Native Village
Youth and Education news

Volume 1 December, 2011

Status Indians Could Legally be Extinct in 75 years
Condensed by Native Village

Professor Pamela Palmater has a dire warning for First Nations people:

The rights that set you apart from other Canadians are dying out!

Canada: Pamela Palmater, a Ryerson University associate, says status rights for First Nations are slowly being legislated out of existence. But few people, including many in Canada's 633 First Nations, realize it.

Registration roll are declining, adults are dying off, and birth rates for full-status children are falling. This means the lands set aside for First Nations will return to provincial control. Reserves will be lost.

Some federal projections predict many of the country's First Nation lands will be dissolved within 75 years. An entire way of life will vanish.

"I go around the world presenting this information to people," Palmater said, "and they say, 'What? That can't be. You have a Charter of Rights. A constitution that protects aboriginal rights.'

"The thing is, a lot of this information doesn't ever filter down to the people."

Palmater is the chairwoman of Ryerson's Centre for Indigenous Governance. Her new book, "Beyond Blood, Rethinking Indigenous Identity," lays out the scenario for the legislative extinction of Indian status.
Palmater's research shows the legislative foundation dates back to the 1876 Indian Act. Successive amendments have cemented the timeline to status extinction.

For years, lawyers have privately warned First Nations leaders to do something. Otherwise, their power base will disappear and treaty rights vanish. 

First Nation leaders in British Columbia and Ontario have issued explicit warnings to their people.

"There are some First Nations that in less than 75 years will be legally extinct," she said. "The people will still be living. They will still be there but that means there will be no legal land owners... and the land goes back to the Crown.

"So your land's gone. You're no longer a community. You can't exercise your aboriginal rights. Then what about the treaties? If there are no treaty beneficiaries, I guess you don't have to worry about treaty rights, either."

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