Reserve residences are a rare and wonderful opportunity to live in a secure community of like-minded individuals. With thoughtful design and a welcoming atmosphere, these communities offer everything you need to be at home and to thrive.
Historically, reserves were created with the intent to civilize Aboriginal people by providing them with a sedentary lifestyle based on private property. The concept of a reserve is rooted in the colonial drive to “civilize” Indigenous Peoples by introducing them to agriculture, Christianity and a sedentary way of life that would eventually lead to the Canadian Indian Act of 1876.
Although some reserves remain rural and isolated, the majority are now surrounded by cities and towns. Some of the most notable examples include Stoney Lake, Ontario and Calgary, Alberta, which have become urban First Nations, while others, such as Vancouver, are more like cities in the traditional sense.
There are a number of benefits associated with living on-reserve, including social support from your community and government programs that ensure basic needs such as housing, food and health care are met. However, there are also challenges to living on-reserve.
One of the most important and often overlooked challenges to living on-reserve is the absence of a strong social network and supportive relationships. For many, the lack of a strong support system prevents them from developing the skills needed to find work or build a stable home.
Fortunately, there are services available to help Aboriginal people on-reserve to achieve self-sufficiency and build strong community networks. These services include a program of last resort, Indigenous Services Canada (ISC), which provides income assistance to Aboriginal people who have limited resources and are struggling financially.
Another service provided by ISC is the Community Development Program, which supports Aboriginal residents in accessing government funds to make their homes and communities safer and more comfortable. These services are vital in preventing Indigenous families from falling into poverty.
While some Aboriginal peoples have moved off-reserve to be closer to family and friends, they remain at risk for violence and other abuses from outside communities. In addition, some have suffered economic hardships and have difficulty finding and keeping employment.
The most common reason for moving off-reserve is a loss of a job or an inability to afford to rent or buy a home. Some have even relocated to other countries in search of a better life for themselves and their families.
Nevertheless, despite these challenges, the majority of Aboriginals in Canada are still able to enjoy a high standard of living. Compared to those who live on-reserve, Aboriginals living in cities have higher educational achievements and lower unemployment rates.
While there are many benefits to living on-reserve, the most important is the safety of a community and the assurance of being a part of a strong social network. Having a strong community is an essential part of any healthy and happy life, and the lack of social support often leads to instability and other problems in Aboriginal communities. To help address these issues, the Federal government has set up a series of programs to support those living on-reserve in their efforts to rebuild their lives and create a stronger sense of community.