What is a Reserve?

In Canada, an Indian reserve is specified by the Indian Act as a "tract of land, the legal title to which is vested in Her Majesty, that has been set apart by Her Majesty for the use and benefit of a band." The Act also specifies that land reserved for the use and benefit of a band which is not vested in the Crown is also subject to the Indian Act provisions governing reserves.

Superficially a reserve is similar to an American Indian reservation, although the histories of the development of reserves and reservations are markedly different. Although the American term reservation is occasionally used, reserve is normally the standard term in Canada.

The terms First Nations reserve and First Nation are also widely used instead of Indian reserve; confusingly, First Nation also designates a group which may occupy more than one reserve.

The Indian Act gives the Minister of Indian Affairs the right to "determine whether any purpose for which lands in a reserve are used is for the use and benefit of the band." Title to land within the reserve may only be transferred to the band or to individual band members.

Reserve lands may not be seized legally, nor is the personal property of a band or a band member living on a reserve subject to "charge, pledge, mortgage, attachment, levy, seizure distress or execution in favour or at the instance of any person other than an Indian or a band" (section 89 (1) of the Indian Act). As a result reserves and their residents have great difficulty obtaining financing. Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) has, however, created an on-reserve housing loan program in which members of bands which enter into a trust agreement with CMHC and lenders can receive loans to build or repair houses. In other programs loans to residents of reserves are guaranteed by the federal government.

Provinces and municipalities may expropriate reserve land only if specifically authorized by a provincial or federal law.

In all, there are over 600 occupied reserves in Canada, most of them quite small in area.

Few reserves have any economic advantages, such as resource revenues. The revenues of those reserves which do are held in trust by the Minister of Indian Affairs.

Reserve lands and the personal property of bands and resident band members are exempt from all forms of taxation except local taxation. Corporations owned by members of First Nations are not exempt, however. This exemption has allowed band members operating in proprietorships or partnerships to sell heavily taxed goods such as cigarettes on their reserves at prices considerably lower than those at stores off the reserves.

Most reserves are self-governed under guidelines established by the Indian Act.

Source information from Wikipedia.org

Reserve life, however, was not the peace the Siksika had hoped for. The Siksika adapted to farming and ranching life on the land they had once hunted on, but life under the control of federally appointed Indian Agents meant that the Siksika would not gain much financially from farming, even when they proved successful at it.

In 1912, under pressure to sell off their reserve land to outside interests, the Siksika sold 61,000 acres of land for just under one million dollars, and in 1918 they sold another 55,000 acres for just over one million dollars. With the funds generated from the sales, the Siksika built up infrastructure on the reserve. The funds for such projects ran out by the end of the Second World War, but the Siksika remained determined to continue the work they had started.






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