History of Treaty Making
Module One: Treaty Trivia (October 24)
Module Two: History of Treaty Making (October 24)
Module Three: First Nation Elder (January 16)
Module Four: Indian Act (January 16)
Module Five: OTC Videos (October 24)
Module Six: On-line and Treaty Kit Resources (October 24)
Module Seven: A Look at Teacher Resources (October 24)
Module Eight: Treaty Essential Learnings (January 16)
The History of Treaty-Making
In what is now Saskatchewan
Nation and Sovereignty
The following definition is taken from The Canadian Oxford Dictionary, 1998:
Nation: community of people of mainly common descent, history, language, etc. Forming a state or inhabiting a territory.
The following definition was provided by the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations – Treaty Governance Office:
Nation: A group of people bound together because they share a common origin and inhabit a distinct portion of the Earth. These people generally:
Speak the same language.
Have a common land.
Have a common history.
Have the same traditions and customs.
Have an independent system of government.
Have jurisdiction over matters that concern them.
Nation often refers to Indigenous peoples, especially in North America (e.g. Cree Nation, Saulteaux Nation, Dene Nation, and Dakota/Lakota/Nakota Nations).
The following definitions were taken from Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, “Definitions,” 2000:
First Nation: A term that came into common usage in the 1970s to replace the work “Indian.” Although the term First Nation is widely used, no legal definition of it exists. Among its uses, the term First Nations people refers to the Indian people of Canada, both status and non-status. Many First Nations people have adopted the term “First Nation” to replace the word “band” in the name of their community. [For instance, Fishing Lake Indian Band is now known as Fishing Lake First Nation.]
Band: A group of First Nations people for whom lands have been set apart and money is held by the Crown. Each band has its own governing band council, usually consisting of one or more chiefs and several councillors. Community members choose the chief and councillors by election, or sometimes through traditional custom. The members of a band generally share common values, traditions, and practices rooted in their ancestral heritage. Today, many bands prefer to be known as First Nations.
The following definitions are taken from The Canadian Oxford Dictionary, 1998:
Sovereign: Characterized by independence or autonomy, esp. Having the rights; concerned with or pertaining to independence or autonomy.
Sovereignty: The absolute and independent authority of a community, nation, etc.; the right to autonomy of self-government; supremacy with respect to power and rank; supreme authority; a territory or community existing as a self-governing or independent state.
First Nations explain their sovereignty according to their relationship with the Creator (Cardinal and Hildebrandt, 2000, pp. 3-18).
Sovereignty: The Creator gave First Nations:
The land on the island of North America (the Peoples' Island).
A way to communicate with the Creator for guidance and to give thanks.
Laws, values and principles that describe the relationships to the land and responsibilities for the lands given to them.
An interconnectedness among the sacred ceremonies, teachings and beliefs among First Nations.
Spiritual philosophies, teachings, laws and traditions that provided a framework for the political, social, educational and cultural institutions and laws that allowed them to survive as Nations from the beginning of time to the present.
The “gifts” they needed to survive both spiritually and materially through their special relationship with the Creator. These gifts are the life-sustaining and life-giving forces represented by the sun, water, grass, animals, fire or Mother Earth.
Relationships and symbolize and represent the existence of a living sovereign First Nations circle (humans, plants, animals and land).
It is the belief of First Nations people that this very special and complete relationship with the Creator is the source of the sovereignty that First Nations possess... First Nations see their sovereign political communities as originating from the Creator and continuing in the particular spiritual relationships that the Nations continue to maintain with the Creator and His Creation through their various spiritual traditions and their connectedness to the land.
Nation and Sovereignty
1. What definition of the term “nation” does the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations – Treaty Governance Office, give? Does it differ from the definition given by The Canadian Oxford Dictionary?
2. What definition of the term “sovereignty” does The Canadian Oxford dictionary give?
3. How do First Nations describe their sovereignty? What relationship is their sovereignty based on?
4. Why would the terms “nation” and “sovereignty” be important in treaty-making?
Note: A definition of Treaties is added for your information: Treaties: Solemn agreements between two or more nations that create mutually binding obligations.
5. The Dene, Cree, Nakoda and Saulteaux tribes and the British Crown were sovereign nations at the time of treaty-making in what is now known as Saskatchewan. (True or False). Briefly explain your answer in one or two statements.
The Formation of Canada and Events Leading Up
To the Numbered Treaties
Since time immemorial – First Nations people believe that they have occupied North America since the Creator placed them here. North America was home to First Nations people long before contact with Europeans. Each First Nation was distinct from the other. They had their own political, social and economic systems that promoted living in balance and harmony with the natural environment in which they lived. These First Nations entered into treaties with each other to consolidate alliances and share resources within each other's territories. This sharing of land was undertaken seriously as it was considered to be in the best interests of all parties involved.
