Beyond Blood: Rethinking Indigenous Identity

Beyond Blood: Rethinking Indigenous Identity

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October 27, 2012

On Friday, October 21, 2011 Dr. Pam Palmater delivered this informative talk about the history of the Indian Act and issues surrounding indigenous identity in Canada.

Pam Palmater argues that the Indian Act’s registration provisions (status) will lead to the extinguishment of First Nations as legal and constitutional entities. The current status criteria contain descent-based rules akin to blood quantum that are particularly discriminatory against women and their descendants.

Beginning with an historic overview of legislative enactments defining Indian status and their impact on First Nations, the author examines contemporary court rulings dealing with Aboriginal rights and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in relation to Indigenous identity. She also examines various band membership codes to determine how they affect Indigenous identity, and how their reliance on status criteria perpetuates discrimination. She offers suggestions for a better way of determining Indigenous identity and citizenship and argues that First Nations themselves must determine their citizenship based on ties to the community, not blood or status.

Dr. Palmater, Associate Professor and Chair of Ryerson University’s Centre for Indigenous Governance, discusses the history of the Indian Act, how status is determined, what it means and current issues with status, including gender discrimination. Dr. Palmater was denied Indian status as a Mi’kmaq because her grandmother married a non-Indian.

For more information visit Pam Palmater’s website and her blog.

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