Abstracts: Treaty 8 Revisited


Treaty Eight – Context And Understandings

Olive Dickason

Abstract Not only was the signing of Treaty Eight in 1899 a crucial event for the people of Canada’s far northwest, it was also a landmark in treaty-making with Aboriginal peoples, covering as it did by far the largest area in a single agreement up to that time. Treaties have a venerable history in both European and Amerindian diplomacy, and this continued during the period of first contacts in the New World. Although international law clearly maintained that the first occupants of land were its rightful owners, Europeans were soon challenging Amerindian rights, marshalling a whole series of arguments, legal and otherwise, to prove their point. While the issue was fought on a number of theoretical points, legal and otherwise, the political reality was that European colonization continued anyway, with the Spanish proceeding for the most part by conquest. In Canada, the focus at first was on peace and friendship as trade was the primary goal; however, Europeans were soon seeking to set the stage for colonization. The Proclamation of 1763 reserved to the British Crown the right to acquire Amerindian lands. Land transfers, which previously had been individually negotiated, now required treaties. In the case of the Canadian northwest, Amerindians entered into treaty in order to protect as much of their way of life as possible. But the cultural gap between the negotiators was wide, and the influence of special interest groups was strong, giving rise to misunderstandings that continue to this day.

The Successful Pursuance of That Humane And Generous Policy:” Treaty 8 And The Introduction Of Indian Policy To The Peace-Athabasca Country

Robert Irwin

Abstract Over the last thirty years, historians and social scientists have written numerous important studies illustrating the spirit and intent of the treaty making process in western Canada from the aboriginal perspective. These studies ably demonstrate that the aboriginal people considered the treaty-making process as defining relationships between peoples. In these studies it is generally assumed that the Crown’s intentions were simply to extinguish aboriginal title and open the way to development of the land and resources. From the Crown’s perspective, consequently, the treaties were primarily proprietary and scholars have been critical of the Crown’s unwillingness to recognize the relational aspects of the treaty. This approach overly simplifies the Crown’s approach to the treaty-making process in the context of Treaty Eight. In order for historians to fully understand Treaty Eight, it is necessary to re-consider the Crown’s purpose and intent in making the treaty. This paper argues that the Crown also considered the treaties as an important instrument in establishing relationships. The relationship the Crown hoped to establish through Treaty Eight, however, was substantially different than that sought by aboriginal negotiators and generally conformed to the principles of the Indian Policy developed since 1830 as enunciated in the Indian Act. The paper also argues that the written text was shaped primarily by the Crown’s perspective.

Oral Traditions And Treaty 8

Tom Flanagan

Abstract  Aboriginal oral traditions of of increasing importance in land-claims litigation involving Treaty 8 and other Numbered Treaties.  Aboriginal litigants now routinely argue that the true meaning of treaties is to be found not in the written text but in the oral traditions passed down to Aboriginal communities.  Although the Delgamuukw decision dealt dealt with aboriginal rather than treaty rights, its favourable view of oral traditions may well be extended to treaty litigation.  Oral traditions, however, cannot be accepted uncritically ; they should be subjected to the same process of critical analysis that is applied to other forms of evidence.  The provenance of oral traditions must be investigated ; and their logical coherence must be tested,as well as their consistency with other sources of information.  If the critical process is omitted, the use of oral traditions will interfere with the search for truth in both historiography and the judicial process. 

The Fraudulent Treaty

Philip Coutu & Lorraine Hoffman-Mercredi

Abstract The Fraudulent Treaty is a modestly revised version of CHAPTER X from Inkonze: The Stones of Traditional Knowledge, a comprehensive history of Northeastern Alberta. The book’s unique research model integrates Aboriginal oral history with written historical records to relate Dene people’s ancient connection with the Athabasca. The Chipewyan people’s mythology and traditions confirm that they are the First People of the Athabasca; and therefore, the co-authors contend that it is in this historical context which Treaty No. 8 must be understood.