The diverse groups of First Nations had various forms of government ranging from the very complex, as in the Six Nations Confederacy, to the tribal level of one chief and several headmen. The First Nations had/have their own political systems, social and cultural events, spiritual ceremonies, and economies. They had all that they needed for survival and did so for thousands of years prior to European contact.
First Nations people were well adapted to this environment. They were knowledgeable about the geography of the land, which made them adept at hunting and trapping fur bearing animals. They also knew how to survive the harsh winters. First Nations people had a special relationship with the land and respected all living things. The animals they hunted and trapped provided for all their needs. The land was their source of livelihood.
1497 – Italian-born English explorer John Cabot “discovered” Newfoundland and the fishing banks on the Atlantic coast. This discovery led to annual voyages to this area by fishermen from Spain, Portugal, France and Britain. The first Europeans came to explore fish and take whales only, they did not initially settle in the area. First Nations people on the east coast began trading with the Europeans.
1500s – French explorer Jacques Cartier was the first European to make contact with First Nations people in the interior of North America between 1534 and 1541. Cartier sailed inland on the St. Lawrence River and, having misunderstood a Huron word, Cartier thought this country was called Canada. He named the St. Lawrence River the “river of Canada.” English explorers Martin Frobisher, John Davis and Henry Hudson began searching for a north-west passage to Asia through the northern part of the continent. It was with the help of First Nations people that the first Europeans were able to survive when they arrived.
1600s – Europeans began to settle in North America and developed various approaches for establishing relations with First Nations people. The first major contact between the First Nations and the Europeans occurred within the fur trade. Beaver and a variety of other animal furs were valuable in Europe during this period. Due to their knowledge of the geography of the land, the wildlife and the environment, First Nations were an untapped source of wealth, which led to their involvement in the fur trade. They trapped animals and traded the animal furs for European items like pots, pans, guns, knives, beads, cloth, and blankets. First Nations were essential to the fur trade.
First Nations people did not only trade furs for European goods. Hudson's Bay Company records indicate that the Ojibway used many different kinds of trade items. In addition to animal furs, they traded venison, rice, fish, maple sugar, canoes, sleds, snowshoes, tents, fur pack wrappers, fat for candles, sturgeon oil for lamps, goose and duck feathers for mattresses and blankets, quills for pens, birch bark for shingles and spruce gum to seal roof cracks and to patch canoes.
First Nations women were just as involved in the fur trade as were First Nations men. The women made snowshoes, clothes and nets from twine for fishing. Women also served as translators and guides. Many First Nations women married fur traders and started families with them.
From first contact with European fur traders and missionaries, First Nations people died in large numbers due to foreign diseases, for which they had no immunity. Diseases such as small pox, chicken pox, influenza and tuberculosis killed many First Nations. Deaths of First Nations people due to exposure to diseases began during this period in the east and spread westward over the course of the next two centuries.
France established its first colonies in 1604 in Acadia and 1608 at Quebec. French colonies were created at Stadacona (Quebec City) and Hochelaga (Montreal).
Both French and British representatives began negotiating treaties with the Mi'kmaq, Innu, Huron and Iroquois nations. These early treaties formalized economic and military alliances, and established “peace and friendship” between the nations.
1670 – The Hudson's Bay Company was established. Two French adventurers, Sieur Des Groseilliers and Pierre Radisson, undertook an exploratory journey into what is now northwestern Ontario. Ojibway people told them that the Cree lived in rich fur-bearing lands in the north near Hudson Bay. The explorers could not convince the French to expand their trade business, but the British took up the challenge.
The British realized that if they claimed the Hudson's Bay lands they could move in on French trading territory from the north. Prince Rupert, with the support of King Charles II, set up a trading company, called “The Company of Adventurers of England Trading into Hudson's Bay.”
This company is now known as the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC). King Charles II granted a Charter to the new company giving it a trade monopoly over all the land that had rivers flowing into Hudson Bay. The Charter also granted a proprietary interest in Rupert's Land to the HBC. The Charter granted the company the right to trade, to make treaties and laws where necessary, and to defend its territory. Forts were built on Hudson Bay at Moose Factory, Albany and Rupert's House.
The relationship between First Nations and the British in what is now known as Saskatchewan began with the expansion of the fur trade after 1670. The negotiation process conducted between First Nations and the Hudson's Bay Company during the fur trade was based on First Nations protocol and ceremony.
1700s – British colonies were established in North America. New France (Quebec) was ceded by France to Britain in 1760 and their territory was divided into Upper Canada and Lower Canada in 1971. By the end of the 1700s, British North American colonies included Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Upper and Lower Canada. These colonies did not have a central government, but rather, remained separate colonies.
