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The Making of Treaty 7

Blackfoot Treaty 7, 1877

The Proclamation of 1763 would become the foundation for relations between the European newcomers and the First Nations Peoples within the land now known as Canada. It would also set the stage for controversy that still lingers in Canadian society today. King George Decreed: "And We do hereby strictly forbid, on Pain of our Displeasure, all our loving Subjects from making any Purchases or Settlements whatever, or taking Possession of any of the Lands reserved without our especial leave and License for that Purpose first obtained." Accordingly, to advance settlement on Aboriginal lands, agreement [treaties] would have to be "first obtained."

By the time Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Ontario, and Quebec formed the Dominion of Canada, the Robinson Treaties, Upper Canada Land Surrenders and Peace and Friendship Treaties were already in place. The treaties were based on this decree and the terms and responsibilities were passed to the newly formed Dominion. The first post-Confederation treaties were signed during the 1870s. The last treaty in that decade would be Treaty 7, encompassing the southern part of present-day Alberta.

From the government's perspective, the need for Treaty 7 became immediate when, as part of the terms of bringing British Columbia into Confederation in 1871, the Canadian government had promised to build a transcontinental railway. Huge land concessions would need to be offered to the company building the railway, and the existence of the line would encourage large-scale immigration to the western prairies. However, such a line would have to traverse land recognized as traditional territories of Aboriginal tribes.

For the leaders of those tribes living within the boundaries of what would become Treaty 7, signing the treaty represented the terms of the relationship between the Government of Canada and First Nations. It set out rights and responsibilities in perpetuity for both the tribes and the Government of Canada. Today the intent of Treaty 7, and all other Treaties of Canada's infancy, is the basis of large scale and ongoing litigation.

This section fully explores the setting and background to the treaty process. You will be introduced to the Treaty Makers, through biographies of the key players. The information on the Treaty itself, and the in-depth perspectives, feature a wide variety of opinions on the significance and meaning of the treaty from a range of scholars, government officials, First Nations representatives, and other experts.

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