What is a Treaty?
A Treaty is a formal agreement between two parties. The Numbered Treaties, which cover all of Saskatchewan, are formal agreements that created a relationship between the Crown and First Nations. As a result, each party has certain expectations and obligations, both explicit and implicit. The Numbered Treaties provided First Nations with such things as annuities, education, reserves and protection of their traditional economies, while the Crown acquired the means to open up territories, including modern day Saskatchewan, for settlement and agricultural and resource development.
First Nations and the Federal Government differ, however, in how they view Treaties – First Nations see the Treaties as covenants, while the Federal Government sees them primarily as contracts. First Nations believe that the Treaties are land sharing agreements, witnessed by the Creator, between two sovereign parties that established a permanent relationship. The Federal Government acknowledges their solemnity, but they view the Treaties as land surrender agreements whereby First Nations ceded their territories to the Crown. As well, First Nations believe that the spirit of the agreement is what is most important, including oral commitments, whereas the Federal Government believes the written text is what is most important.
When were Treaties negotiated in Canada?
Treaties have been negotiated in Canada between First Nations and the Crown in both the pre and post Confederation eras. Pre-Confederation Treaties include the Peace and Friendship Treaties on the East Coast, the Treaty of Swegatchy (Southern Quebec), the Murray Treaty of 1760 (Quebec), the Upper Canada Treaties (Southern Ontario), the Robinson Treaties (Ontario), the Douglas Treaties of Vancouver Island, the Selkirk Treaty (Manitoba) and the Manitoulin Island Treaties (Ontario).
The first post-1867 Treaty was Treaty 1, which was concluded on August 3, 1871 at the Hudson’s Bay Company post, Lower Fort Garry. Treaty 2 was signed on August 21, 1871 at the Manitoba House Post and Treaty 3, or the North-West Angle Treaty, was concluded on October 3, 1873, near the Lake of the Woods. The first of the Treaties in present-day Saskatchewan was Treaty 4, concluded on September 14, 1875 at the Qu’Appelle Lakes. The rest of the Numbered Treaties were concluded between 1876, when Treaty 6 was negotiated, and 1921, when Treaty 11 was concluded.
Treaties have also been signed in the modern era, with the negotiation of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement in 1975 and most recently, the Nisga’a Treaty, which was concluded in 1999.
Why were the Numbered Treaties negotiated?
Both First Nations and the Crown had a history of Treaty making prior to first contact. First Nations and Europeans continued the Treaty making approach with each other in order to secure military and trade alliances through ‘Peace and Friendship’ Treaties during the early colonial period and the fur trade. With the issuing of the Royal Proclamation of 1763 by King George III, official guidelines were established for the acquisition of First Nations land whereby only the Crown could enter into Treaty negotiations with First Nations. The British Crown then embarked on a series of Treaties with First Nations primarily in Ontario in order to open up areas for settlement, farming and mining.
After Confederation in 1867, the Dominion of Canada looked to the North-West Territories to expand and followed the precedent that had been set for Treaty making. Between 1871 and 1921, eleven Numbered Treaties were negotiated between the Crown and First Nations covering the territories from present-day Ontario to Alberta and portions of British Columbia and the Northwest Territories.
What were the Crown’s and First Nations’ reasons for wanting a Treaty relationship?
The Crown wanted to establish a relationship with First Nations because they wanted access to the land and resources of western and northern Canada. The western prairies were a large part of Prime Minister John A. Macdonald’s ‘National Policy’, which envisioned the west as an agricultural producing region full of European immigrants. Macdonald’s government also needed to complete a railway from Ontario to British Columbia in order to ensure that B.C. would remain in Confederation. The Crown was also afraid of the expansionist tendencies of the United States, who was looking northwards to expand its borders. If Canada did not settle the land in the west, it was conceivable that the Americans would. Canada and the First Nations also wanted to avoid the same type of Indian Wars that were occurring in the United States as the cost had been great, both financially and in lives lost.
First Nations had differing reasons for wanting a Treaty relationship with the Crown. During the 1870s, First Nations were going through a period of transition. Diseases, such as smallpox, were wiping out large numbers of First Nations people. The decline of the buffalo, the Plains First Nations main source of food, was creating starvation conditions in First Nations communities. The decline of the fur trade was also affecting the livelihood of First Nations in northern areas. With their traditional way of life slowly disappearing, First Nations saw the Treaties as a bridge to the future and a way to provide for their future generations.
What is a Treaty Adhesion?
The Treaty adhesion process was just as significant as the Treaty negotiation process. Adhesions were signed with First Nations throughout the areas dealt with in the initial Treaty negotiations and often continued for several years, sometimes decades, following the negotiations. Treaty adhesions were signed because some bands were not present at the original Treaty negotiations. For example, Little Pine was not present at the Treaty 6 negotiations at Fort Pitt or Fort Carlton in 1876; however Little Pine did adhere to Treaty 6 in 1879 at Fort Walsh. First Nations who adhered to existing Treaties are subject to the same conditions as the original signatories’. Likewise, the Crown is also subject to the same conditions and obligations.