The Crown continued entering into treaties with First Nations in what are now known as the Maritime provinces, Ontario and Quebec. These treaties include the Maritime Peace and Friendship Treaties and the Upper Canada Treaties. Peace and friendship treaties were not new to First Nations since they, too, practiced this type of treaty-making amongst themselves prior to the arrival of Europeans. The British negotiated treaties with First Nations for the purposes of securing military and trade alliances, acquiring lands, and ensuring peace and friendship.
1763 – The Treaty of Paris ended the Seven Years' War between Britain and France. King George III issued the Royal Proclamation of 1763, which confirmed British territory and established colonial governments in British North America. The British policy of making “peace and friendship treaties” also changed after the Royal Proclamation was issued. The Proclamation established guidelines for treaty-making concerning First Nations lands. Only the Crown could enter into treaties with First Nations and the treaty-making process had to be held with First Nations representatives in public forums.
1817 – The first treaty with First Nations in the west was the Selkirk Treaty of 1817. This treaty negotiated by Lord Selkirk, secured land for Scottish settlers adjacent to the Red and Assiniboine Rivers in exchange for annual gifts and goods.
1840s – The Act of Union was passed in 1840 and one year later Lower Canada and Upper Canada merged to form the Province of Canada. Vancouver Island was established as a British colony in 1849.
1850s – British Colombia was created as a British colony under the control of the Hudson's Bay Company. Several treaties were negotiated with First Nations in Upper Canada (Ontario) and on the west coast including the Robinson-Huron Treaty, the Robinson-Superior Treaty and the Vancouver Island Treaties.
The fur trade began to decline due to over-trapping, a decline in demand for North American furs, and commercial harvesting of the buffalo. The impact of the depletion of game, particularly the buffalo, had a great effect on First Nations populations, by severely reducing their food sources.
1860s – The proposed sale of Rupert's Land to Canada initiated controversy over the status of the title to the lands in the Red River Settlement as established in the Selkirk Treaty. This controversy led to the negotiation of Treaty One and Treaty Two.
1867 – On July 1, 1867, the provinces of Ontario and Quebec (Upper and Lower Canada), Nova Scotia and New Brunswick united to form the Dominion of Canada. Canada became a country through The British North America Act of 1867 (the BNA Act). When Canada was being formed, British colonial political leaders discussed sharing and dividing power and jurisdiction between the different levels of government. The results are found in the BNA Act. The Act stated the powers each level of government would hold and outlined the way in which the government of the new Dominion of Canada would be structured.
When a government has power over a specific area, this is known as jurisdiction. Section 91(24) of The British North America Act is significant to First Nations people as it gave the federal government jurisdiction over “Indians and lands reserved for the Indians.” As a result, Canada has jurisdiction over and responsibility for First Nations people in Canada. First Nations leaders were not consulted when the Act was negotiated.
1870 – The Canadian Government purchased Rupert's Land from the Hudson's Bay Company for 300,000 pounds. The Company also kept a significant amount of land to sell on their own. First Nations leaders were angered by this news since they considered this area to be their territory. Rupert's Land was sold to the Canadian Government without First Nations consent, and conflict followed. This conflict frustrated settlement, as well as the government objective of establishing peace and security in the west. As historian John Tobias points out, this aspect of history is often ignored:
...the treaty process [in the west] only started after Yellow Quill's Band of Saulteaux turned back settlers who tried to go west of Portage la Prairie, and after other Saulteaux leaders insisted upon enforcement of the Selkirk Treaty or, more often, insisted upon making a new treaty. Also ignored is the fact that the Ojibway of the North-West Angle [Treaty Three] demanded rents, and created fear of violence against prospective settlers who crossed their land or made use of their territory, if Ojibway rights to their lands were not recognized. This pressure and fear of resulting violence is what motivated the government to begin the treaty-making process. (Cited in Office of the Treaty Commissioner, 1998, p. 19)
1870s – Extermination of buffalo herds commenced. Professional hunters were hired by the American government to kill off the buffalo in order to force the First Nations people in the west into submission through starvation. The hunters crossed the United States border and followed the buffalo herds into Canada. By the mid 1870s, the buffalo herds were becoming more and more difficult to find.
By 1873, British Columbia, Prince Edward Island and the North West Territories (including the present-day Prairie Provinces and the northern territories) had joined the Dominion of Canada.
1870s to 1920s – After Confederation, Canada set out to build a united nation. A transcontinental railroad was built to help unite the country. The nation's rich natural resources attracted industries. The Canadian Government sought immigrants to work in these industries and to farm the western Prairies. In the twenty years before 1914, more than three million immigrants came to Canada. This influx of immigrants brought the population to over seven million – three times what it had been in 1850. (Beers, B., 1986, p. 452) However, First Nations land had to be accessed before the west could be settled or a railroad built, so the negotiation of the Numbered Treaties began.
