“Treaties characterized relations between Europeans and Amerindians from the very beginning. By the 1870s, however, the government saw them as the final, once-and-for-all means of opening up Amerindian lands for settlement and development by extinguishing Amerindian land title. The Amerindians missed this at first, because, by their custom, agreements were not necessarily permanent. Instead, they were subject to changing conditions that could call for renegotiation and renewal. Even pacts of peace and friendship undertaken to last forever had to be renewed from time to time with appropriate ceremonies to keep them ‘alive’.” (Dickason, 2006, p. 101).
Treaty Practices across North America:
Treaties have been signed ever since explorers first landed in modern-day North America. In many cases, they were originally viewed as agreements for a peaceful coexistence between explorers and First Nation holders of the land. In Upstate New York, the Haudenosaunee (originally known as the Five Nations, composed of the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga and Seneca Nations. Later the Tuscarora joined the Confederacy, becoming the Six Nations as they are now commonly known) used Wampum belts to create a tangible record of the agreements. The Wampum belts provided a guide for future generations to understand the details of the treaty agreement, similar to the European practice of writing down the terms to document the Treaty.
The first example of a Wampum Treaty is the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Wampum which signifies the agreement to democratically decide upon the actions of the whole, decided by representatives of each individual nation. The Haudenosaunee Confederacy is “[often] described as the oldest, participatory democracy on Earth, the Haudenosaunee Confederacy’s constitution is believed to be a model for the American Constitution.” (What is the Confederacy?, 2014). Two additional examples of the Wampum being used to record agreements include The Two Row Wampum (in agreement with Dutch exploders) and Canandaigua Wampum Belts (with the United States Government under President George Washington)(Honouring Treaties, 2014).
Other First Nations passed on terms of their Treaty Agreements via oral histories, which faced difficulty in the courts in gaining recognition as a legal record. Oral histories were not recognized as a valid method of record keeping or evidence in Canadian law until 1997. Although Treaties signed across Canada differ from those signed in the United States, the belief by the First Nations that these agreements were made as equals and not subjugates was held across both countries.
The Mi’Kmaq Treaties
- Predated the numbered treaties – some of the first treaties signed in Canada
- Often referred to as “Peace and friendship treaties”
- Guaranteed First Nations’ rights, including hunting, and fishing.
- This part of the treaty was lost, and often not honoured. Due to ongoing research in the field, this part was found later in the public Archives. This discovery has had a significant impact in later decisions made by the Supreme Court of Canada (Steckley & Cummins, 2001, pp. 130-140).
The Numbered Treaties
The numbered Treaties signed between First Nations and the Dominion promised a wide variety of items including, cash annuities, blankets, hunting and fishing tools, farming assistance, as well as educational facilities for the children. Reserve land allocation per community was also addressed in the treaties, with lands ranging from 600 square meters per family of five (Treaties 1 and 2) to 2.5 square kilometers to each family of five (Treaties 3 and 4). Annuity payments varied slightly as First Nations became aware of negotiations, resulting in requests for better terms of agreement. With the signing of each treaty, negotiations became much more involved, as First Nations were aware of terms reached in prior agreements, resulting in requests for more beneficial provisions based on what they agreed to share – their land. Unique inclusions for each treaty are noted below (Numbered Treaty Overview, 2014).
Treaty 1 – Stone Fort Treaty
Date: 3 August 1871
- Saulteaux (Ojibwa)
- Swampy Cree
- Others in Southern Manitoba
Treaty 2 – Manitoba Post Treaty
Date: 21 August 1871
- Dauphin River
- Ebb & Flow
- Lake St. Martin
- Lake Manitoba
- Little Saskatchewan
Treaty 3 – North West Angle Treaty
Date: 3 October 1873
- Saulteaux of the Lake of the Woods district
- Ojibwa of Northwestern Ontario/Southeastern Manitoba
- First of the treaties to include or address Metis adhesions and issues faced by Metis in Canada.
- Formed the framework for future treaties to include better value for lands, and included provisions for:
- Hunting and fishing rights
- Agricultural equipment and supplies
- Establishment of schools
- Banning of liquor sales on-reserve
Treaty 4 – Wu’Appelle Treaty
- Pine Creek
- Rolling River
- Wuskwi Sipi
- First treaty to recognize trapping as a feature of First Nations’ life
- Took two years to negotiate.
Treaty 5 – Lake Winnipeg Treaty
Date: 20th & 24th of September, 1875
Location: Berens River & Norway House
- Berens River
- Black River
- Cross Lake
- Fisher River
- Grand Rapids
- Hollow Water
- Little Black River
- Norway House
- Poplar River
Date signed: 1876
- Fort Pitt Crees
- Mathias Colomb
- Marcel ColombInvalid source specified.
- Plains Cree
- Woods Cree
- Included a provision to maintain a “medical chest” for the benefit of First Nations – became the basis for free healthcare.
- Provided for rations in case of famine, since buffalo had become scarce (Dickason, 2006, pp. 181-182).
- Last great gathering of independent Plains Nations (Dickason, 2006, pp. 181-182).
Treaty 9, 10 & 11
Treaty 9 signed: 1905-1906 aka. James Bay Treaty – additional adhesions taken in 1929-30.
Treaty 10 signed: 1905-1906
Treaty 11 signed: 1921