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10 Treaty Facts

10 Treaty Facts

Treaties are negotiated agreements that define the rights, responsibilities and relationships between Indigenous groups and federal and provincial governments. The treaty system was a means by which the Crown gained sovereignty, without military intervention, over the West in order to open it up for settlers. In return for pledging allegiance to the Crown the chiefs and their communities received promises (each Treaty is different) in exchange for the majority of their land. The Constitution Act 1982 reaffirmed and upheld all historic treaties made between 1701 and 1923, as well as modern land claim settlements.

The language in Treaty Number 6, signed in 1876 by the Plains and Woods Cree, is quite revealing as to the paternalistic attitude of the Crown. Treaty Number 6 is the only numbered treaty with a healthcare clause. It states “That in the event hereafter of the Indians comprised within this treaty being overtaken by any pestilence, or by a general famine, the Queen, on being satisfied and certified thereof by Her Indian Agent or Agents, will grant to the Indians assistance of such character and to such extent as Her Chief Superintendent of Indian Affairs shall deem necessary and sufficient to relieve the Indians from the calamity that shall have befallen them.” [1]

It also includes this passage relating to education:

And further, Her Majesty agrees to maintain schools for instruction in such reserves hereby made as to Her Government of the Dominion of Canada may seem advisable, whenever the Indians of the reserve shall desire it. [2]

And this in relation to “good conduct”:

Provided, however, that Her Majesty reserves the right to deal with any settlers within the bounds of any lands reserved for any Band as She shall deem fit, and also that the aforesaid reserves of land, or any interest therein, may be sold or otherwise disposed of by Her Majesty's Government for the use and benefit of the said Indians entitled thereto, with their consent first had and obtained; and with a view to show the satisfaction of Her Majesty with the behaviour and good conduct of Her Indians, She hereby, through Her Commissioners, makes them a present of twelve dollars for each man, woman and child belonging to the Bands here represented, in extinguishment of all claims heretofore preferred. [3]

And this in relation to “intoxicating liquor”:

Her Majesty further agrees with Her said Indians that within the boundary of Indian reserves, until otherwise determined by Her Government of the Dominion of Canada, no intoxicating liquor shall be allowed to be introduced or sold, and all laws now in force, or hereafter to be enacted, to preserve Her Indian subjects inhabiting the reserves or living elsewhere within Her North-west Territories from the evil influence of the use of intoxicating liquors, shall be strictly enforced. [4]

The topic of treaties is extensive - we don't want to overwhelm you but do want to provide some facts that we hope will inspire you to do some research or, better yet, enrol in our Working Effectively With Indigenous Peoples® training. It's a combination of our Indigenous Awareness and Indigenous Relations courses where you can learn more about the topics you have just read.

Here are 10 facts about treaties:

  1. The first Nation-to-Nation treaty was signed on August 4, 1701. The “Great Peace of Montreal” was a peace treaty between New France and 40 First Nations of North America. The Great Peace of Montreal was made between Louis-Hector de Callière, Governor of New France, and 1300 representatives of 40 Indigenous nations
  2. Many of the early treaties are described by the First Nations as “Peace and Friendship Treaties”
  3. Between 1760 and 1923, the British Crown signed 56 land treaties with Indigenous Peoples
  4. As Indigenous Peoples were strictly an oral tradition they were unable to read over the documents they signed; there may also have been a language barrier between the Agents of the Crown and the First Nation
  5. While the Europeans recorded the agreements in documents, the First Nations recorded the details in beaded wampum belts
  6. No two treaties are the same
  7. Early treaties were very simple whereas modern treaties can be 1,000 pages, including appendices
  8. While much of the central corridor of Canada is covered in historic and Numbered Treaties (1 – 11), not all First Nations have signed treaties. For instance, of the 200 bands in BC, 160 do not have treaties
  9. Ontario is covered by 46 treaties (and other agreements such as land purchases by the Crown) signed between 1781 and 1930 [5]
  10. Truth and Reconciliation Commission Call to Action #94 is an adjustment to the Oath of Citizenship to include treaties:

Constitutional recognition - Indigenous and Treaty rights

94. We call upon the Government of Canada to replace the Oath of Citizenship with the following: I swear (or affirm) that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada including Treaties with Indigenous Peoples, and fulfill my duties as a Canadian citizen. [6]

If these treaty facts piqued your interest, here's an interview with James Wilson, Treaty Commissioner of Manitoba on The Importance of Treaty Education.

[1] Copy of Treaty No. 6 between Her Majesty the Queen and the Plain and Wood Cree Indians and other Tribes of Indians at Fort Carlton, Fort Pitt and Battle River with Adhesions; Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development website
[2] ibid
[3] ibid
[4] ibid
[5] Ontario Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs website
[6] Truth and Reconciliation Commission 94 Calls-to-Action

Featured photo: Wikipedia

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