They Think They Own The Land”: A Media Account Of The Government’s Acquisition Of Treaty 8 Lands

Cora Voyageur

Abstract Land! Everybody wanted it – Europeans, Easterners, and the Government of Canada – but the Indians and Half-breeds had it. The government could not simply take the land. Canadians’ sensibilities would not allow it. As Canadians, we required affirmation (whether genuine or otherwise) that we had treated our Indians better and more equitably than the Americans had treated theirs’. There had to be a land surrender and some type of commodity exchange. It seemed the fair thing to do. Treaties were the answer: Government got land for European/Eastern settlement; Indians got Treaty Promises; and Half-breeds got a choice of either land or money. Everybody benefitted – not necessarily equally – but that is another matter. The Crown signed Treaties with the Indigenous inhabitants of the region we now know as Canada from at least the mid 1700s. In signing Treaty 8, one of a series of Numbered Treaties, the Indians and Half-breeds of the region gave up 324,000 square miles of land – an area about ¾ the size of Ontario. It was a lengthy process involving the Crown’s representatives (Treaty and Half-breed Commissioners ) and numerous First Nations leaders and Métis.

This paper analyzes media accounts of the 1899 Treaty 8 signing process. How did the media portray the participants and the events to its readership? Were certain people or events deemed more important than others? Did the Press help fulfill the government’s mandate to populate the West and support the Boosterism phenomenon of the time?

Bishop Emile Grouard And Treaty 8

Gregory Johnson

Abstract This paper discusses the missionary contribution to the making of Treaty 8 in general with a particular focus on Bishop Emile Grouard and his two accounts of the treaty negotiations. Johnson notes the competition for souls in the North West between the Oblates and Protestant missionaries did colour significantly the perceptions and reporting of the treaty talks and outcomes.

Global Context To The Military Exemption Assurance In Treaty 8

Wendy Aasen

Abstract Very little attention has been paid to the military exemption promise made by the Treaty 8 Commissioners in 1899, although we know from report of the Commissioners that: There was expressed at every point the fear that the making of the treaty would be followed by the curtailment of the hunting and fishing privileges, and many were impressed with the notion that the treaty would lead to taxation and enforced military service….We assured them that the treaty would not lead to any forced interference with their mode of life, that it did not open the way to the imposition of any tax, and that there was no fear of enforced military service.

The usual research question stemming from the Commissioners’ Report might be: “What could the Indian negotiators have known about conscription, given that conscription did not exist in Canada until 1917?”

This paper takes a fresh approach to the subject based on Grouard’s report of the Treaty negotiations. Using the Edmonton Bulletin newspaper for 1898 and 1899, I expand on a likely basis for local knowledge of world affairs. Highlighting some of the events of the turn of the century, I argue that the insistence on exemption from conscription may be explained by assuming that the Indian negotiators brought a general understanding of world affairs to the bargaining table and used that knowledge as a basis for treaty demands. From a global perspective, the question becomes: “Given what was going on in the world, who wouldn’t be concerned about conscription?”

The Imposition Of State Laws And The Creation Of Various Hunting Rights For Aboriginal Peoples Of The Treaty 8 Territory

Brian Calliou

Abstract There are various categories of Aboriginal peoples within the Treaty 8 territory, many of which have been imposed by external forces. There are also a variety of hunting rights, which may or may not receive constitutional protection. Aboriginal hunting rights are a complex area of law made even more complex by the imposition of laws of the state.

The concept of “imposed law” is used in this paper as an explanatory mechanism to assist in understanding this complexity. Law can be characterized as imposed where it is contrary to the normative order of those upon which it seeks to regulate or change. However, as Robert Kidder has cautioned, imposed law ought not to be narrowly construed as a one-way process where law is used only for purposes of domination, but rather, should be viewed more broadly as “an interactional process affected by power differentials”.

