Severing the Ties that Bind: Government Repression of Indigenous Religious Ceremonies on the Prairies

1994, 303 pp
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Religious ceremonies were an inseparable part of Aboriginal traditional life, reinforcing social, economic, and political values. However, missionaries and government officials with ethnocentric attitudes of cultural superiority decreed that Native dances and ceremonies were immoral or un-Christian and an impediment to the integration of the Native population into Canadian society.

Beginning in 1885, the Department of Indian Affairs implemented a series of amendments to the Canadian Indian Act, designed to eliminate traditional forms of religious expression and customs, such as the Sun Dance, the Midewiwin, the Sweat Lodge, and giveaway ceremonies.

However, the amendments were only partially effective. Aboriginal resistance to the laws took many forms; community leaders challenged the legitimacy of the terms and the manner in which the regulations were implemented, and they altered their ceremonies, the times and locations, the practices, in an attempt both to avoid detection and to placate the agents who enforced the law.

"Awareness of the Indian Residential School System is growing amongst Settler Canadians, but our recognition of other facets of colonial oppression is thin. Not many know that, for generations, Indigenous people were criminalized for gathering in prayer, practicing ceremony, and redistributing their goods. Like the early church, they had to go underground to keep traditions alive. Pettipas provides an in-depth look at how the Canadian government sought to destroy Indigenous spirituality between the late 1800s and the mid-1900s, why many Christians supported the efforts, and the ways in which Indigenous peoples responded."

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