The Indian Act of 1876 was designed to consolidate existing laws regarding the Native peoples of Canada into an organized and consistent administrative framework within the federal system. Although heavily amended, the Indian Act remains in place to this day. The Act of 1876 further defined the terms "Indian," "band," "reserve," and other words that had been employed in previous legislation concerning Aboriginal peoples. The provisions in place for enfranchisement of Native people remained largely the same, with the addition of terms that entitled Native male university graduates of the professions to immediate citizenship privileges. This latter provision was amended in 1880 to remove the automatic extension of of the franchise, instead making it available on application. Previously existing rules regarding band government procedures were also revised, with an electoral system established for chiefs and band council members under a three-year term of office. Previously existing life chiefs stayed in office unless they were removed from office by the government. Native voters repeatedly used the electoral procedure to maintain traditional chiefs and councillors in office rather than moving toward the democratic process envisaged by the legislators responsible for the Indian Act. The local band council was ostensibly responsible for the maintenance of public health and facilities such as roads and schools, but the local Indian agent actually controlled the funds necessary for the implementation of such programs. The goal of the Indian Act of 1876 was the assimilation of Natives, and the legislation sought to educate Natives in Canadian economic and democratic processes while retaining tight governmental control of finances and other meaningful aspects of Native lives. Aboriginal peoples resisted the assimilative aspects of the Act, while often effectively using the legislation to enhance the means of livelihood dictated by changing circumstances.

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