The relationship between Canada’s Aboriginal peoples with the state developed into one of unequal power with an external government imposing ideas and values upon them through the imposition of laws. As a result of the imposition of legal categories such as “Indians”, Aboriginal peoples sharing the Treaty 8 area may have differing rights and benefits. The imposition of political and geographical boundaries has also affected where certain hunting rights apply and where they do not. The imposition of certain laws has also resulted in the unilateral breach by the Crown of the promises made during the Treaty 8 negotiations, that is, the right to continue their traditional livelihood as before.

The author analyzes the legal categories of the various Aboriginal groups within the Treaty 8 and proceeds to analyze the variety of hunting rights. He argues that Aboriginal persons have at times embraced the imposed legal and political systems as tools for the protection of their rights to continue their traditional livelihoods.

Comments On Interpretations Of ‘Entitlement Land’

Theresa A. Ferguson

Abstract This paper raises questions concerning the generally accepted interpretations of the concept of entitlement land in the treaty land entitlement process. First, the documentation available on the treaty process and the land selection process show little real communication of the land quantum of 128 acres per person and indeed reveal that First Nations thought their reserves would be much larger. Any land negotiations based on this lack of a meeting of minds should take this into consideration. Second, during the land selection process, the government of Canada expressed ideas about, not just a land quantum, but the kind of resources which should be part of treaty entitlement land, notably agricultural resources. This idea led to the occasional inclusion within a reserve of land which by virtue of its lack of resources was not then considered entitlement land. Today it is assumed that all reserve land is entitlement land, but historically this was not so. This paper cautions First Nations considering treaty land entitlement claims to analyze carefully the survey reports for indications the surveyor was making such a distinction.

Protecting Their Inheritance”: The Swan River Reserve, 1920 – 1938

Donald Wetherell

Abstract During the negotiation of Treaty 8, the Treaty Commissioners observed that Indians would never be landless because they would have reservations where they could live unmolested by white society and from where they could pursue an independent economic life. Despite such pledges, the Indian Act and the policies of the Department of Indian Affairs allowed (and at times encouraged) the sale of reservation land. Indeed, during the 1920s most reservations in the Peace River country were sold. This was a common pattern in prairie Canada where reservations with good farm land or where land was wanted for urban expansion were often sold. The Indians were then moved to other locations or were concentrated on remaining reservations.

In some cases, First Nations people were able to block the sale of reservation land. One case of this was at Swan River reserve where Indian Affairs, prompted by demands by local and provincial Euro-Canadian interests, promoted the sale of the reserve. Even so, Indian Affairs’ efforts to sell the reserve over a 15 year period ended in failure because of the resistance by the reserve’s residents to the sale of their land. While their ability to preserve the territorial integrity of their reserve demonstrated the complexity and variety of Indian-state relations, it also showed that Aboriginal people were not always passive in the face of the changes that took place in northern Alberta after 1899.

Distinction Without A Difference? Treaty And Scrip In 1899″

Neil Reddekopp & Patricia Bartko

Abstract The Treaty 8 and Athabasca Scrip Commissioners who visited northern Alberta in 1899 anticipated that they would meet and believed that they had met two distinct groups – Indians to whom treaty would be offered and Métis to whom scrip would be issued. It was believed that Indians and Métis were distinguished not only by ancestry, but also by employment and preferred forms of land tenure. Historical and genealogical evidence suggests, however, that these assumptions were of limited value. But, however real the similarities were between those who entered treaty and those who applied for scrip, the legal distinction between the two groups would assume considerable importance as early as the 1920s and continues to be of significance today.

Taking Treaty 8 Scrip, 1899-1900: A Quantitative Portrait Of Northern Alberta Métis Communities

Gerhard Ens

Abstract This paper briefly explains the background to the Treaty 8 Scrip Commissions, and how scrip policy was amended to suit the demands of the Métis who lived in the Treaty 8 region. It argues that the issuance of Métis Scrip in conjunction with the signing of Treaty 8 was a direct result of the demands of the Métis of northern Alberta. The paper then uses these scrip applications as life histories to examine the nature of the Métis populations in Northern Alberta at the turn of the 20th century. It was found, however, that the use of these applications in this manner has some limitations as Métis applying for scrip in the Treaty 8 area represented only the youngest adult generation and their children. The paper concludes that Métis adaptations to the economic conditions of northern Alberta was very opportunistic and sophisticated. While no one single model fits the diverse communities that existed in the Treaty 8 area, all followed a very flexible subsistence and wage earning strategy. These occupational strategies, combined with the fact that few Métis farmed exclusively, made the choice of money scrip the most rational course of action. Contrary to most of the recent scholarship, the paper also argues that the Métis of Northern Alberta were not as an indigenous population as previously thought; that there had been a significant Métis migration into Northern Alberta from southern Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba.

