Treaties & Agreements

In this section, you will learn about Treaties and Treaty relationships, Inuit Land Claim Agreements and Métis Land Agreements.

Introduction

When considering Treaty education, it is important to understand that it is a lifelong journey of learning that is best undertaken with the guidance of First Nations Elders and Knowledge Keepers. Treaties between Indigenous Nations existed prior to European contact, and Indigenous People had an understanding of Treaty that contrasts in many ways to the written version of Crown and First Nations Treaties. There is much more to Treaties than what is written in the Crown’s version of these legal documents. The spirit and intent of the Treaty is integral to developing a more holistic understanding of Treaties. Spirit and intent refer to the unwritten oral promises as well as the spiritual nature of Treaties. 

Treaty 6, Treaty 7 and Treaty 8

There are diverse understandings of numbered Treaties. Treaty 6, Treaty 7 and Treaty 8 are Nation to Nation agreements between sovereign First Nations and the British Crown, and they predate the province of Alberta. First Nations entered into Treaties with a view to the future and in good faith. They believed that their people and generations to come would be cared for, respected, and worked with rather than against, and they never agreed to surrender any land. “Treaty-making was historically used among First Nations People for such purposes as inter-tribal trade alliances, peace, friendship, safe passage, and access to shared resources within another nation’s ancestral lands. Respect and reciprocity were foundational principles that resulted in tribal alliances among nations.”1 Treaty was not a new concept for First Nations — only the European ideas of treaties were new.

Sovereign Nations

First Nations entered into a series of treaties with the British Crown (later the Government of Canada) beginning in the early 1600s. The Office of the Treaty Commissioner explains that “The indigenous peoples/nations are considered to be the original inhabitants of North America. They were sovereign nations and exercised their powers to negotiate and agree to international arrangements”.2 At the time of numbered treaty negotiations lieutenant governors who were representatives of  the Queen of Britain would assist in negotiating with First Nations.3  During this time, “the Queen understood the First Nations peoples to be sovereign and independent nations with full title and occupancy of the land, therefore, it was appropriate to enter into treaties to fully acknowledge their title to the land.”4  Treaties were solidified through ceremony. Both sides entered into Treaty through ceremony as well as through the marking of an “X” on English written paper documents that were not translated fully within the First Nations language. Truth, honor, respect, honesty, integrity, family, reciprocity, and relationships are all integral to First Nations understandings of the Treaty and are inherent values embedded in the Pipe Ceremony that was included in Treaty negotiations. Treaties continue to be relevant today. First Nations always wanted to protect traditional lands, resources, the values of mutual respect, and their ways of life while ensuring peace and friendship. Treaties were understood differently by both parties due to differing world views and underlying intentions. 

Perspectives

A Cree perspective of “the treaties were based on the First Nations Peoples’ principles: miyowîcêhtowin (getting along with others), wîtaskêwin (living together on the land) and pimâcihowin (making a living).”5  Treaties provided both parties with the means of achieving survival and socio-economic stability, anchored on the principle of mutual benefit.6   “The Elders consistently report that the treaty as they understood was a peace treaty, not a surrender of land, and that they had agreed to ’share’ the land with the newcomers in exchange for resources to establish new economies.”7  Treaties as understood in relation to the concept of Wîtaskêwin, coexisting peacefully by living together on the land, were what First Nations were prepared to enter into with the Crown. 8   First Nations’ worldviews include the relationship with the land which informed politics, spirituality, and economy in contrast to  Europeans view as the land being something to exploited, controlled, and dominated.9  Language and knowledge transmission differences (oral versus written), as well as coercion and colonization tactics, resulted in treaty misunderstandings and unfulfilled promises.  

Numbered Treaties

There are eleven Numbered Treaties in Canada that were entered into between 1871 and 1921. Treaty 4, 6, 7, 8 and 10 are within what is now Alberta with all but Treaty 7 extending beyond provincial borders. Treaty boundaries are not confined to provincial borders, in fact provincial borders came into effect after Treaties were enacted. Treaty 4 (1874) includes the Cree, Nakoda, and Anishnabe. It is primarily in Saskatchewan yet extends into the lower southeast portion of Alberta and into Manitoba. Treaty 6 (1876) includes central Alberta and Saskatchewan and includes the Cree, Nakoda, and Anishnabe. Treaty 7 (1877) includes the Blackfoot Confederacy, the Sarcee, and the Nakoda. It is located in southern Alberta. Treaty 8 (1899) covers northern Alberta and portions of  B.C and the Northwest Territories and includes the Cree, Dene, and Dane-zaa. Treaty 10 (1906) is located in northern Saskatchewan with a small portion in east-central Alberta. The First Nations that entered into the Treaties did so for a variety of factors, yet all were entered into with a view to the future. Each Treaty is unique and reflects the concerns that Chiefs had for their people.  

