Tuesday 22 September 2020

Treaty 7 Day!

Treaty 7 is the last of the Numbered Treaties made between the Government of Canada and the Plains First Nations. 

It was signed on 22 September 1877 by five First Nations: the Siksika (Blackfoot), Kainai (Blood), Piikani (Peigan), Stoney-Nakoda, and Tsuut’ina (Sarcee). 

The following comes from the Canadian Encyclopedia.


Historical Context

"In 1870, the newly created nation of Canada acquired Rupert’s Land from the Hudson’s Bay Company. Rupert’s Land was an enormous area of land stretching north and west. One year later, British Columbia entered Confederation    based in part on the promise that a transcontinental railway would connect it to the rest of Canada within 10 years. In order to construct the railway and encourage future settlement, the government considered it necessary to extinguish Aboriginal title to the land (see Indigenous Territory). Bound by the terms of a Royal Proclamation by King George III in 1763, Canada was responsible for the protection of its Indigenous people and promised to preserve their rights to unceded (unsurrendered) traditional territories.

"The mid-19th century was a time of upheaval for the Indigenous nations that eventually signed Treaty 7. There had been repeated outbreaks of smallpox, and the buffalo herds upon which they had relied began to diminish, in part due to increased competition from Cree and Métis hunters (see Buffalo Hunt). At the same time, settlers from the United States set up trading forts and introduced whiskey into communities, causing significant chaos at trading forts. In 1874, the North-West Mounted Police (NWMP) arrived under Colonel James Macleod  and put an end to the trade. The First Nations were thankful and, by many accounts, came to trust Macleod. However, the extent to which this trust determined their willingness to sign a treaty has been disputed."


The Treaty allowed for the settlement of Western Canada by Europeans but it is not clear at all that the Tribes who signed Treaty 7 and the other numbered treaties realized hat they would be forced to give up their lands forever.

Again from the Canadian Encyclopedia.


"It is generally agreed that none of Indigenous nations involved in the treaty realized they were surrendering their land, and that none would have agreed to it had they understood the consequences. For the most part, the treaty did not have the effect the First Nations desired: Cree    and Métis hunters continued to trespass, the buffalo disappeared, and settlers continued to arrive. The promised support for the transition to an agricultural lifestyle did not take place, and in most cases the land was unsuitable. Only two years after signing the treaty, a local Catholic priest who had encouraged the nations to sign a treaty described in a letter to David Laird    their extreme poverty: “I have never seen them so depressed as they are now; I have never seen them before in want of food… They have suffered fearfully from hunger.” He went on to argue that, as to the question of whether the Treaty 7 nations understood “the real nature of the treaty” — land surrender — “my answer to this question is unhesitatingly negative.” There was, and remains, widespread feeling that the government has not lived up to its promises or dealt fairly with them.

"The difference between written and oral cultures — including the settlers’ favouring of written documents over oral tradition in terms of legality — has led many elders to claim that there were promises made during the negotiations that never made it into the text of Treaty 7. It is probable that this is the case, given the translation difficulties, differing cultural understandings of binding agreements and the haste with which the government wanted to conclude the negotiations. All the nations involved in Treaty 7 — now represented by the Treaty 7 Management Corporation — have since been involved in claims negotiations with the federal government relating to land surrenders, improperly performed surveys and fraudulent deals, many of which are still ongoing."


The Canadian Encyclopedia entry has lots more information on Treaty 7 and the other numbered treaties. Please check it out, highly recommended.

Thanks for reading.
Victorian Society of Alberta

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