Don Marks: Government policies kept Native people from polls

In 1960, First Nations citizens were able to vote in federal elections in Canada without jeopardizing their treaty status under legislation pushed by then-prime minister John Diefenbaker, seen here in May 1959 receiving a headdress while being named Chief Walking Buffalo by Chief William Little Crow. Photo from Diefenbaker Canada Centre

Don Marks of Grassroots News explains why First Nations citizens haven't gone to the polls in large numbers:
It is quite commonly known that "Indians", as they were called half a century ago, were not allowed to vote until July 1, 1960. Actually, they could vote, but they had to become "disenfranchised" first, which meant giving up their special Treaty status.

And so it became the common practice that aboriginal people did not take part in "white man's voting" in the 30 or so federal elections which were held prior to 1960.

Not only was apathy and indifference passed on from generation to generation, so was the anger and mistrust that mainstream elections created by maintaining and enforcing the Indian Act which was implemented by the federal government's Department of Indian Affairs. More simply, why would the people of one sovereign nation be voting in another nation's elections?

On the other hand, there were numerous government policies and accounts in the media that claimed because Indians were kept isolated on impoverished reserves, the Canadian public considered them to be "uncivilized", uneducated and unworthy wards of the state who were not qualified to vote, or participate in many other so-called civilized activities.

They had a lot of catching up to do to integrate, much less assimilate, as the governments of Canada wanted them to do, and there remain some who have not even bothered with any of it to this day.

Get the Story:
Don Marks: Why voter turnout is lower among First Nations (CBC 8/12)

Also Today:
First Nations voting promoted through Facebook, Twitter campaign (CBC 8/10)

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