Divergent Worldviews

Treaty negotiations were rife with instances of coercion and misinterpretation by the Crown, and the written text and oral promises often did not align. These conditions at negotiation, as well as fundamentally divergent worldviews, have led to ongoing disputes around unfulfilled obligations. One example of unfulfilled obligations includes upholding access to opportunity for healthy living (e.g. clean drinking water, equitable food access, equitable education, equitable health care, and peaceful coexistence). Many Nations have been successful in their court cases to get their Treaty rights recognized.10 However, gaps continue to exist in funding for services that fall under Treaty obligations, including education.11  Treaties are still in force and will continue to be “for as long as the sun shines, the rivers flow and the grass grows” according to the numbered Treaties.  To learn more about Treaties, connect with First Nations leaders through reserves or through governing bodies such as Alberta First Nations Information Governance CentreConfederacy of Treaty SixTreaty 8 First Nations of Alberta,  and Treaty 7 First Nations Chiefs Association

Inuit Land Claim Agreements

Inuit Nunangat is an Inuktitut term for the Inuit homeland that includes land, water, and ice. The Inuit homeland encompasses approximately 35 percent of Canada’s landmass and 50 percent of its coastline.12  The Crown did not enter into treaties with the Inuit, who were purposefully excluded as “Indians” under the Indian Act. On April 5, 1939, the Supreme Court of Canada unanimously ruled that Inuit were Indians according to the British North America Act of 1867 and therefore subject to the Indian Act. This made Inuit health, welfare, and education the responsibility of the federal government, although Canada was reluctant to take on this role.”13   In 1945, following the end of WW2, concerns over Canada’s sovereignty in the Arctic turned the nation’s attention northward, and many Inuit were forced to relocate to the high Arctic.14 Since 1975, Inuit have entered five modern land claim agreements with Canada under the representation of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK), which translates to ‘Inuit are united in Canada.’ 

  • The creation of Nunavik, which was done in two settlements. 
  • The James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement (1975) and 
  • The Nunavik Inuit Land Claims Agreement (2006).
  • The creation of the Inuvialuit Settlement Region: the Inuvialuit Final Agreement (1984).
  • The creation of Nunavut: the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement (1999).
  • The creation of Nunatsiavut: the Labrador Inuit Land Claims Agreement (2005).15 

Modern land claims are used where land rights have not been addressed through numbered Treaties or other legal means. The Indigenous People’s Atlas of Canada says that these agreements “are living documents that are implemented in a spirit of reconciliation and partnership, are protected by the Constitution and hold interpretive primacy over conflicting federal, provincial or territorial laws.”16  The 

Atlas continues, “Inuit are the original people of much of the land now known as Canada …Canadian Inuit are the largest non-Crown landowners in Canada.17 

Métis Land Agreements 

The Royal Proclamation of 1763 recognizes original Indigenous title to the land now known as Canada.18 The Manitoba Act of 1870 set aside 1.4 million hectares for Métis land grants intended for “the extinguishment of the aboriginal title.” This land was to be distributed to “children of half-breed heads of families.”19  The Métis were not included in Treaty negotiations nor eligible to receive Status under the Indian Act. The Half-Breed Scrip Commission traveled across the Prairies issuing certificates (scrip) for 140 or 260 acres of land or dollars, depending on each applicant’s circumstances. Applicants had no say in the location of their land, leading to a disconnection from home and community. Fraud was a widespread practice throughout the scrip process, and land speculators often deceptively traded Métis People meager amounts of money for their scrip or posed as Métis to get Métis land, leaving many Métis People destitute. In response, the Canadian government shortened the statute of limitations on fraud associated with scrip, effectively leading to no prosecutions or settlements relating to scrip.20  This ultimately offered free rein to settlers to strip Métis of their land and rights without consequence.

Many landless Métis began to establish homes and communities in ditches or road allowances, and they came to be known as Road Allowance People.21  In Alberta, the often destitute conditions that Métis People lived in sparked outrage among Métis leaders who established the Métis Association of Alberta (MAA) in 1928 to advocate for the rights of Métis in Alberta. They lobbied the provincial government to take action to improve living conditions for Alberta Métis. This led to the establishment of the Ewing Commission, which made recommendations that the province enact the Métis Betterment Act and eventually led to the creation of Métis settlements.22   The Alberta-Métis Settlements Accord (1989) was aimed at securing a Métis land base for future generations, local autonomy, and economic self-sufficiency. Alberta has eight Métis settlements: Buffalo Lake, East Prairie, Elizabeth, Fishing Lake, Gift Lake, Kikino, Paddle Prairie and Peavine.23   Not all Métis People live on Metis Settlements. To learn more about Métis rights in Alberta go to the Métis Nation of Alberta website  and access some of the links below. 

