The Making of Treaty 6
Following France’s surrender of its North American lands to England in the Treaty of
Paris, King George III needed to strengthen England’s control over its new territory. He
therefore decreed in the
Royal Proclamation of 1763: "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." In other words, for settlers to move onto Aboriginal
lands, an agreement — in the form of a treaty — would have to "first [be] obtained" from the
First Peoples of that land. This proclamation set the stage for relations between European
newcomers and the First Peoples of the land now known as Canada.
By the time Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Ontario, and Quebec formed the Dominion of Canada
at Confederation in 1867, the Robinson Treaties, Upper Canada Land Surrenders, and Peace and
Friendship Treaties were already in place. After Confederation, the terms and responsibilities
outlined in the Royal Proclamation were passed from the British Crown to the newly formed
Dominion of Canada.
The young Dominion was well aware that American interests were expanding north,
looking towards the vast, largely unclaimed Northwest Territories. British controlled
settlement of northwest land was vital to ensure control of the region. The first
post-Confederation treaties were signed during the 1870s, when, as part of the terms
of bringing the province of British Columbia into the Dominion, the Canadian government
promised to build a transcontinental railway within ten years. Huge land concessions
were needed by the railway company, and the railway line would also encourage large-scale
immigration of settlers to the prairies. However, such a line would have to traverse
land previously recognized as belonging to the Aboriginal Peoples.
In the case of the Treaty 6 territories, the slow pace adopted by the government to
negotiate a treaty was inadequate in keeping up with the swift changes taking place in
the Saskatchewan River country. The need for negotiation between the government and the
Aboriginals was painfully obvious to the bands, government officials, merchants, and
missionaries in the area, all of whom pressed for treaty-making long before the Dominion
Government gave its consent in 1876.
For the leaders of those bands living within the boundaries of what would become
Treaty 6, signing the treaty represented the terms of the relationship between the
Government of Canada and the First Nations. It set out the rights and responsibilities
for both the bands and the government. Today the contents of Treaty 6, and all of the
Numbered Treaties, are the basis of much large scale, and ongoing litigation.
Feature Video: "Treaty Negotiation in Canada: The Beginnings"
The Heritage Community Foundation, with the kind permission of the Treaty Policy Directorate of the
Department of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, is pleased to present this feature excerpt from the
video Cede, Yield, and Surrender: A History of Indian Treaties in Canada.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, the end of the wars between French and English colonial powers in
Canada led to the English King George III creating the Royal Proclamation of 1763. Aside from defining
the new order in British controlled North America, the Proclamation also laid the foundations for later
land treaty agreements between the British Crown and the First Nations peoples of North America.
Treaty 7 website