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Extinction by Number: Colonialism Made Easy

  • Val Napoleon (a1)


Nationhood can be defined either positively, which will lead to a civic model of citizenship, or negatively, from which an ethnic model of citizenship will ensue. Each approach has a direct, formative effect on a nation's political power and on its national and international relations. The ethnic model of defining First Nations, advanced by colonial governments via legislation and modern-day treaties and adopted by First Nations, diffuses First Nations political power and distorts First Nations national issues by reframing them as primarily social and economic disadvantages. Conversely, an inclusive civic model of nationhood will enable First Nations to rebuild and maintain their political strength and integrity by moving far beyond establishing their boundaries and internal identity on blood and ethnicity. Current-day political and legal discourse on self-government, aboriginal rights and title, and treaties is largely founded on western constructs of nationhood that arise from European history and cultures. First Nations constructs of nationhood remain unarticulated or obscured, or are discarded at the self-government and treaty negotiation tables to the detriment of First Nations. The consequence of this approach is to further entrench Canadian structural power imbalances rather than create positive political, economic, and social change for First Nations. A different approach is necessary. First Nations and western constructs of nationhood and citizenship must be critically examined and compared, and First Nations must begin rebuilding inclusive, viable, civic societies based on nations, not on ineffective Indian Act bands.

L'existence en tant que nation peut être définie positivement, ce qui amènera un modèle civique de citoyenneté, ou négativement, par un modèle ethnique de citoyenneté. Chaque approche a un effet direct et formatif sur le pouvoir politique de la nation et ses relations nationales et internationales. Le modèle ethnique de définir les Premières Nations, introduit par les gouvernements coloniaux par voie législative et par traités ensuite et qui est adopté par les Premières Nations, rend leur pouvoir politique diffus et dénature leurs enjeux nationaux, en les délimitant essentiellement aux désavantages sociaux et économiques. Un modèle civique inclusif de la nation, par contre, permettra aux Premières Nations de rebâtir et de maintenir leur pouvoir et intégrité politiques en avançant au-delà de l'établissement de leurs frontières et de leur identité interne fondée sur le sang et l'appartenance ethnique. Les débats politiques et juridiques contemporains sur l'autonomie, les droits et titres autochtones et les traités partent surtout de conceptions occidentales de la nation, sur fond d'histoire et de cultures européennes. Les conceptions des Premières Nations demeurent peu articulées ou obscurcies, si elles ne sont pas mises de côté aux tables de négociation sur l'autonomie et les traités, au détriment des Premières Nations. La conséquence de cette approche est de renforcer le déséquilibre structural du pouvoir, plutôt que d'encourager un changement politique, économique et social positif pour les Premières Nations. Une approche différente s'impose. Les conceptions occidentales et autochtones de la nation et de la citoyenneté doivent être analysées et comparées de manière critique. Les Premières Nations doivent commencer à rebâtir des sociétés inclusives, civiques et viables fondées sur des nations plutôt que sur la notion inefficace des bandes empruntée à la Loi sur les Indiens.



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1 R.S.C. 1970, c. 1–6.

2 Brown, C., “Governments' Manipulation of Communal Differences” (Dilemmas of Reconciliation conference. University of Calgary, 3 June 1999) at 4 [unpublished] [hereinafter Brown].

3 McMenemy, J., The Language of Canadian Politics (Waterloo, Ont.: University of Waterloo Press, 1995) at 42: “Citizen. A person who is a native-born or naturalized member of a country. The concept of Canadian citizenship as distinct from being a British subject was established in law only in 1947. The federal Citizenship Act establishes the conditions for those not born in Canada to acquire citizenship through naturalization, and also deals with the loss or resumption of citizenship. The federal Immigration Act embodies the federal government's immigration policy, including refugee resettlement and the processing of claims by visitors for refugee status, and the granting of permanent residence which may lead to the acquisition of citizenship.”

4 The term “western” is used here to describe British- or European-based socio-politico-economic systems, culture, and ideologies (e.g., legal system, political and governance structures, etc.) as adapted by Canada and the United States.

5 Some people prefer the term “Indigenous Peoples” because it means coming from the land, it conforms to international usage, and it is a clear rejection of colonizer labels. Others prefer to use the terms “First Nations”, “Aboriginal”, or “Indian” (the latter is mainly used by American Indians). In this paper, I mainly use the term “First Nations” because it is easily recognized and the most commonly used in Canada. However, my preference is, when possible, to use people's own names for themselves (e.g., Gitxsan, Cree). But when referring to the Indian Act or its amendments, I will use the term “Indian”, which is the language of the Indian Act.