The Crown and First Nations people had compelling reasons to enter into treaty with each other. Canada was facing external pressures. The government was aware of pressures in the United States to extend the American border northward into
Canada. The Canadian Government feared that First Nations would form allies on both sides of the border and create conflict. Both First Nations and the Canadian Government were aware of the “Indian Wars” in the United States and the losses incurred by the U.S. Government and the First Nations.
First Nations people were also beginning to suffer hardship as a result of increased settlement, commercial harvesting of buffalo and other wild game, and high mortality rates due to diseases. First Nations wanted peace and protection of their way of life. They were hopeful that, through treaties, they could protect their livelihood and way of life.
The treaty-making traditions between First Nations and the Crown continued after Confederation. The Dominion Government, on behalf of the Crown, negotiated the Numbered Treaties – Treaties One to Eleven – with several groups of first Nations in what are now the provinces of Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta; and in portions of British Columbia and the Northwest Territories. In the present-day province of Saskatchewan, the Cree, Dene, Nakoda and Saulteaux Nations concluded Treaties Four, Five, Six, Eight and Ten with the Crown. The treaties provided a way for First Nations and newcomers from Europe to live together in peace.
Formation of Canada and Events Leading Up To Treaty 1. Describe First Nations’ jurisdiction prior to European contact and treaty negotiations.
2. Describe the relationship established between First Nations and the Hudson Bay Company for trading purposes.
3. What is the significance of The Royal Proclamation of 1763 and The British North America Act of 1867 for First Nations?
The Royal Proclamation
The British North America Act
4. Why were the First Nations angry with the Dominion of Canada for purchasing the area referred to as Rupert’s Land?
5. What events influenced the Crown to enter into treaty?
6. What events influenced First Nations to enter into treaty?
The Meaning of the Pipestem in Treaty-Making
First Nations and the Crown had different interpretations of the significance of the treaties and the use of the Pipestem in treaty-making.
The late Elder Jim Ka-Nipitehtew (Onion Lake First Nation) presented some understandings on the significance and use of the Pipestem at the signing of Treaty Six that he learned from his father (Ahenakew and Wolfart, 1998):
Well, I am very grateful of course that these our relatives who work for us in this place [at the Saskatchewan Indian Languages Institute] will have it [the Pipestem] as their witness of what these promises are which have been made to us; that they want for a person [i.e. me] to tell about this story, just as he knows it, just as he heard it in his own hearing. Just as I myself used to be told the story by my late father, that is how I am going to tell it to them. I wonder if I will be able to tell it exactly, just as he used to tell it to me. It cannot be helped that my memory, too, lapses, but to the extent that I know this story, I will nevertheless try to tell it to them. This, for instance, I will discuss first, this which our grandfather casakiskwēs has left behind, the Pipestem (p. 107)
He, my late father, used to say this, “Well, a certain old man had in fact foretold it, rising from his seat; then he had foretold it: The people must have something to rely upon as testimony, and we who are Crees do have something to rely upon as testimony, that which is called the Pipestem, that is all upon which we can rely as testimony” (p. 109).
That is why they had used that [the Pipestem], “In the future, when these things are discussed, this is the bible of the Cree which he held, swearing upon it in response that no one would ever be able to break the promises he had made to us,” thus then spoke these old men.
Indeed, thus now the promises which I have made to you, forever, so long as the sun shall cross the sky, so long as the rivers shall run, so long as the grass shall grow, that is how long these promises I have made to you will last; thus then our grandfathers have been told... (p. 113).
First Nations people had well-developed diplomatic and political traditions for negotiating and binding treaty agreements. A ceremony using the Pipe symbolized the seriousness and the sacredness of these agreements.
The use of the Pipestem in the trade ceremony developed during the fur trade era signified divine friendship and trust. This practice was carried over into the treaty-making process.
In summary, Jim Ka-Nipitehtew explained that through the use of oral tradition and its true practice, the Pipestem was used at the signing of Treaty Six to do the following:
To tell the story of the promises made to First Nations, since their grandfathers at the signing of the treaty relied upon the Pipestem as testimony of the promises that were made.
To explain that the Pipestem was similar to the Christian Bible and represents the “Bible” of Cree. When one swears on the Pipestem he or she would never be able to break those promises.
The promises made on the Pipestem were to be kept so long as the sun shall cross the sky, so long as the rivers shall run, so long as the grass shall grow.
Deanna Christensen (2000) described the perceptions of Alexander Morris, Treaty Commissioner, and A.G. Jakes, Secretary to the Treaty Commissioner, to the Pipestem ceremony and its significance:
Morris and Jakes had not understood the significance of the sacred Pipestem ceremony. The Pipestem had been unwrapped and presented to the Treaty Six commissioners. According to Indian tradition, in the presence of the sacred Pipestem only the truth could be spoken. Men must put aside their differences and work for good things (p. 236).
