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Virtual Museum of Canada The Making of Treaty #8 in Canada's Northwest
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1899 and After

"The Successful Pursuance of That Humane and Generous Policy:" Treaty 8 and the Introduction of Indian Policy To The Peace-Athabasca Country

Article Feature By Robert Irwin

treaty negotiations, little red riverOver 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.

For more information on Treaty 8 Revisited: Selected Papers on the 1999 Centennial Conference, visit the Lobstick website

Reprinted from with permission from Lobstick: An Interdisciplinary Journal. 

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