Lesser Slave Lake Aboriginal Population Circa 1899 – “The Community Quandary – Choosing Between Treaty & Scrip”

Patricia Bartko

Abstract In 1899 the Metis in the area of Treaty 8 had a choice between taking treaty and taking scrip. This paper examines the factors which went, first into the identification of the population as “Indian” or Metis and secondly, the factors which likely accounted for scrip being selected gy the majority of those identified as Metis. It is argued that the initial identification of the population as Metis or “Indians” by the NWMP or HBC was based in part on faulty premises and likely overstated the Metis population. The selection of scrip by the Metis is then examined and the factors which likely went into this selection discussed.

Overcoming The Differences of Treaty And Scrip: The Community Development Program In Fort Chipewyan

Patricia McCormack

Abstract The parallel processes of treaty and scrip erected a rigid boundary between “status Indians” and other Aboriginal peoples of the Treaty 8 region. The Indian Act imposed an additional set of boundaries within the broad category of “status Indian” by creating legal “Indian bands.” These formal distinctions strengthened the localized Aboriginal identities constructed by the Indian band system and weakened the ability of broader collectivities of Aboriginal people to speak with a common voice. Nevertheless, people in local communities recognized that they had common interests and sometimes tried to surmount these artificial divisions.

This paper considers one such instance in the community of Fort Chipewyan, the home of two Indian bands (one Chipewyan, one Cree) and a Métis population that is socially and ethnically diverse. During the 1950s-60s, most Chipewyans and Crees, who had previously lived in bush settlements, relocated to Fort Chipewyan, initiating a period in which they and the long-term Métis residents began to establish a new social community in the context of a deteriorating economy. One tool they used was the new, government-initiated Community Development Program, supported by resident Community Development officers who encouraged a collaborative approach.

Methodological Issues In Paylist Analysis

Theresa A. Ferguson & Neil Reddekopp

Abstract This paper provides a brief outline of the paylist analysis methodology through which population of a Band at the Date of First Survey is reconstructed. It then proceeds to evaluate the sources of error common to the Treaty Eight paylists which affect any such population reconstruction. Two general categories of error are discussed: the more inadvertent ones introduced by Indian Agents who were unfamiliar with the band for which they were providing a census; and the deliberate falsification of the paylists by one Agent for fraudulent purposes. Means to identify and correct such errors are discussed and the implications of the latter falsification of paylists are outlined for treaty and entitlement claims.

The Indian Agents of Fort Chipewyan: An Example Of Treaty 8 Administration

Patrick Mackenzie

Abstract Throughout most of western Canada Indian agents played an active role in the attempted assimilation of native people into the mainstream of Canadian society. With power over many aspects of the native people’s lives, including travel privileges and food rations, most agents established themselves as “patrons” over their Status Indian “clients”. They used this position to force their clients to adopt Christian, agrarian values and behaviours in exchange for such favours as patron might grant.

The Indian agents in the Treaty 8 community of Fort Chipewyan followed a very different pattern. First of all, the first few agents did not establish patron-client relationships with their “charges”. The one who did try had mixed success at best. In addition, in the Treaty 8 region the government was less concerned with assimilating the native population than with helping them to remain financially independent. In the northern context this meant supporting the fur trade. The agents at Fort Chipewyan used their powers to interpret laws to fit the local situation and support the Cree and Chipewyan people. While they had some success on the local level, They could not protect the native hunters and trappers from the outside forces that threatened their way of life.