"The great aim of our legislation has been to do away with the tribal system and assimilate the Indian people in all respects with the other inhabitants of the Dominion as speedily as they are fit to change.” - John A Macdonald, 1887
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Many laws affecting Aboriginal Peoples were combined in 1876 to become the Indian Act. The Act gave Canada a coordinated approach to Indian policy rather than the pre-Confederation piece-meal approach.
Here is a permission slip that would have be required to leave the reserve. Although specifically not a law or regulation under the Indian Act, the Indian Act gave power to the federal government and its representatives, like the Indian Agent, to implement and enforce policies such as needing a pass to leave the reserve. It certainly is something that not many people would have known about the Indian Act.