No. 160: Treaty Number 8, Part Two: Finding Leaders and Electing Chiefs
Unlike their brothers on the plains, the natives of the boreal forest did not have chiefs.
So, as historian David Leonard explains, the government of Canada had some legwork to do before it could negotiate Treaty Number 8 with the people of what is now northern Alberta.
A year before the treaty was signed, in the summer of 1898, the government advised the priests - both Anglican and Roman Catholic - the police, that were in the area at Lesser Slave Lake and in Peace River in 1898, and traders sometimes, as well, to speak to the people and tell them what great benefit a treaty would be.
And in the course of persuading these people that treaty was a good idea, they advised them they were going to have to elect a chief, or someone to speak on their behalf for the negotiations that were going to come next year.
Then, a few weeks before the appointed time for the treaty negotiation, Commissioner James Ross went up to Lesser Slave Lake to make sure the native people had elected their chiefs.
In most of these areas where treaty was taken, it would be a local influential person, a person of high respect, like it was at Lesser Slave Lake with Kinosayoo and Moostoos, and Duncan Tustawits at Peace River Crossing, and Ambroise Tete Noir at Fort Vermilion, and Pierre Squirrel up at Slave River, and Alex Leviolette at Fort Chipewyan, and Maurice Piché at Fond du Lac.
And they were all community leaders of sorts. And, as a result, their leadership was respected, and when they inscribed their 'X' on the critical document, this was respected in later generations as these people having spoken for the people that were around then.
In the year leading up to June of 1899, there was much discussion in the north about the possibility of a treaty, and not all of it was positive.
On the Heritage Trail,
I'm Cheryl Croucher.