The Indian Act was created to kill us. En route to that canadian state desired outcome the legislation attacks Indigenous peoples sovereign authority to determine our identities and community members.
Having the state control who and what is Indigenous expropriates our ontology, epistemologies and radically disrupts and destroys our Indigenous Nations ability to ground ourselves in our cultural heritage, manifest cultural evolutions and govern our own transformational modernity to ensure our sustained existence.
After initial contact and hundreds of years of bio-chemical warfare and genocide the imperial canadian state had positioned Indigenous peoples to have to be subservient and dependent on the crown. They purposefully attacked and destroyed our self-determination by stealing Indigenous sovereignty, and forcible manipulating our dependence on the state.
To attain this positioning the canadian state launched a multi-pronged attack to ensure Nations and Indigenous peoples became state dependent - just like 99% of you. It's actually really hard to emancipate yourself entirely from the state, even if you're like but wait my hippie cuzzin Alfred lives in the bush, most likely he was registered at birth and has paid taxes so the state still has eyes on him.
So like most of you are health care, jurisprudence and fiscal dependency is majority reliant on state approved and sanctioned systems. They want us - and we are all suckling the tit of the state. This pandemic has actually furthered many canadians dependence with the trillion dollar government bailouts like the CERB program.
Today I’d like to use this post to illuminate a particular section of the Indian Act that has has detrimentally impacted Indigenous peoples and our Nations by the state insertion of decision making authority by way of the breeding out genocide tactic.
It revolves around the canadian states obsession of Indigenous Matriarchs and fem’s and the states attempt to control Indigenous populations and peoples. The ideology of the imperial state believes that the easiest way to enact genocide is to kill the Indian before they have a child. Ensuring Nations became dependent on the state furthers their dominance and our ability to determine our future. The Indian Act is an effective conduit and tool for state control.
canada wants our land. Neo-colonial imperial capitalism runs off of the global theft of Indigenous peoples lands.
If they can make us state dependent they can control Indigenous peoples self determined use of the land or at least have it be state controlled and so the reserve system was created.
The state goes god dammit they keep having Indigenous babies and trying to assert their sovereign right to protect and live off the land and we keep having to hand out status cards, so they created section 12 of the Indian Act:
If an Indigenous woman married an non-Indigenous man she would lose her status and her children would also be ineligible and denied status.
BINGO BANGO the canadian state found a way to control now not only Indigenous identity but population. They were going to breed us out. It's vital that you understand and remember that canadian state tactics of genocide are far more complex than just the genocidal residential school program.
During the first stage of their theft of land, settler imperialists were sent to Indigenous Territories and deliberately told to marry Indigenous women to “improve relations.” This is incredibly problematic and violent. Think about how we struggle with consent today, can you fucking imagine what our Ancestral Grandmothers went through?
And so the state tactic of bleeding out Indigenous peoples began. Blood quantum became a state approved metric to oppress Indigenous self determination and their mechanism to slow down and halt the status "approval" of Indigenous peoples and thus continue their apprehension of land and title.
The repercussions of this are vast, deep and violent. It’s rarely talked about and or known and I need you to know it. Having the canadian state determine who was Indigenous not only attacked our sovereign abilities but it also planted the seeds for long term lateral violence amongst our Indigenous peoples. Violence that is omnipresent today.
Jayzus I wrote a fucking play about it.
The Indian Act forced many Indigenous peoples off their lands, we call this dispossession and displacement. It forced hundreds of thousands of Indigenous peoples away from their reserve communities because they no longer “qualified” as Indigenous.
-the state forces their white dudes on Indigenous women
-these Indigenous women are positioned to marry these white men and they lose their status and are now under the eyes of the state “white.”
-their children are now white.
-they can no longer live on their fucking Ancestral territories and are denied any state support (and remember they have already forced us into state dependence so expulsion from our Nations and reserves in most cases led to horrifyingly grim and fatal outcomes).
Here’s the kicker about this section of the Indian Act- if a white woman married an Indigenous man they and their children get FULL FUCKING STATUS. Which means there are a bunch of Karen’s out there with land and title rights, living on reserves and under the eyes of the canadian state decidedly “Indigenous.”
