Indian Act or Acting Indian: The Canadian Museum of History, Colonial Amnesia and Re- Membering Indigenous Identities

by Geraldine King

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For many Canadians, museums – as sites of national memory – are the most trustworthy tellers of “truth”. While it is arguably impossible to accurately display all aspects of a nation’s history, an exploration of what is missing from the national narrative is crucial, especially when it pertains to the representation Indigenous identities. This essay examines the Canadian Museum of History’s incomplete representation of Indigenous identities as influenced by historic and continued encounters with the Indian Act. The Indian Act has been a pervasive arbitrator of Indigenous identity since the Act’s inception in 1876, yet its near exclusion in the Museum is, at best an incomplete national narrative and at worst, a deliberate attempt to obscure one of Canada’s most egregious policies pertaining to Indigenous (primarily First Nation and Métis) peoples in Canada as a means to uphold an unfractured and cohesive national identity.


Indian Act, museums, identity politics, re-membering


Geraldine King is Anishinaabekwe from Kiashke Zaaging Anishinaabek (Gull Bay First Nation) located on Lake Nipogon in northwestern Ontario. Geraldine is a 4th year undergraduate student in the School of Canadian Studies at Carleton University. Her primary research interest is centered on unpacking how Indigenous comedy is important and viable praxis on the pathways to decolonization.