Christiansen portrayed the European perspective from the viewpoint of Morris at Treaty 6:
Morris in his official report interpreted the Pipestem ceremony... stating that 'after the stroking had been completed, the Indians sat down in front of the council tent, satisfied that in accordance with their custom we had accepted the friendship of the Cree nation' (p.235).
The Meaning of the Pipestem in Treaty-Making
1. What did the use of the Pipestem during treaty negotiations mean to First Nations people and Alexander Morris, the Treaty Commissioner?
To First Nations -
To the Treaty Commissioner, Alexander Morris -
2. What misunderstandings would these differing meanings of the use of the pipestem create between First Nations and the British Crown?
3. Why is the Pipestem referred to as the “Cree Bible”? How is this similar to the Christian Bible?
Treaty Promises Given at Treaty Six
As Recounted by Alexander Morris
(Morris, A., 1991, The Treaties of Canada with the Indians of Manitoba. Reprinted with permission from Fifth House Publishing.)
When Alexander Morris, Treaty Commissioner for Treaty Six, met with First Nations in Fort Carlton and Fort Pitt, he made many promises that would be contained in the treaty. He introduced himself as follows:
I am a Queen's Councillor, I am her Governor of all these territories, and I am here to speak from her to you. I am here now because for many days the Cree nation have been sending word that they wished to see a Queen's messenger face to face. I told the Queen's Councillors your wishes. I sent you word last year by a man who has gone where we will all go by and by, that a Queen's messenger would meet you this year. I named Forts Carlton and Pitt as the places of meeting, I sent a letter to you saying so, and my heart grew warm when I heard how well you received it. As the Queen's chief servant here, I always keep my promises; the winter came and went but I did not forget my word, and I sent a messenger to tell you that I would meet you at Carlton on the 15th of August, and at Fort Pitt on the 5th of September (p.199).
Below are some of the promises that Alexander Morris made during Treaty Six negotiations:
Now what I and my brother Commissioners would like to do is this: we wish to give each band who will accept of it a place where they may live; we wish to give you as much or more land than you need; we wish to send a man that surveys the land to mark it off, so you will know it is your own, and no one will interfere with you. What I would propose to do is what we have done in other places. For every family of five a reserve to themselves of one square mile (p. 205).
When the Indians settle on a reserve and have sufficient number of children to be taught, the Queen would maintain a school (p. 205).
We would give to every family actually cultivating the soil the following articles; viz, two hoes, one spade, one scythe, one axe and then to help in breaking the land, one plough and two harrows for every ten families; and to help you to put up houses we give to each Chief for his band, one chest of carpenter's tools and one cross-cut saw, five hand saws, one pit saw and files, five augers and one grindstone (p. 206).
The Chiefs and head men are not to be lightly put aside. When a treaty is made they become servants of the Queen; they are to try and keep order amongst their people. We will try to keep order in the whole country (p. 206).
The Queen's Councillors intend to send a man to look after the Indians to be chief superintendent of Indian Affairs, and under him there will be two or three others to live in the country, that the Queen's Councillors may know how the Indians are prospering.
I cannot promise, however, that the Government will feed and support all the Indians; you are many, and if we were to try to do it, it would take a great deal of money, and some of you would never do anything for yourselves. What I have offered does not take away your living, you will have it, then as you have now, and what I offer now is put on top of it. This I can tell you, the Queen's Government will always take a deep interest in your living (pp. 210-211).
I told you yesterday that if any great sickness or general famine overtook you, that on the Queen being informed of it by her Indian agent, she in her goodness would give such help as she thought the Indians needed (p. 216).
Treaty Promises Given at Treaty Six as
Recounted by the Late Elder Jim Ka-Nipitehtew
(Ahenakew, F. & Wolfart, H.C., The Counselling Speeches of Jim Ka-Nipitehtew. Reprinted with permission from the University of Manitoba Press, Winnipeg, 1998, pp. 115 – 119.)
First Nations people who participated in the treaty-making process at Treaty Six have passed on the promises made there through the oral tradition. The late Jim Ka-Nipitehtew (Onion Lake First Nation) shares some of the promises made at Treaty Six in an interview format. He learned of these promises from his father and began his interview with the following words:
Well, as I tell you this story, just so I, too, had it told to me by my late father; I wonder if I tell this properly, just as he used to tell me this story, it is this that I have told to these my grandchildren… Indeed this is all I know of the story as I have been told it.
The promise of a School House:
It is this school house which I have promised you, there your children and grandchildren will be taught; and then when they have finished their schooling, then when they are sixteen years old, then they will be released, and then they will continue to receive help, the students will be given a team of horses, and they will also be given implements from there (by the government). Indeed, they will be given cattle from here (by the government) to raise for themselves, with which to make their living.
