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Aboriginal Governance

Law has become a vast and all encompassing area in Aboriginal peoples’ lives. Prior to contact with Europeans and even in early Canadian history, First Nations and later Métis groups used their own forms of law. These codes of law were not written, but were passed down to the generations through a form of oral history. This law governed all aspects of life, from harvesting and hunting, to personal relations, and included codes for punishment.

In 1876, the Indian Act drastically changed the landscape of Aboriginal Governance. The government imposed a structure of standards onto the people that included elected band councils, elected Chiefs, and a new legal identity. This new law was grounded in the written word in the form of legislation and legalese.

The new legislation, including all the Acts and Amendments to the Indian Act, provoked discontent. A new generation of Native leaders began to gather. Through extensive organization they were fighting back and winning victories.


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