The Indian Act and other legislation related to the Aboriginal people in Canada


Royal Proclamation

Approx. 1763

The Proclamation is a foundational document in establishing the core elements of the relationship between First Nation people and people of non-American origin, recognizing First Nation rights in Canada and defining the treaty-making process that is still used today.

Act for better protection of Indians in Upper Canada from imposition and property occupied or enjoyed by them from trespass and injury

Approx. 1850

Act for better protection of Lands and Property of Indians in Lower Canada

Approx. 1850

Gradual Civilization Act


This statute was the first to introduce the concept of enfranchisement or the process by which Aboriginals lost their Indian status and became full British subjects. Any First Nations male who was free of debt, literate and of good moral character could be awarded full ownership (owned but not to be sold) of 59 acres of land.

Indian Lands Act


British North America Act

Approx. 1867

The Gradual Enfranchisement Act


Indian Act


Amendments to the Indian Act

Approx. 1876 - Approx. 1950

1885: Prohibition of several traditional Aboriginal ceremonies, such as potlaches.
1894: Removal of band control over non-Aboriginals living on reserves. This power was transferred to the Superintendent General of Indian Affairs.
1905: Power to remove Aboriginal peoples from reserves near towns with more than 8,000 people.
1911: Power to expropriate portions of reserves for roads, railways and other public works, as well as to move an entire reserve away from a municipality if it was deemed expedient.
1914: Requirement that western Aboriginals seek official permission before appearing in Aboriginal “costume” in any public dance, show, exhibition, stampede or pageant.
1918: Power to lease out uncultivated reserve lands to non-Aboriginals if the new leaseholder would use it for farming or pasture.
1927: Prohibition of anyone (Aboriginal or otherwise) from soliciting funds for Aboriginal legal claims without special licence from the Superintendent General. This amendment granted the government control over the ability of Aboriginals to pursue land claims.
1930: Prohibition of pool hall owners from allowing entrance of an Aboriginal who “by inordinate frequenting of a pool room either on or off an Indian reserve misspends or wastes his time or means to the detriment of himself, his family or household.”

Industrial / Residential Schools

Approx. 1894

Provisions to this act in 1894 provided for compulsory school attendance of First Nations children. Industrial schools ran from 1883-1923. After 1923 these schools became known as “residential schools.” Part of the federal government assimilation policy focused on eliminating First Nations children’s cultural beliefs and practices. First Nations parents were fined or jailed if they did not send their children to residential schools.

Revision of the Indian Act

Approx. 1951

The 1951 amendments removed some of the provisions in the legislation, including the banning of dances and ceremonies and the prohibition on pursuing claims against the government. First Nations peoples were now permitted to hire lawyers to represent them in legal matters.

Statement of the Government of Canada on Indian policy (The White Paper)

Approx. 1969

Revision of the Indian Act (Bill C-31)


Bill C-31 was introduced which allowed First Nations women to marry non- Status or non-First Nations men without losing their Indian status. It also allowed First Nations women who had previously lost their status through marriage and First Nations individuals who had lost their status through enfranchisement to apply to have their status reinstated.

Multiculturalism Act

Approx. 1988

The First Nations Land Management Act

Approx. 1999

The First Nations Governance Act (Bill C-7)

Approx. 2002

An Act for the Recognition of Self-Governing First Nations (Bill S-216)

Approx. 2006