most of the cultural practices which united the indigenous people such as communal activities, tribal celebrations and religious practices were ruled unappropriated by the colonial government. Their traditions were overpowered by the European settlers traditions making the indigenous people stop most of their cultural practices and adopt new cultures from the colonial government. For example, the mode of administration and governance was changed to a more formal one where the chief and the councils were able to give orders without consultation. In the indigenous form of governance and administration, the chiefs and had to consult the clan and community elders before making any decision concerning the community (Poucette, 2018). The ruling of the culture and traditions as illegal by the colonial government reduced the strength of tribes, making them weak and unable to defend themselves from oppression by the European settlers.

The gender bias of the Indian Act did not value women and denied their rights and access to services for themselves and their children. In the indigenous administration system members of the community were value and respected. However, upon arrival of the European settlers, women and children were never respected, and sometimes they ended up being sexually abused. The children were taken and placed in a building which encouraged and promoted the spread of health diseases such as tuberculosis, malnourished and cold-related diseases. The strong women were capture to work in the field together with men. As a result of breaking the families, the strength of the indigenous tribes deteriorated. Most of the communities went to extinction, and as most of the people adopted modern cultures which were recommended by the colonial government.

Treaty Rights and Aboriginal rights

Treaty rights where some form of agreement between specific groups of First Nations, Metis or Inuit and the government that recognized some rights such as the rights to resources and land. Some treaties were signed before coalition while others were signed recently, but all of them are effective. Aboriginal rights are rights that apply to Metis, Inuit and the First Nations in Canada and are stated in the constitution (Walters, 2016).

The factors that led to treaty rights and Aboriginal rights to be developed in 1982 with the Canadian Constitution were the lack of participation of the indigenous tribes during colonial era thus the constitution did not consider the indigenous matters of the tribes (Walters, 2016). Lack of participation led to the large exclusion of indigenous activities which were deemed significant to the tribes.  The indigenous communities had a different perspective concerning the constitution, as some feared that the constitution would remove existing rights under the treaties. In contrast, others saw it necessary for the rights to be maintained. 

The Aboriginal people considered treaties as agreements made between the sovereign nations. Aboriginal signatories agreed to give their rights to certain tracts of land, not their right for the government to exercise full control of their own lives ad affairs. Most of the European settlers considered treatizes as the transfer of the right of property ownership. According to Aboriginals treaties were considered as rights to share land and animals because the concept of legal titles to the land was different than to ho the Europeans understood it as it was foreign culture to the country. Considering the Aboriginal cultures and traditions, the land was something that one could not own in exclusion of others. The land was there to be shared as it was considered a source of life to the natives (Walters, 2016).

The other factor that led to the delay of inclusion of Aboriginal rights and treaties to the Canadian constitution was that the promises made during treaty-making had to be explained to everyone to understand. From the common law, Aboriginal people had the right to own lands and other resources, which led to the inclusion of their rights in the constitution.


The Native tribes in Canada were Fist Nations, Metis and Inuit, which had a formal way of administration. After the European settlers came into the region, they introduced a new system of governance which affected the culture and traditions of the native people in Canada. The colonial government restricted people from accessing some of the natural resources which affected their way of living and survival.


Cornell, S. (2015). Processes of native nationhood: The Indigenous politics of self-government. International Indigenous Policy Journal, 6(4).

Morden, M. (2016). Theorizing the resilience of the Indian Act. Canadian Public Administration, 59(1), 113-133.

Poucette, T. L. (2018). undefined. Canadian Public Administration, 61(4), 499-522.

Walters, M. D. (2016). 2 .“Looking for a knot in the bulrush”: Reflections on law, sovereignty, and Aboriginal rights. From Recognition to Reconciliation, 35-62.

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