6 “Eligibility and enrolment” is the preferred language of the British Columbia Treaty Commission, an independent body created by British Columbia and the federal government to negotiate treaties in the province.

7 Canada, Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples: Perspectives and Realities, vol. 4 (Ottawa: Canada Communications Group, 1996) at 25 [hereinafter Perspectives and Realities].

8 S. Prov. C 1850, c. 42.

9 Ibid.

10 See Miller, J.R., Skyscrapers Hide the Heavens: A History of Indian-White Relations in Canada (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1991) at 206.

11 Ibid. at 207 [footnote omitted].

12 An Act for the gradual enfranchisement of Indians, the better management of Indian Affairs, and to extend the provisions of the Act 31st Victoria, S.C. 1869, c. 42 s. 6.

13 An Act to amend and consolidate the laws respecting Indians, S.C. 1876, c. 18 s. 3. 3. 3(c).

14 Native Women's Association of Canada, “The Background to Bill C-31” (Background paper for “Equality for All in the 21st Century”, Second National Conference on Bill C-31, 1999) at 1–3 [unpublished] [hereinafter “Background to Bill C-31”].

15 Supra note 13, s. 12.

16 Perspectives and Realities, supra note 7 at 293–94, 296, 299.

17 Act respecting Indians, S.C. 1884, 43 V., c. 28, s. 1, s. 113.

18 “Background to Bill C-31”, supra note 14 at 2.

19 Miller, supra note 10 at 206.

20 “Background to Bill C-31”, supra note 14 at 2.

21 Canada (A.G.) v. Lavell & Isaac v. Bédard, [1974] S.C.R. 1349. See also “Background to Bill C-31”, supra note 14 at 2.

22 S.C. 1960, c. 44, reprinted in R.S.C. 1985, App. 111.

23 Supra note 21.

24 Miller, supra note 10 at 230–37.

25 Ibid. at 242.

26 A. Huntley & F. Blaney et al., “Bill C-31: Its Impact, Implications and Recommendations for Change in British Columbia - Final Report” (December 1999), archived at Aboriginal Women's Action Network, c/o Vancouver Status of Women, Vancouver at 5 [unpublished] [hereinafter Huntley].

27 Lovelace v. Canada, [1981] 2 H. R. L. J. 158.

28 “Background to Bill C-31”, supra note 14 at 2.

29 19 December 1966, 999 U.N.T.S. 171, Can. T.S. 1976 No. 47, 6 I.L.M. 368 (entered into force 23 March 1976, accession by Canada 19 May 1976).

30 Ibid.

31 Supra note 1.

32 18 December 1979, Can. T.S. 1982.

33 Part 1 of the Constitution Act, 1982, being Schedule B to the Canada Act 1982 (U.K.), 1982, c. 11.

34 1985, 33–34 Eliz.ll, c.27. This Act is commonly known and referred to as Bill C-31 [hereinafter Bill C-31].

35 The enormous political and social consequences of Bill C-31 have been extensively documented by the Aboriginal Women's Action Network, the Native Women's Association of Canada, the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, vols. 1, 2 (Part 1), 4, the Native Council of Canada, the Assembly of First Nations, and numerous First Nations and non-First Nations authors.

36 R.S.C. 1985, c. 1–5.

37 S. Clatworthy & A.H. Smith, “Population Implications of the 1985 Amendments to the Indian Act” (paper prepared for the Assembly of First Nations, December 1992) at 19 [unpublished].

38 Wilson v. Registrar of the Indian Registry (5 November 1999), Vancouver A982935 (B.C.S.C), online:

39 Matas, R., “B.C. Ruling Nods to Legitimacy of Native HistoryThe Globe and Mail (6 Dec. 1999) A7.

40 Canada, , Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, Looking Forward, Looking Back, vol. 1, (Ottawa: Canada Communication Group, 1996) at 305 [hereinafter Looking Forward, Looking Back].

41 Ibid. at 306.

42 Perspectives and Realities, supra note 7 at 36.

43 Clatworthy & Smith, supra note 37 at 36–39.

44 Daniels, H., “Bill C-31: The Abocide Bill” (Paper submitted at the Native Women's Association of Canada Conference on Bill C-31, 23 March 1998) at 1213 [unpublished].

45 Perspectives and Realities, supra note 7 at 47.

46 Ibid. at 48.

47 [1998] 3 C.N.L.R. 68 (C.H.R.T.).

48 Monture-Angus, P., Journeying Forward: Dreaming First Nations' Independence (Halifax: Fernwood, 1999) at 143–44 [emphasis added].

49 Author's experience in working with several Tsimshian communities in 1996 and 1997 on treaty membership and eligibility issues.

