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Between Membership & Belonging: Life Under Section 10 of the Indian Act

In 1985 Canada ammended the Indian Act to in part enable First Nations to determine their own membership lists. 

Bands could do so by writing what came to be known as section 10 membership codes. Section 10 has been celebrated as a form of self-governance, yet little research exists that considers the lived experience of such codes- particularly of those who belong with their communities through kinship law but are otherwise excluded due to a band’s membership rules. Based on in-person interviews conducted in 2019, this exploratory report shows that negative impacts exist and continue to go unresolved. Impacts fall into four categories: health, kinship, economic stability, and social wellbeing. We argue that while section 10 band membership is an important innovation in band governance, it must also be assessed as a determinant of health that, in some cases, has had long-term effects on those who find themselves caught in the space between membership and belonging. Given the above, further research is necessary to critically analyze section 10’s legacy. 


How does section 10 impact band membership and belonging? What impacts of exclusion does section 10 produce?

But while adapting to the colonial order may be a valid survival mechanism for a time, change is imperative if the initial adaptation has turned into internalized oppression. Instead of re-centering Indian status or other colonial logics such as blood quantum, among others, we would argue for membership codes that centre kinship-based approaches to belonging, or approaches based in Indigenous peoples inherent laws.


Damien Lee

Damien Lee

Anishinaabe, Fort William First Nation


Kahente Horn-Miller

Kanien:keha'ka / Mohawk


Barry Ace

Anishinaabe (Odawa)