The folding in of white people into the status system makes this multi-pronged genocide tactic deliberately complex and confusing and saturates it with cultural paradoxes. Which results in many many many land, band member and cultural challenges that continue to cause fraught relations between Indigenous peoples and their own Nations.
Now here’s a story.
My Syilx Grandma marries a white man. She is a full blooded language speaking Syilx and upon their marriage (which is also why I will NEVER get married bc the state has fucked with my family enough) she loses her state approved status. The state actually sent letters out to Indigenous women informing them they were "white" now.
This means my Dad is ineligible to gain status and because they created reserve systems with Chiefs, Councils and bands dependent on abiding by the states authority aka receiving $$$- the Nation also refuses my Fathers Indigeneity (which is the cultural violence and internalized racism many dispossessed Indigenous families still deal with today.)
Jump to - my Dad meets my beautiful and brilliant Tsilhqot'in and Dakelh Mother, they get married because that's their prerogative and there are many state stipulations they need to follow to ensure the safety of their future family (me and my sisters) and here it is - since my Mom is marrying “a white man” she loses her status.
So, here are these two beautiful brown Indigenous peoples who are robbed of their identities and all of their abilities to gain access to a variety of levels of support because it is illegal for them to live on their Ancestral territories - because they are “white.”
The recurpussions of this section of the Indian Act has terrorized Indigenous families and individuals since its inception. The legacy of this brutal legislation continues to cause much disorder in Indigenous peoples lives and I just want to take a moment to honour the resilience of every Indigenous person, including our past Ancestors who were expelled from their communities and racialized by the state, I send you so much love. So much love and admiration and respect for everything you did and or continue to endure. The genocide you face is a crime against your humanity and I bear witness.
Now the Indian Act has had many amendments including bill c-31 which repealed the denial and removal of status when an Indigenous woman marries a non-Indigenous person but it NEVER REPEALED THE REMOVAL OF STATUS FROM WHEN WHITE WOMEN MARRIED NATIVE MEN. So there are still Karen’s living on reserves with status cards all across Turtle Island. My Father said to me this morning that this legislative negligence by the state and their failure to retroactively withdraw status of white women is one of the most detrimental aspects of the attack on Indigenous peoples by the Indian Act.
Having the state control who can live on our lands has caused many many many many many problems within our Nations. Immense instances of ongoing lateral violence but the most dangerous impact was the indoctrination and embedded racism within our Indigenous communities that to this day continue to have insidious residues of upholding state informed propaganda for bands manipulated by the state choosing whose Indigenous. Many bands have become indoctrinated state agents policing their own peoples.
My parents re-gained their status and I have mine too but also fuck status. Fuck the canadian state trying to continue to determine whose Indigenous. We don’t need status, we lived for thousands of years without it. What we need to do is heal the generations of pain the canadian state has oppressed and caused us. We need to look at our internalized racism and expunge the canadian states desire for us to keep fighting and causing cultural violence amongst ourselves.
I am working my ass off to save up to build a small home on my traditional territories. A home for me and my parents, sisters and cuzzins to return to. Will we endure lateral violence and prejudice en route to accomplishing this because of the Indian Act, absolutely - we already have. Will it be the most important work I do to repair my Indigenous community relations, absolutely. Will it be a homecoming 400 years in the making - you better fucking believe.
So here is what I have to say today: canada you tried hard, you tried real fucking hard to remove me from my Salish peoples and my role as a steward of the land and obstruct our cultural evolution and your plan fucking failed you genocidal imperialist barbarians.
To anyone reading this: when I talk about equitable opportunities to afford a career in theatre now you know why I fight so hard. This is it, I'm trying to go home. So every ignorant denial of white supremacy, every act of racism in the artistic community to assert your imperial dominance is a continued attack on my sovereignty and pushes me further away from affording my families homecoming.
This is why I get up everyday and work. It’s so I can reclaim and continue the thousand year old tradition of living on my territory. So you best believe I'm going to fight for this one loud, deliberate and ferociously until we all can return home.
fuck the canadian state and fuck the crown.
With love to the Indigenous peoples working to get home in all understandings of what that means, and to the Black peoples working for liberation and People of colour beside us,
Image: Karlene Harvey
p.p.s here are some stats from the Jessie Richardson Theatre Awards that happened this past Monday- don't ever tell me that we don't work in a white supremacist artistic sector.