The Indian Act and Propiska (Passport) System

Consider: If they can do it to Aboriginal Peoples in ‘nice’ Canada – ‘they can do it to you too’

The history underneath…

The Indian Act is one of the most under-examined Canadian questions of our time. How this Act could have received so little independent examination, given the scope of its control over reserve Indians in this country,  is a mystery much deserving of our attention.

The Indian Act, and what followed with it, is in fact a form of passport or propiska (Rus) (‘human control’) system. Propiska has been used in other societies under different names to hold down a people group; or population (i.e. Russian Government holding down Jews, inside the Pale of Settlement, in the Russian Empire)


The Red and Black Series:

This filing system was introduced shortly before the Indian Act of 1876, which for the first time consolidated under one piece of legislation all legal matters pertaining to First Nations. The Department of Indian Affairs was mandated under the Indian Act to manage all aspects of the lives of those subject to it.

Historian John Milloy asserts that through the introduction of this act the federal government obtained “the power to mould, unilaterally, every aspect of life on the reserve and to create whatever infrastructure it deemed necessary to achieve the desired assimilation, enfranchisement, and as a consequence, the eventual disappearance of First Nations.” The ‘subjects’ gradually introduced into the Subject Extension Registers mirrored the introduction of new legislation such as the Enfranchisement Act. It reflects a world cosmology, an attempt to create a taxonomy of all activities relating to First Nations people, from government policy to personal issues such as community membership, wills, estates and land surrenders, down to mundane issues such as sand and gravel and dog licences.


John S. Milloy, A National Crime: The Canadian Government and the Residential School System, 1879 to 1896, Winnipeg, University of Manitoba Press, 1999, p. 61.


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