50 Umbrella Final Agreement between the Government of Canada, the Council for Yukon Indians, and the Government of the Yukon, 29 May 1993 (Ottawa: Minister of Supply and Services Canada, 1993) at s.,

51 The Aboriginal Women's Action Network has compiled a comprehensive report detailing personal C-31 experiences of First Nations women in British Columbia. The report also contains a First Nations women's political analysis and an extensive series of recommendations for change. See Huntley, supra note 26.

52 Supra note 48 at 144.

53 See U.N. Doc. E/CN. 1995/2, E/CN.4/Sub.2/1994/56 at 105 (1994).

54 Coulter, R.T., “The Draft UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: What is it? What does it mean?” (1995) 13: 2Netherl. Q. Hum. Rts. 123.

55 Churchill, W, “The Crucible of American Indian Identity: Native Tradition versus Colonial Imposition in Postconquest North AmericaZmagazine (January 1998), online at 1: Zmagazine, date accessed: 23 November 1999.

56 Ibid. at 1.

57 Ibid. at 2.

58 1934, 48 Stat. 984, 25 U.S.C., 461–79.

59 Churchill, supra note 55 at 16.

60 Ibid, at 18.

61 Ibid.

62 Ibid. at 8.

63 Ibid. at 19.

64 Ibid. at 20.

65 Ibid. at 21.

66 Ibid. at 21.

67 39 Stat. 505 (1898).

68 Clatworthy & Smith, supra note 37 at preface, quoted in Looking Forward, Looking Back, supra note 40 at 307.

69 Ibid. at 36–39.

70 Author's work experience over a 20-year period in northern British Columbia.

71 Canada, Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, Restructuring the Relationship vol. 2 (Ottawa: Supply and Services Canada, 1996) at 235 [hereinafter Retructuring the Relationship].

72 Ibid. at 182.

73 Ibid. at 235.

74 Sterriti, N. al., Tribal Boundaries in the Nass Watershed (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1998) at 19 [hereinafter Sterritt].

75 Ibid. at 18.

76 Author interview with R. Overstall, a third-year University of Victoria law student, who made this suggestion (summer 1999).

77 Deloria, V. Jr., & Lytle, C., The Nations Within: The Past and Future of American Indian Sovereignty (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1984) at 8 [hereinafter Deloria & Lytle].

78 Ibid.

79 Ibid.

80 Ibid. at 8–9.

81 Wa, Gisday & Uukw, Delgam, Spirit in the Land: The Opening Statements of the Gitksan and Wet'suwet'en Hereditary Chiefs in the Supreme Court of British Columbia May 11, 1987 (Gabriola, British Columbia: Reflections, 1989) at 26 [hereinafter Gisday Wa &Delgam Uukw].

82 Deloria & Lytle, supra note 77 at 12.

83 Ibid.

84 Sterriti, supra note 74 at 5.

85 Ibid.

86 Ibid. at 7.

87 Delgamuukw v. British Columbia, [1997] 3 S.C.R. 1010 [hereinafter Delgamuukw].

88 Gitxsan Treaty Office, Statement of Interest, Gitxsan Citizenship and Treaty Entitlement (3 June 1995) at 3 [unpublished]. The wilp is organic. A very large wilp divides and small huwilp (houses) amalgamate.

89 Bill 51, Nisga's Final Agreement Act, 3rd Sess., 36th Leg., B.C. 1998.

90 Ibid. at 159.

91 Ibid. at 160.

92 Ibid. at 162–66.

93 Deloria & Lytle, supra note 77 at 14.

94 Anderson, B., Imagined Communities (London-New York: Verso, 1991) [hereinafter Anderson].

95 Habermas, J., The Inclusion of the Other: Studies in Political Theory (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT, 1998) [hereinafter Habermas].

96 Anderson, supra note 94 at 6–7.

97 Ibid. at 36.

98 Ibid.

99 Ibid. at 42–46.

100 Ibid. at 184.

101 Habermas, supra note 95 at 105–106.

102 Ibid. at 109–10.

103 Ibid. at 107.

104 Ibid. at 110.

105 Ibid. at 111.

106 Ibid. at 113.

107 Deloria & Lytle, supra note 77 at 1.

108 Researchers from many disciplines have documented the many obviously profound and complex cultural and historical differences between societies of people from different continents. This paper can only touch on the most obvious differences that become apparent in this basic discussion about nationhood and citizenship — ways that groups of people imagine and define themselves.