Reflection

  • How can learning about the Spirit and Intent of Treaties support reconciliation?

  • How are the histories and contemporary realities of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit distinct and unique in regards to the land agreements and disagreements they have made with the Crown and/or Government of Canada?

  • What have you learned /know about the Indigenous peoples in your district connection to Treaty, agreements, and claims? How will/does this support your relationship building with your Indigenous community?

  • What does the principle 6 of reconciliation mean to you in your leadership practice “All Canadians, as Treaty peoples, share responsibility for establishing and maintaining respectful relationships.”?

Related Resources

ASBA Indigenous Advisory Circle Elders discuss the importance of treaties and of teaching treaty history in our classrooms today.

Treaty Talk – Sharing the River of Life is a 50 minute teaching tool to better understand our collective responsibility to treaty. The purpose of this video is to build understanding, allyship and bridges for better relationship and work together.

This feature documentary by acclaimed filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin profiles Indigenous leaders in their quest for justice as they seek to establish dialogue with the Canadian government.

Ron Lameman shares his perspectives of Treaty 6.

Narcisse Blood speaks about Treaty 7 with interludes from the play “The Making of Treaty 7” interwoven throughout.

Sylvia McAdam shares teachings on Treaties from a Cree perspective.

The Office of the Treaty Commissioner (often called the OTC), started in was created to guide both parties through their differing view on Treaties, by giving recommendations for Treaty land entitlement and education.

Shows a comprehensive list of all the agreements made between the Métis Nation of Alberta with the Provincial and Federal Government. It also includes two videos that explain what a constitution is and what self-government means.

This video shows the historical moment when all three governments, Métis Nation of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario signed their Self-Government Agreements with Canada.

Scrip was an Agreement between Canada and individual Métis people that established land agreements. Unlike Treaties that were negotiated collectively, Scrip was a process aimed at individual Métis people as an offer of land agreements and/or financial settlements.

Build your foundational knowledge about Treaties and Agreements in relation to  Métis Scrip presented by Zachary Davis, Métis Nation of Alberta Lawyer.

Scrip was an Agreement between Canada and individual Métis people that established land agreements. Unlike Treaties that were negotiated collectively, Scrip was a process aimed at individual Métis people as an offer of land agreements and/or financial settlements.

Explore on how to teach about Métis Scrip in your classrooms.

Scrip was an Agreement between Canada and individual Métis people that established land agreements. Unlike Treaties that were negotiated collectively, Scrip was a process aimed at individual Métis people as an offer of land agreements and/or financial settlements.

Explore on how to teach about Métis Scrip in your classrooms.

This film is inspired by the work of the Making Treaty 7 Cultural Society, a group of artists, musicians, playwrights, Elders, and technicians trying to bring the stories of Indigenous and settler relationship to the forefront.

This book examines the influence that disease, climate and government policy have had on Indigenous Peoples.

This book provides oral accounts of treaty and has been cited twice in landmark decisions by the Supreme Court of Canada since its original publication in 1979.

This webinar series shares information and promotes conversation about the historical and contemporary issues that relate to treaties.

This section of the Indigenous Peoples’ Atlas of Canada explores the Inuvialuit Settlement Region.

This section of the Indigenous Peoples’ Atlas of Canada explores original Inuit place names.

This map shows the Inuit regions of Canada.

This document outlines basic information about Modern Treaties that Inuit have made with Canada.

This article and interview outline the history and implications of scrip.

This episode of CBC’s “Unreserved” features stories about the history of Métis People in Canada.

This document outlines the history of scrip, with a particular focus on the Alberta context.

This document outlines the history of Métis settlements in Alberta.

This webpage outlines the history of scrip and related terms.

This series of videos features Elders and Knowledge Keepers sharing information about topics such as diverse perspectives on Treaties, language barriers during Treaty negotiations, and Métis legislation.

The giant floor map and its accompanying resources are designed to provide a hands-on learning experience for learners. The map does not have any provincial, territorial or national borders, but instead focuses on the original territories of Indigenous Peoples on the land now known as Canada.

Zachary Davis is a senior associate who specializes in Indigenous law. He’s giving a presentation called Métis Scrip: A Claim Against the Crown and stops by to talk more about it.

This introductory workshop will explore historical and contemporary information and resources relating to numbered treaties within present-day Alberta. Educators will build their understanding of the acknowledgment of land and people, as well as our shared responsibilities to the land and each other. Participants will engage in dialogue and reflect on their professional learning in order to build capacity in treaty education.

