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It has been my experience that many Canadians do not understand the difference between Status and membership, or why so many different terms are used to refer to native peoples. The confusion is understandable; this is a complex issue and the terms used in any given context can vary greatly. The nice thing is, as time passes, fewer people ask me this because it does seem that the information is slowly getting out there into the Canadian consciousness.
Well…quick is subjective, I am after all notoriously long-winded. Obviously I want to focus specifically on the Canadian context. When referring to specific legal definitions, I will use the legislated terms. Those are also huge issues that require separate posts. Status is a legal definition , used to refer to native peoples who are under federal jurisdiction. The particular piece of federal legislation that defines Status is the Indian Act , which was created in and has been updated many times since then.
Status then can be held only by those native peoples who fit the definition laid out in the Indian Act. Membership is a much more complex issue. It can refer to a set of rules traditional or not created by a native community, that define who is a member of that community.
It can also refer to those who are considered members of certain regional or national native organisations. It can be used in a much less formal and subjective sense, such as being part of an urban or rural native group. Obviously these definitions will overlap at times. The most important thing to note is that having membership is not the same as having status. I am not a Status Indian. The term Aboriginal came into legal existence in when it was defined in section 35 of the Constitution Act, It is a general, catch all term that has gained legal status in Canada, and therefore is particular to the Canadian context.
It is widely used internationally, however. The definitions have been fleshed out in legislation, in court decisions, and in policy manuals and have changed significantly over the years. Thus you will see these terms used in different ways depending on how old your sources is, or what period of time is being discussed and so on.
Status Indians are persons who, under the Indian Act are registered or are entitled to be registered as Indians. Status Indians are able to access certain programs and services which are not available to other Aboriginal peoples.
Does this seem like a vague definition? It is incredibly detailed and confusing. The definitions have changed many times over the years. If you want to read more on this issue, this page gives a great overview of pre and post definitions as well as explaining some of the more shocking aspects of the Indian Act over time. There were various federal policies over the years that caused Status Indians to be removed from the Indian roll.
Some lost Status when they earned a university degree, joined the Army or the priesthood, gained fee simple title of land, or married a non-Indian this last one applied only to women. Bill C was passed in as an amendment to the Indian Act , and was intended to reinstate Status for those who had lost it.
In particular the Bill was supposed to reverse sexual discrimination that had cause Indian women who married non-Indians to lose their Status while men who married non-Indian woman not only kept their Status, but also passed Status on to their non-Indian wives. The legislation does not specifically refer to any sort of blood quantum, therefore there is no official policy that would take into account half or quarter Indian ancestry. Nonetheless, ancestry continues to be a determining factor in who is a Status Indian.
Both categories provide full Status; there is no such thing as half Status. The categories determine whether the children of a Status Indian will have Status or not. A 6 1 Indian who marries a 6 1 or a 6 2 Indian will have 6 1 children. A 6 1 Indian who marries anyone without Status whether that person is Aboriginal or not will have children who have 6 2 Status. A 6 2 Indian who marries anyone without Status whether that person is Aboriginal or not will have children with no legal Indian Status.
Look at this chart again. That is all it takes to completely lose Status. It does not matter if you raise your grandchildren in your native culture. It does not matter if they speak your language and know your customs. If you married someone without Status, and your grandchildren have a non-Status parent, your grandchildren are not considered Indian any longer. One of the most criticised aspects of Bill C was that it did not actually reverse the sexism inherent in denying women Status if they married a non-Status man.
That makes sense according to the charts above, right? The problem is that men who married non-Indian women actually passed on Indian Status to their previously non-Status wives. Thus the children of those unions have 6 1 status. The full title of this Bill is:. Canada Registrar of Indian and Northern Affairs. Bill C-3 was given Royal Assent on December 15, and came into force became law on January 31, A great many grandchildren of women who regained Status under Bill C but who passed on only 6 2 Status to their children can now regain their 6 2 Status if they choose to.
In an unsurprising twist, this means my mother and her siblings are eligible for 6 2 Status. Many people are being faced with the same situation, and it is not an easy choice to make.
Identity politics are incredibly convoluted and mined with danger. There are a number of sub-categories that apply to Status Indians. One category is Band membership. A Band is defined as a group of Indians for whom land has been set aside a Reserve , or who have been declared a Band by the Governor General no Reserve. A Band might have a number of reserves, but can also have no land reserved at all. Think of a Band as the people themselves. Bill C gave Bands the ability to stay under the Indian Act Band membership rules automatic membership with Status or make their own rules regarding membership.
Thus you can have Status Indians who have no Band membership, just as you can have non-Status Indians who do have Band membership. Being a Status Indian is no longer a guarantee that you will be a member of a Band. Having Status does not necessarily mean they will be able to live on reserve or get Band Membership.
Related to Band membership, another sub-category is between reserve and non-reserve Indians. These are people who have access to a reserve and the right to live there if they choose. As in other situations, being a Status Indian does not guarantee you access to a reserve, and there are non-Status people who live on reserve as well. Another sub-category you should know about has to do with whether or not someone is a Treaty Indian.
Treaties in this context refer to formal agreements between legal Indians or their ancestors and the Federal government, usually involving land surrenders. British Columbia, with the exception of Vancouver Island is not covered by any historical Treaty. Other Treaties were signed in eastern Canada, but there are vast areas in the east that are still not covered by any Treaty. A number of modern since Treaties have been signed in BC, and in other areas of the country, and negotiations are still underway to create more Treaties.
Some Treaties provided for reserves and others did not. There are many non-Status Indians, particularly in eastern Canada, who consider themselves Treaty Indians. To sum up, Status is held only by Indians who are defined as such under the Indian Act.
There are many categories of Status Indians, but these are legal terms only, and tell us what specific rights a native person has under the legislation. If a native person is not a Status Indian, this does not mean that he or she is not legally Aboriginal. More importantly, not having Status does not mean someone is not native. Native peoples will continue to exist and flourish whether or not we are recognised legally and you can bet on the fact that terms and definitions will continue to evolve.
I am trying to help him get more information. The problem is that we know very little about his birth father other than the fact that he had aboriginal background. I would be very grateful for some suggestions as to who to contact etc. When he came back home, INAC would not allow me to put him back on the list under me, even though I am a full status first nations band member because I can no longer get access to his birth certificate.
Band has now been very accepting but INAC is ridiculous to work with. I have determined that adopted children certainly have a different road to travel and plan to pursue it furhter through a number of means. I will keep you posted. If you son was given a blind status number like my son it may be possible to get his full status..
You should be able to get adoption records as the law have changed on that about 10years ago and all records are opened. CAS might be a good place to start or your member of parliment. In order to get his original birth certificate, you would have to apply to the courts supreme if I remember right and provide adequate reason for the request to have access to it.
I am adopted and I have been trying to figure all this out since I was 15, I am now 33 and am no closer to obtaining membership. As soon as I tell them that I am a US Citizen and adopted in the states they want nothing to do with me. Any recommendations on who I could talk to? I experienced the same problem …took me almost 16 years — start to finish — to have my adopted son obtain his status and then membership in his band.
Google Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada…on that page you will find there is a link to the forms to make an application….
For Albertans of adopted children: Tell him not to worry about finding out if he is status or not and get on with his life as a equal tax paying citizen like we all should be no handouts that doesnt work in any country in the world. If so, then I would heartily disagree with you.
I believe that evidence is very strong in countries like Britain that on-going welfare payments to the non-working classes is a death knell for them ever getting out of their poverty cycles, and is probably the root cause of their continued poverty both financially and in spirit./p>
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