The Abandoned Ones: Non-Status Indians and Political Organizing

  • David R. Newhouse
  • Yale D. Belanger
  • Pamela Ouart


This paper explores contemporary issues facing Non-Status Indians in Canada, and their struggles to politically organize in particular. Using James Scott’s theoretical position that political states attempt to create legible populations in order to administer them more easily, this paper examines the category of “Non-Status Indians” and the impacts of federal policy making on their ability to organize. The National Indian Council (NIC), established in 1961, originally articulated the concept of Non-Status Indians as a category of Aboriginal people. Internal pressures led the NIC to split into two groups in 1968: the National Indian Brotherhood, representing status and Treaty Indians; and the Native Council of Canada (NCC), representing Métis and Non-Status Indians. A second severance occurred in 1983 when the Métis National Council split from the NCC, after which the Council for Aboriginal Peoples (CAP) emerged to represent Non-Status Indians and urban Aboriginal peoples. During this period, public policy makers, Status Indians, and Métis literally abandoned the Non-Status label. During the opening decade of the twenty-first century, Non-Status Indian organizations have emerged as new players on the Aboriginal policy landscape. This paper explores this phenomenon, based upon key informant interviews with Non-Status Indian leaders conducted specifically for this project.