109 Habermas, supra note 95 at 110.

110 Sterritt, supra note 74 at 15.

111 Ibid. at 12.

112 Gisday Wa & Delgam Uukw, supra note 81 at 30.

113 Delgamuukw, supra note 87. In the pleadings, the appellants originally advanced 51 individual claims representing most of the Gitxsan and Wet'suwet'en Houses. On appeal, the original claim was altered to amalgamate the individual House claims into two communal claims representing each nation. The Court found that in the absence of an amendment to the pleadings, the respondents suffered some prejudice, Ibid. paras. 73–76.

114 Anderson, supra note 94 at 46.

115 Ibid. at 135.

116 Gitwangak Education Society, “Gitxsan Immersion: Cultural and Language Curricula Design and Development” (1993), archived at Gitwangak, British Columbia. [unpublished].

117 Habermas, supra note 95 at 110.

118 Sterriff, supra note 74 at 4.

119 Ibid.

120 In anticipation of the Delgamuukw land title court action, the Gitxsan completed a census and prepared first draft genealogy charts during the early 1980s.

121 Gisday Wa & Delgam Uukw, supra note 81 at 59.

122 Deloria & Lytle, supra note 77 at 13–14.

123 Ibid. at 15.

124 Habermas, supra note 95 at 108.

125 Alfred, T., Peace, Power, Righteousness: an Indigenous Manifesto (Don Mills, Ont.: Oxford, 1999) at 54 [hereinafter Alfred].

126 Ignatieff, M., Blood and Belonging: Journeys into Nationalism (Toronto: Penguin, 1994).

127 Brown, supra note 2 at 3.

128 Ignatieff, supra note 126 at 6.

129 Ibid. at 7, 93.

130 Habermas, supra note 95 at 232.

131 Ibid. at 233.

132 Ignatieff, supra note 126 at 7–8.

133 Ibid. at 8.

134 Pratibha, P. “Black Feminism: the Politics of Articulation” in Rutherford, J., ed., Identity (London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1990) 109.

135 Ibid. at 111.

136 Ignatieff, supra note 126 at 8.

137 Ibid. at 25. A Metis woman expressed the same frustration and anger to me about a First Nations faculty organization membership proposal that was essentially a blood quantum formula: “They are trying to force me to choose who I am from one part of my family, one part of my history, one part of my identity.” (Summer 1999)

138 Ignatieff, supra note 126 at 9.

139 Habermas, supra note 95 at 236.

140 Brown, supra note 2 at 27.

141 Ibid.

142 Ibid.

143 Saul, J. R., The Unconscious Civilization (Concord, Ont.: House of Anansi, 1995) at 168.

144 See Gilbert, L., Entitlement to Indian Status and Membership Codes in Canada (Toronto: Carswell, 1996). This book provides an overall detailed history and description of Indian Act machinery, and membership code excerpts from a cross section of Canadian Indigenous communities.

145 Alfred, supra note 125 at 84–87.

146 Ibid. at 84–85.

147 Ibid. at 86.

148 Ibid. at 86–87.

149 Ibid. at 87.

150 Brown, supra note 2 at 14.

151 Boldt, M., Surviving as Indians (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1993) at xv [hereinafter Boldt].

152 Topham, A., “Chiefs Honored by Tsilhqot' in National HolidayRaven's Eye [Edmonton] (November 1999) at 8.

153 Sterritt, supra note 74 at 20.

154 Restructuring the Relationship, supra note 71 at 177.

155 Perspectives and Realities, supra note 7 at 607.

156 Author interview with Viola Thomas, (former) president of United Native Nations, who estimates the urban Indigenous Peoples population in Vancouver at 60,000 (May 1999).

157 Author's work experience. Also see Department of Indian and Northern Development, Registered Indian Population by Sex and Residence 1998 (Ottawa: Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada, March 1999).

158 Boldt, supra note 151 at 190.

159 In the U.S., there are four ways of acquiring citizenship: by birth in the U.S., by birth in U.S. territories, by birth outside the U.S. to U.S. parents, and by naturalization.

160 Anaya, S. J., Indigenous Peoples in International Law (New York: Oxford, 1996) c. 1.

161 Reference Re Secession of Quebec, [1998] 2 R.C.S. 217. This was the reference question put to the Supreme Court of Canada regarding the unilateral secession of Quebec.

162 Numbers of Indigenous authors have criticized the inclusion of Indigenous Peoples in the term “minority groups”. According to Venne, Sharon, Our Elders Understand Our Rights: Evolving International Law Regarding Indigenous People (Penticton, British Columbia: Theytus, 1998), Indigenous Peoples have government, self-determination, laws, and territories. On the other hand, she said minorities have only rights to language, religion, and culture (Native Law Program Lecture, Faculty of Law, University of Saskatchewan, Summer 1998) [unpublished].

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Extinction by Number: Colonialism Made Easy

  • Val Napoleon (a1)


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