In this book of poetry, the author restructures relationships and address obligations nation-to-nation, human-to-human, human-to-nature through his writings  that centre on Treaty.A treaty is a contract. A treaty is enduring. A treaty is an act of faith. A treaty at its best is justice. It is a document and an undertaking. It is connected to place, people and self. It is built on the past, but it also indicates how the future may unfold.

Inuit Nunangat Declaration on Inuit-Crown Partnership

This website hosts Inuvialuit,the Inuit of Canada’s western Arctic, which entered into a land claim agreement with the Government of Canada on June 5, 1984 with the signing of the Inuvialuit Final Agreement (IFA).

 

Treaties and Comprehensive Land Claims downloadable map.

Footnotes

1anada’s History, “The Numbered Treaties.” Retrieved from https://www.canadashistory.ca/explore/settlement-immigration/the-numbered-treaties.
2Office of the Treaty Commissioner, Treaty Essential Learnings : We are All Treaty People (Office of the Treaty Commissioner, 2008). 10.
3ibid
4ibid
5Harold Cardinal and Walter Hildebrandt, Treaty Elders of Saskatchewan (Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 2000), viii.
6Office of the Treaty Commissioner, Statement of Treaty Issues: Treaties as a Bridge to the Future (Office of the Treaty Commissioner, 1998).
7Treaty 7 Elders and Tribal Council, Hildebrandt, W., Rider, D. F., & Carter, S. (1996). True Spirit and Original Intent of Treaty 7. McGill-Queen's University Press. Retrieved from www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt80vm3
8Office of the Treaty Commissioner, Treaty Essential Learnings : We are All Treaty People (Office of the Treaty Commissioner, 2008). 18-19.
9Historica Canada, Treaties in Canada- Education Guide. Retrieved from. http://education.historicacanada.ca/files/31/Treaties_English.pdf.
10CBC News, “Federal government begins to make good on 100-year-old promise to Treaty 8 First Nations.” September 28, 2017. Retrieved from https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/treaty-8-agricultural-benefits-1.4312053.
11Christopher Dar, “First Nations Schools Are Chronically Underfunded. CBCDocsPOV. Retrieved from https://www.cbc.ca/cbcdocspov/features/first-nations-schools-are-chronically-underfunded
12Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, “About Canadian Inuit.” https://www.itk.ca/about-canadian-inuit/#nunangat.
13Legacy of Hope Foundation, We Were So Far Away: Inuit and the Residential School System (Legacy of Hope Foundation, 2013), 1. Retrieved from http://weweresofaraway.ca/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Inuit-and-the-RSS.pdf.
14Bonesteel, S., Canada’s Relationship with Inuit: A History of Policy and Program Development. 2006. https://www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/DAM/DAM-INTER-HQ/STAGING/texte-text/inuit-book_1100100016901_eng.pdf
15Bonesteel, S., Canada’s Relationship with Inuit: A History of Policy and Program Development. 2006. https://www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/DAM/DAM-INTER-HQ/STAGING/texte-text/inuit-book_1100100016901_eng.pdf
16Government of Canada, Federal Contracting in Comprehensive Land Claims Areas (2018). Retrieved from https://www.rcaanc-cirnac.gc.ca/eng/1100100032266/1544728444361.
17Indigenous Peoples Atlas of Canada, “Inuit Nunangat.” Retrieved from https://indigenouspeoplesatlasofcanada.ca/article/inuit-nunangat/
18CBC News, “Federal government begins to make good on 100-year-old promise to Treaty 8 First Nations.” September 28, 2017. Retrieved from https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/treaty-8-agricultural-benefits-1.4312053.
19 Collections Canada. Metis Scrip Records. https://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/metis-scrip/005005-3100-e.html
20h Kyle Muzyka, What’s Métis script? North America’s ‘largest land swindle,’ says Indigenous lawyer,” CBC Radio (April 25, 2019). Retrieved from https://www.cbc.ca/radio/unreserved/from-scrip-to-road-allowances-canada-s-complicated-history-with-the-m%C3%A9tis-1.5100375/what-s-m%C3%A9tis-scrip-north-america-s-largest-land-swindle-says-indigenous-lawyer-1.5100507.
21 Indigenous Peoples Atlas of Canada, “Road Allowance People.” Retrieved from https://indigenouspeoplesatlasofcanada.ca/article/road-allowance-people/.
22Métis Nation of Alberta, “Culture.” Retrieved from http://albertametis.com/culture/
23Métis Settlements of Alberta. “Alberta-Métis Settlements Accord.” Retrieved from http://msgcweb.ca/alberta-metis-settlements-accord/