The promise of a horse for the Chief of a reserve:
Indeed, now for you, the chief: you will be given one horse, for you to go around and visit your people, a buggy for you to use, for you to go around and visit your people with that.
The promise of medical treatment (Medicine Chest):
This then had been promised to the “chief,” as he was called. Indeed, now this which I have given you, the school house which I have promised you, that will never end, and this medicine-chest which I have promised you, you will never pay for medicine with which the doctor treats you.
The promise of an administrator (Indian Agent) to perform a variety of tasks:
Indeed, now, I have given you this agent to work with you; when something worries you, he will deal with it for you.
Indeed, now I have also given you this clerk, for that one also to work for you, to write things for you, to make written records; this one I have also given you.
Indeed, now another, now this farm instructor as he is called, for this one to teach your children and grandchildren how to make their living, that farm economy; this one I have also given you.
Indeed, now another, now this one will be called blacksmith; when your implements break, then for that one to repair them for you, to fix them.
The promise to meet basic needs and to provide for an interpreter at meetings:
Indeed, now that, your welfare, rations, well, in that respect now I give you a rations agent, that too, to look after people, to provide them with food, that I promise you also.
Indeed, now I also promise you an interpreter; where you are going to speak with the Whites, for that one to interpret for you.
The promise of community safety:
Indeed, now another, now for the policeman I have given you to pay attention to your reserve, where something turns out to be too difficult for you in that respect, he now will take up for you in these things, in running your reserve.
The promise that the Crown could not break the promises made at Treaty Six:
Only you yourself will be able to break the promises made to you.
In true keeping of the proper protocol for oral tradition Jim Ka-Nipitehtew ends his interview as follows:
This is all I know about this which they wanted that I should tell about. Well, that is all.
Oral and Written Accounts of Treaty Promises at Treaty Six 1. How did Alexander Morris’ and Late Elder Jim Ka-Nipitehtew’s record their accounts of the Treaty 6 promises?
2. List the promises the Crown’s representative, Alexander Morris made to the Treaty Six First Nations.
List the promises made to Treaty Six First Nations as retold by Late Elder Jim Ka-Nipitehtew’s oral account?
What are the similarities and differences in Jim Ka-Nipitehtew’s and Alexander Morris’s accounts of the treaty promises?
Canada’s Nation-Building Strategy and Western Settlement
A strategy of transcontinental expansion and consolidation was central to the creation of Confederation in 1867, and that strategy had a major impact on Plains First Nations. In the negotiations between 1864 and 1867 that led to the union of British North American provinces it became clear that Ontario would agree to join only if the new state was committed to western expansion. In the minds of Ontario business and political leaders, the West was the next frontier for their farmers and trade. They accepted Confederation on the condition that the newly created Dominion of Canada would acquire and develop the Hudson’s Bay Company lands known as Rupertsland. The terms of union on which the colonies agreed, and which Great Britain implemented The British North America Act (now known as the Canada Act 1867), included a clause that provided for the acquisition of the West.
The new Canadian government headed by Prime Minister John A. Macdonald did not begin the process of transcontinental expansion very successfully. Although the Dominion of Canada negotiated successfully with the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC), thanks to the influence that the British government brought to bear on the Company, to purchase HBC rights in Rupertsland, the acquisition went awry because Canada ignored the local population in the region, especially the Métis of Red River (the region around present-day Winnipeg). Canada’s failure to consult them led to the Red River Resistance, led by Louis Riel, in 1869-71 and to the postponement of the planned transfer of Rupertsland to Canada. The Resistance forced Canada to negotiate terms with the Métis-led Provisional Government, resulting in the creation of the Province of Manitoba and passage of the Manitoba Act in 1870. When Canada sent troops west to Red River in 1870 to establish Canadian authority, Canada found that the fact that they ignored First Nations caused them problems as well. Ojibwa groups in the North West Angle region of north-western Ontario objected to the presence of these foreigners on their territory, and the commandant of the expeditionary force had to provide them with presents to end their opposition and allow passage of the troops.
The Red River Resistance and the objections of Ojibwa in the North West Angle made clear to Ottawa an important point that it had previously ignored: Canada could acquire and develop the West peacefully and successfully only if it made arrangements with the indigenous populations to send settlers there. If there was any doubt about this, it was removed by further evidence of Plains First Nations opposition to entry into their territory by non-Natives that was soon forthcoming. Yellow Quill’s Saulteaux band drove out settlers in their territory in 1868 because there was no agreement between the Saulteaux and the Crown. Other groups in what is now southern Manitoba similarly insisted in 1870-71 that newcomers had no rights, such as cutting wood, without an agreement for their presence being concluded in advance. In 1875, Cree warriors from the South Saskatchewan region stopped the work of a government party laying the telegraph line and another party of the Geological Survey of Canada, an agency of the federal government, again because the strangers were on Cree lands without prior agreement. Finally, in the same year the Blackfoot of southern Alberta sent a message to the government that they objected to movement into their territory of outsider groups, including Métis, who were pursuing buffalo. All these actions and warnings by First Nations form the North West Angle in north-western Ontario to the foothills of the Rockies made the same point: the Crown had to secure First Nations agreement before it could authorize sending people into First Nations territory.
