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Métis and Non-status Indians
In Canada, the Indian Act is responsible for the legal definition of who may be considered an "Indian". The bureaucratic categorization of Native peoples cannot be ignored if one is to have a sense of the reality of contemporary Native society.
"Status Indian" is applied to those individuals who have legal status under the Indian Act and whose names are recorded in the federal register provided by the act. The Inuit are excluded from the application of the act, although they are "Indians" under the definition of the term in the Constitution Act of 1982.
The term "Non-status Indian" is applied to people who may be considered as "Indians" according to ethnic criteria, but who, for various reasons, are not entitled to registration under the Indian Act. In the past, Native peoples lost their status when they obtained a university degree, or when women married non-natives, or simply because they were in the woods on a hunting expedition when the federal registrar made a visit to their community. There is a long history behind the title "Non-status Indian."
The word Métis is used primarily to describe the mixed lineage of an individual with one Native parent. It is sometimes used synonymously with "Non-status Indian" to designate a Native person with no status under the Indian Act.
Historically, the term refers to the Métis Nation, a people who developed their own cultural identity, distinct from the First Nations and non-natives, while living in what are now the Prairie provinces, during the 19th century. The Métis gained a judicial recognition of certain ancestral and treaty titles in 1982, with the adoption of the Constitution Act.
It is under the terms of the Indian Act, and the interpretation that has evolved out of it, as well as other legislation and treaties, that three categories of Native Peoples can be found in Canada: the First Nations (registered "Status Indians"); Inuit (for communities in Quebec, those registered under the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement); and Métis and Non-status Indians.
Without identifiable communities, it has been difficult to make a reliable estimate of the total population of Métis and Non-status Indians. They are often found living in areas close to First Nations communities. In urban centers, their ties to their identity have been greatly assisted by the work of the Native Friendship Centers.
In Quebec, the Métis and Non-status Indians are represented by the Native Alliance of Quebec and the Association des Métis et Indiens hors réserve du Québec.