From the First Nations’ perspective, Treaty adhesions are just as significant as the Treaties themselves. Treaty adhesions are sacred agreements that created an ongoing relationship with the Crown, just as the original Treaties.
Who benefits from Treaties?
Treaties benefit all Canadians. Two parties are required to make a Treaty, with both parties having obligations and benefits that derive from the Treaty. In Saskatchewan, the Treaties contained benefits for both settlers and First Nations. First Nations received annuities, education, reserves, as well as farming assistance. Settlers received access to farmland and resources, as well as the peace and goodwill of First Nations.
What is a Treaty Right?
A Treaty Right is a personal or collective entitlement derived from a Treaty. For example, in Saskatchewan, Treaty First Nations have certain entitlements that flow from the Treaties, such as annuities, provisions for land and the right to hunt for themselves and their families. Other Canadians also have rights that come from the Crown signing Treaties, such as the right to settle and make a living on the land agreed to in the Treaties.
What do Treaties mean today?
Treaties are basic building blocks of the relationship between First Nations and the rest of Canada. It is clear that in the past, First Nations and the Crown had differing interpretations on what the Treaties meant. In Saskatchewan, the Government of Canada and the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations have come to a common understanding about Treaties and are now using that understanding to reinvigorate the Treaty relationship. By building on the relationship created by the Treaties, the parties involved hope to address the well-being of both parties, including the entering into of arrangements whereby Treaty First Nations exercise jurisdiction and governance over their lands and people. Treaties are the building blocks for the future of the relationship between First Nations and the rest of Canada.
A few of the K-6 resource material links don't work. Where can I find the information I am looking for?
Some of the websites have changed since the OTC published the K - 6 books. There are a number of ways you can access more information on the websites. See ideas on how to access information.
What did the day of the Treaty signing look like?
We are preparing for National Aboriginal Day in Regina. Each classroom is focusing on a different aspect of First Nation’s people in Saskatchewan. My class is looking at the Treaties, specifically Treaty Four signed on September 15, 1874 in Fort Qu’Appelle. I’ve found a great deal of information, but I’m wondering about the day of the treaty signing.
I was wondering what that day looked like — was there a feast? Food served? Some articles I’ve read have indicated that it was in some areas a festive feeling, because First Nations people would have traveled many kilometers to be at the signing?
I haven’t found anything on “festive feelings” as the First Nations peoples were entering negotiations and were not convinced that making treaties with the British Crown was a good idea. They were not celebrating at this time. It was a time of thoughtful discussions, spiritual ceremonies and tough negotiations leading to the eventual treaty signing.
You will find Alexander Morris’ description of the discussions and negotiations in his bookTreaties with the Indians in Manitoba and the Northwest Territories at this website.
This book can be downloaded for free. Once you have downloaded the book go to the section “CHAPTER VI - THE QU’APPELLE TREATY, OR NUMBER FOUR” and read Alexander Morris’ account of what happened during negotiations and treaty signing.
Treaty celebrations are held in urban centers and on First Nations reserves today. First Nations people celebrate the treaties in different ways. Each First Nation decides on the activities that will occur at their celebration. Some activities include but are not limited to: parades, games (hand games, baseball, golf, etc…), traditional feasts, pipe ceremonies, and presentations by political persons on treaties in what is now known as Saskatchewan. The British Flag and the Eagle Staff are usually part of the ceremonies signifying the treaty relationship between the British Crown (now the Canadian Government) created when the treaties were made.
National Aboriginal Day is a great time to celebrate the treaties. I would suggest that you plan your celebration with the help of a First Nation Elder if you are going to have a traditional feast.
Where can I learn more about Treaties?
I've heard a little about treaties and I stumbled across this website. I was wondering if you could answer some questions: What is a treaty? Why was the treaty created? Who created the treaty? What happened in 1800s to provoke the treaties? Why were treaty negotiations important? What was a result of the treaty negotiations? How does the treaty effect Canadians today?
The answers to your questions can be found in the K - Grade 12 Treaty Kit at your school. The Office of the Treaty Kit will likely be in the resource centre. Ask your teacher to assist you.
Is there a misprint in the Classroom Resource Guide?
I am currently teaching about treaties, and am using the Treaties in the Classroom Resource Guide for both Grade 1 and Grade 2. My question to you is in regards to the Circle Book within the Grade 1 resource guide. It refers to the circle of the 4 directions, but has the west on the right side of the circle, and the East on the left side of the circle. I am just looking for an explanation to this, as it is opposite as to the typical teaching of directions. Is it a misprint do you think, or is there an explanation?
You are right you need to change the direction. It was an oversight when the booklet was produced.
- Where can I order a Treaty flag from?