A factor that contributed to the Macdonald government’s sense of urgency to acquire the West was widespread fear of the United States and its expansionist aims. Macdonald in particular was intensely suspicious of the Americans, and his views about the desire of the American republic to acquire additional territory were widely shared in Ontario and Quebec. In the nineteenth century, most central Canadians regarded their own society as superior to that of the Americans, and they were opposed to closer political or cultural links with the people to the south. For Macdonald these fears had been made worse by some of the events that took place during the winter of 1869-71 in Red River. Louis Riel flirted with known supporters of annexation of Rupertsland to the United States, probably with the intention of frightening the Canadian government into negotiating with its Provisional Government. In addition, the American government had an agent stationed in Red River who supplied regular reports on developments in the Resistance to Washington. These things, which were known to the Canadian government, increased Macdonald’s fear and suspicion of the United States. Those concerns added to the government’s eagerness to secure peaceful acquisition of the West for Canada.
Once Canada was forced by Métis and First Nations resistance to understand that it could not carry out the western development contemplated by Confederation without making agreements with the indigenous people, it had certain strengths it could rely upon. Between the 1780s and 1860s the Crown had made treaties with a variety of Indian nations in what is now southern Ontario, culminating in 1850 with the Robinson Treaties that covered large territories east and north of Lake Huron and Lake Superior. This treaty-making tradition, which had developed as a result of Crown officers following the requirements of the Royal Proclamation of 1763 to gain peaceful access to First Nations lands for future settlers, served as the model that Canada followed once it turned to making treaties in the West in the 1870s.
And Canada recognized that both recent history and future plans made it imperative that it conclude treaties with western First Nations. As noted earlier, part of the Confederation deal among the colonies that joined was a commitment to acquiring and developing the West. This need took even more pointed form in 1871, when the Dominion fashioned an agreement with British Columbia for the Pacific region to enter Confederation. Among the terms of union for BC’s entry was a commitment to construct a transcontinental railway to link Ontario and British Columbia, with Canada committed to commence construction of the line within two years and complete it within ten. Construction of this railway through the Shield country of northern Ontario and the prairie region of the West would not be possible if First Nations opposition to unauthorized Canadian presence continued. The proposed Canadian Pacific Railway increased the pressure on Canada to ensure peace in the West by negotiating treaties with the western First Nations.
Once Canada had started the treaty-making that would ensure peace in the West, it began to put other parts of its nation-building strategy in place. In 1872, Parliament passed the Dominion Lands Act, which provided settlers with an opportunity to claim quarter-section (160-acre) farms for minimal fees, provided they developed the land for agricultural purposes within a short period of time. This legislation was necessary if Canada was going to attract thousands of agricultural settlers and place them on western lands to grow crops for export. The production of cereal crops for export was regarded as essential to make the proposed transcontinental railway economically sustainable. As well the railway would be needed to transport settlers to the western farm lands. Without a large settler population in the West growing crops and shipping them out by the railway to export points, the railway simply would not be viable. In this manner, the settlement policy embodied in the Dominion Lands Act and the transcontinental railway were logically and closely lined. The final component of Macdonald’s strategy that is known as the National Policy was the protective tariff that his government put through parliament in 1879. This tariff, which was designed to promote industrialization in Canada by creating a protective wall against foreign manufacturers behind which Canadian entrepreneurs could shelter while they developed their factories, was expected to develop more manufacturing in the eastern provinces. These eastern factories would produce goods that could be consumed by the hoped-for large population of agricultural settlers in the West. For their part, those western farmers would pay for the tariff-protected goods, such as agricultural implements, that they would have to buy by growing large crops that would be exported. The CPR was essential to the plan; it transported eastern manufactured goods west, and western grains to tidewater.
A fourth policy, which was not strictly speaking part of the National Policy, was the creation of the North West Mounted Police in 1873 and their dispatch to the West in 1874. Canada knew that it needed a police force of some kind to cement its claim to the region after it acquired it from the Hudson’s Bay Company, and it was conscious that it would need some form of authority to regulate relations between western First Nations and the large numbers of agricultural settlers that the government hoped would soon flood into the region. The Cypress Hills Massacre of 1873, in which American wolf hunters slaughtered a number of Assiniboine men and women, underlined the urgency of establishing a government police force in the West. The Mounties did function effectively to keep the peace for more than a decade after they arrived in western Canada. Very quickly they routed the whiskey peddlers and closed the “whiskey forts” that they had established in the Cypress Hills and southern Alberta. Moreover, they established good relations with western First Nations. For example, Cree and Blackfoot chiefs referred positively to the role of the mounted police in explaining why they favoured concluding Treaty 6 (1876) and Treaty 7 (1877), and the NWMP did not fire a shot at any First Nation people until the outbreak of the North West Rebellion in March 1885.
