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Grade 4: The Indian Act: An Introductory Worksheet (part 2)

This lesson can be integrated into a unit on the rights of the First Nations and the impacts of Canadian governance on those rights. Students will be asked to think critically about the rights of Aboriginal Peoples and the ways their lives have been altered as a result of such governance.


It is expected that student will:

  • Students will identify the impact of Canadian governance on Aboriginal people's rights


  • Computers for research
  • See Blackline Master #1 for worksheet
  • Social Studies textbook- Our Beginnings Outlooks 4


Step 1: In the computer lab, have students work in pairs to conduct online research on the Indian Act. They will need to take notes for the purpose of writing a report and preparing a class presentation.

Step 2: After students have made their own notes, have a class discussion on Indian Act to clarify any misconceptions or questions the students may have.

Step 3: Have them work individually or in pairs on the “Indian Act” worksheet.

Worksheet: The Indian Act

  1. What is the Indian Act?
    The Indian Act is a legal document and a set of laws that was first passed by the Canadian Government in 1876 and is still enforced today. This set of laws gave the government complete control over the lives of Aboriginal peoples.
  2. Why was the Indian Act created?
    Historically, control over Aboriginals had been a British responsibility, which was then passed to Canada. Once the fur trade ended, Aboriginal peoples had no role to play, and they became a barrier to government plans for the settlement of western Canada. The Government called it the Indian problem.
    The government responded to this “problem” by creating the Indian Act which had to objectives: 1. Control over Aboriginal peoples. Aboriginal peoples couldn’t leave reserves, own land, or do business without permission. 2. Assimilation. Eventually Aboriginal peoples were to enfranchise and receive all the benefits of any other Canadian).
  3. What did the Indian Act do?
    • placed complete control over Aboriginal politics, culture, education, and personal lives in the hands of the federal government
    • established rules that dictated who was Indian and who was not (status/non-status)
    • located all financial control of Aboriginal peoples with the federal government
    • did not allow Aboriginal people to own land
    • forced a new form of education on Aboriginal peoples
    • did not allow aboriginal people to vote in a federal election until 1960
  4. What are positive aspects of the Indian Act?
    The Indian Act is the only government document to recognize Aboriginal peoples. Without it, aboriginal peoples would not have any special status. It allows for certain rights including health services, education, subsidized housing and exemption from certain taxes but all in exchange for land and other rights.
    Some amendments have been made to the Indian Act including lifting of the ban on ceremonies and fundraising, permission to vote, Bill C-31 to re-establish some Aboriginal peoples' status.


Look for evidence of:

  • Student willingness to openly participate in group and class discussions
  • Students’ ability to explain the possible changes in their understanding of the rights of Aboriginal peoples in Canada
  • Students’ factual understanding of the Indian Act


  • Archival Link: Look through newspapers for articles on other cultures that have faced discrimination in Canada.
Blackline Masters 1.pdf41.22 KB