An Indian reserve is an area of land set aside under the Indian Act for the use and benefit of First Nations peoples. There are over 3,000 Indian reserves across Canada, each governed by a band, a First Nations governing unit comprising of a chief and councilors. Approximately half of all Aboriginal people in Canada identified as Registered Indians live on reserves. The country’s earliest reserves were formed by 17th century Catholic missionaries who were intent on imposing on semi-nomadic peoples, like the Algonquin, a fixed dwelling and their own Christian lifestyle. The legacy of this attempt at altering the First Nations way of life remains to this day.

Although Canada ranks among the top countries in terms of living-standard development, the conditions faced by its Aboriginal populations have reached a crisis point. Reserve communities face a range of social and economic problems: alarming youth suicide rates; overcrowded homes, often in need of serious repairs; high unemployment rates; not to mention the disproportionate numbers of murdered and missing women. In many communities, every-day necessities such as clean running water are seen as luxuries. There is dire need for an overhaul of the reserves’ infrastructures but band administrators find that the limited funding of the federal government cannot stretch nearly far enough. Despite their poor living conditions, reserves are still considered a physical and spiritual home for many First Nations communities and a place where they can maintain their unique and marginalized identity, language and culture. As such, they are central to First Nations cultural identity.
Jul 11, 2016
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