Although the three elements of the National Policy – western settlement, transcontinental railway, and protective tariff – were logically connected, their emergence was not part of some master plan of economic development hatched in the mind of Prime Minister Macdonald. Rather the National Policy emerged as the consequence of a series of adhoc decisions taken in response to specific needs. Confederation required acquisition of the West to satisfy Ontario, and that implied settling the prairies with farmers. The protective tariff was a political ploy used to gain votes in Ontario and Quebec in the general election of 1878. And the railway was a constitutional obligation that Canada acquired with the entry of British Columbia into Confederation in 1871. (The creation of the North West Mounted Police was a specific response to a practical problem – policing a newly acquired territory – rather than part of grand nation-building design). Although the National Policy did not develop as a master plan, its components did fit together and they did add up to a design for the economic development of the West and the Dominion as a whole. Western agricultural settlement would satisfy Ontario’s ambitions and make the transcontinental railway profitable, while the tariff would promote the industrialization of eastern portions of the new country. The National Policy had an internal logic, even if it did not originate in pure nation-building ambitions.
Canada’s strategy of nation-building had a profound impact on the peoples of the Canadian West, including the First Nations. The acquisition and development of the West was part of the Confederation bargain so far as eastern Canadian leaders were concerned. Although the federal government stumbled badly at first, provoking the Red River Resistance by its failure to consult the Métis of the area, Ottawa learned from its mistakes and pursued western development somewhat more effectively in the 1870s. On behalf of the Crown it negotiated treaties with the First Nations, while preparing for settlement by passing the Dominion Lands Act and committing the country to the construction of a transcontinental railway. Western settlement and the railway, along with the protective tariff of 1879, constituted Macdonald’s National Policy, a strategy for national expansion and consolidation that relied heavily on successful western development. The North West Mounted Police facilitated both treaty-making in 1876-77 and later agricultural settlement. Violence erupted in 1885 because of the federal government’s failure to respond to Métis complaints and Riel’s willingness to move from a peaceful movement of protest to the use or arms. What is striking about the events of the spring and early summer of 1885 is that the First Nations, who also suffered from Ottawa’s clumsy implementation of its development policies after the making of the treaties, did not join in the armed resistance to Ottawa. Plains First Nations in 1885 overwhelmingly remained faithful to their treaty commitments to live in peace with the newcomers. The numbered treaties of the 1870s were important in preventing an Indian insurrection and destroying the government’s policies for the development of the West.
Canada’s Nation-Building Strategy and Western Settlement
1. Why was the West an important part of the political unification that is known as Confederation?
2. What role did the Father of Confederation expect the West to play in the future of the new Dominion of Canada?
3. Why and how did Canada’s acquisition of western lands from the Hudson’s Bay Company run into opposition?
4. What did Canada learn from First Nations’ opposition to its western policies that it encountered between 1868 and 1875?
5. What were the origins and reasons for the adoption of the National Policy?
6. Why did many First Nations oppose the entry into their territories by the newcomers?
7. How did the Crown acquire rights to enter First Nations territories? How did the Crown acquire rights to enter First Nations territories?
The Meaning of Contract and Covenant as They Relate to Treaties
(Europeans’ Perception of Treaties)
(First Nations Perception of Treaties)
Agreement between two autonomous parties.
Agreement between to autonomous parties with the Creator as a witness.
Agreement to last for a specific amount of time.
Established a permanent relationship.
Meant to be mutually beneficial.
Meant to be mutually beneficial.
Rights and obligations for both parties.
Rights and obligations for both parties.
Is an understanding based on the principles of good faith and good will.
Written text and oral agreements.
The spirit of the agreement is most important.
Is signed and dated.
Sealed with a sacred ceremony.
Signatures of witnesses make it legal and binding.
The Creator as a witness makes it binding.
Terms are specific as to what has been agreed to.
There is a spirit and intent to the entire agreement.
Legal documents (the letter of the agreement is most important).
Sacred commitment for both parties (the spirit of the agreement is most important).
Can only be changed with consent of both parties.
Cannot be changed.
The Meaning of Contract and Covenant
As they relate to the Treaties
1. What kind of an agreement is made in a contract and a covenant?
2. What binds the agreements in a covenant and a contract?
3. Can changes be made to a contract and a covenant?
4. How are an agreement made in a contract and a covenant sealed?
5. What length of time is an agreement to last in a contract and a covenant?
Chart A – First Nations Expectations and Benefits from Treaty