Arrival of Strangers - The Last 500 Years



"I was angry since I... observed the devastating effects of this [Indian Act enfranchisement] policy on so many women... It was not only my Indian sisters who suffered, it was the Indian babies who, born in tents while their parents hunted and trapped, were never registered under the Indian Act. It was the Indian war veteran who returned home to discover he was no longer Indian. It was the educated man who lost Indian status when he became a minister."

- Mary Two-Axe Earley, quoted in "Native Women and the Indian Act: The Struggle for Justice, the Robert S. Litvak Memorial Award"

In many Aboriginal cultures, women have significant leadership roles and property rights. In the 1800s, non-Aboriginal society held quite different views. The provisions of early Indian Acts eliminated women's traditional roles, and assigned them a status similar to that of women in mainstream Victorian and Edwardian society.

After 1869, Indian women who married non-Indian men lost their Indian status. These provisions remained in force until the passage of Bill C-31 in 1985. In the 1960s and 1970s, Indian women asserted their rights to Indian status in the international forum. They viewed male-dominated Aboriginal political organizations as ineffective and slow to respond to their political aspirations. Some Aboriginal women took more direct political action. Mary Two-Axe Earley, who led the organization Indian Rights for Indian Women in the 1960s, was the first woman to have her status reinstated under Bill C-31.

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