Instrumentalities of the Settler State 3d - 'Legally mandated to disappear'


‘Legally mandated to disappear’

Sitting within a black frame and background is a page of the Canadian Indian Act. Red beading overlays a section of the document on the left side. On this section, white beads replace the words below, rendering the Act null and void.

[imagecaption] ‘Indian Act’, fabric, printed paper, beads, thread, tape and needle, 46 x 38.7 x 5.5cm, 2002. Artist: Nadia Myre. [/imagecaption]


Differential civic and legal status, such as under Canada’s Indian Act, marginalise Indigenous women and children, rendering them vulnerable to removal from  Country and subject to trafficking. In Australia, The Bringing Them Home Report tracks the differential impact of state and national native welfare legislation on children and girls. This included laws designated as ‘protection’ for Aboriginal girls and women, such as the WA Native Welfare Act of 1905. Laws which included or excluded certain groups ‘under the Act’ depending on parentage had the effect of dividing families, sometimes permanently and with tragic consequences.

‘The lives of all Indian women in Canada is an anomaly because since the 1870s they have been legally mandated to disappear, in various forms – either through the Indian Act’s previous instantiation of Victorian marriage rules whereby an Indian woman who married a non-Indian man lost her Indian status (her legal rights based identity) and as such her right to reside on her reserve. With this legal casting out was the casting out as well of the possibility of transmitting that status to her children, a loss as well of governmental power with Indigenous governance itself, the political form that her body and mind signified.’

Audra Simpson (2016, 4)

‘Colonial legal systems historically protected (and rewarded) the exploiters of Native women and girls and therefore encouraged the institutionalization of sexual subjugation of Native women and girls.’ 

Sarah Deer (2010, 628-9)



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