The Treaties impact Canada Forever…
Canada has the reputation of being one of the finest countries in the world. The landscape stretching across Canada from the Pacific to the Atlantic oceans, to the northern tundra, and south to the American border are all home to Canadians. Many Canadians do not understand the impact of Treaties in Canada nor are they aware of the First Nations perspective on treaties. The British had a long standing tradition of making Treaties with First Nations, The Royal Proclamation of 1763, being the most notable Treaty recognized First Nations as sovereign holding title to the lands they inhabited for thousands of years. It was a common practice for First Nations to make treaties with one another for various reasons but the most common were for hunting, trading, friendship, and to end wars. Consequently, treaties were not foreign to First Nations, although the cultural and language differences are notable difficulties that played a major role during the era of the numbered treaties between 1871 and 1921.
In looking at Treaty 6 through this website, we have explored the process and the issues that have arisen through the Treaty. Canada has a continuing obligation to the First Nations from the Treaties. However, First Nations argue that fulfillment of the obligations have not been honoured in the `spirit and intent` of which was the understanding of the First Nations at that time. They also argue that they fulfilled their end of the Treaties by surrendering the lands to the government so that Canada would become the country it is today. First Nations gave up a lot in order for the government to move ahead, but the First Nations remain to benefit fully from the Treaties. The First Nations were at a disadvantage from the beginning, facing starvation and disease, and the westward expansion of settlers and developments on their lands posed major challenges of maintaining the First Nations way of life.
From the beginning, the government had control of the Treaty process, with very little acknowledgment if at all of the First Nations wishes and input. Yet First Nations leaders did negotiate the inclusion of the medicine chest and relief in times of calamity and pestilence within Treaty 6. The government set the agenda, where they would meet and sign Treaty, the terms of the Treaty, and what they would allow and not allow as part of the provisions of the Treaty. First Nations were at a major disadvantage from the beginning and leaders like Big Bear, Little Pine, Poundmaker, and Beardy`s knew that the Treaties would not sustain them and their people into the future. They knew that their survival was dependent on the Treaties, and leaders like Ahtahkakoop, Mistawasis, and Sweetgrass influenced the First Nations to sign Treaty as the best alternative.
As a result of the Treaties, First Nations contend that there are long standing grievances that remain to be addressed 135 years later. Major government policies like the Indian Act, The Natural Resources Transfer Agreement of 1930, residential schools, and so on have negatively affected the obligations of Treaty. Some of the more important grievances are outlined here.