The term Status Indian refers to First Nations of Canada. Status Indian should not to be confused with South Asians from Indian subcontinent. A Status Indian is a Native person who is registered under the Indian Act as an Indian, and a non-status Indian is one whose ancestors were never registered or who lost status for various reasons. Status Indians are wards of the Canadian federal government, a paternalistic legal relationship that illustrates the historical imperial notion that Aboriginal peoples are “children” requiring control and direction to bring them into more “civilized” colonial ways of life.
Women and their children lost status as Status Indian, for example, when they married a non-Native man or a Native man who did not have status as Status Indian. Under Bill C-31 (1985) these people have been able to regain their status. Court decision are beginning to make the distinction between status and non-status Indians less significant.
The Indian Act, is a Canadian statute that concerns registered Indians, their bands, and the system of Indian reserves. The Indian Act was enacted in 1876 by the Parliament of Canada under the provisions of Section 91(24) of the Constitution Act, 1867, which provides Canada's federal government exclusive authority to legislate in relation to "Indians and Lands Reserved for Indians."
Aboriginal peoples in Canada who are classified as “Status Indians” are registered under the Indian Act on the Indian Register– a central registry maintained by Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC). Status Indians are issued a status card that contains information about their identity, their band, and their registration number.
A Non-Status Indian is a legal term in Canada, referring to any First Nations individual who for whatever reason is not registered with the Federal government, and/or is not registered to a band which signed a Treaty with the Crown.