The primary goal of the government of the Province of Canada regarding its Aboriginal population was eventual assimilation. Attempts to "civilize" the Indians had met with little success, however, and John A. Macdonald introduced to the legislature An Act for the Gradual Civilization of the Indian Tribes as a means of accelerating that process. The Act spelled out the requirements for extending British citizenship to Indians.  Successful applicants had to be male, 21 years of age, literate in English or French, with some education, no debts, and a good moral character. As an incentive to achieve these requirements, the Act stipulated that a successful applicant would receive 20 hectares of reserve land in freehold tenure, i.e. individual title. The drawback of the Act was that the applicant had to surrender his Indian status, and the land grant was carved out of the communally held land set aside for his people. Although the government assumed that enfranchisement and free land would be highly desirable to Natives, the recipients of these efforts saw the Act as an attempt to undermine their communal way of life and traditional values. The Gradual Civilization Act was a miserable failure. Only one man, Elias Hill, sought enfranchisement and even he was denied the requisite land grant when his band refused to allow the expropriation of their land.

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