Page 1 |
Treaties assume the social and cultural equality of
Indigenous notions of constitutional rights extended to
those groups with whom they made treaties. Treaty-making was
a constitutional affair because it accepted a premise of
Nature’s Laws: all peoples (communities) had equal rights to
Turtle Island because they were all placed here by the
I had to look at diversity all across Canada and I had to
look at it like one of those bushes, that is, all are equal.
Sykes Powderface, Blackfoot, April 2003.
I am very privileged to learn from Walking Buffalo. I
call this "Indian Law"- it's the way we live. Language is
very important Language is very important; we run into a lot
of problems but the fact that we have leaders whose minds
have been conditioned by the White Man's thinking and that's
how they interpret the Treaties, it's frustrating. I am
concerned with First Nations law as it related to the
Treaties, that is what I am concerned with. Indians had
their own law at the time of Treaties-it was called the
'Supreme law.'(i.e Nature’s Laws) . A First Nation's
declaration signed documents that began with "We live by the
laws of the Creator"-these are our laws given to us by our
Creator. ...We do not live by hierarchy of laws; we are all
equal. Relationship to the land is important. Walking
Buffalo did not indicate ownership of the land; no-one owns
this land. Who owns their Mother? No one! How do we sell off
our Mother Earth or pawn off in a deal? Our young people
today have to understand this.
Language is important; English is a bastardized version
of nouns, with a large vocabulary. There are many different
ways to say one thing. First Nation's languages are
expressive with a smaller vocabulary. When our Elders speak,
the English used a distorted version of what the Elders are
saying. Trust, honesty, respect and honour are what guide
us; that's what guides this Natural Law we are talking about
today. Sykes Powderface, Blackfoot, April 2003.
For example, both pre- and post-Confederation treaties
recognize Aboriginal sovereignty (Prucha 1994, Wunder 1994).
A treaty is a formal recognition between sovereign entities
guided by the principle of consent. But consent is given
under specific conditions. Unfortunately, the treaties have
been textualized in the language of the dominant European
culture and we question the meaning of a treaty solely
through some kind of textual analysis to ignore the fact
that many treaties were negotiated in the oral tradition of
Aboriginal peoples (Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples
Fred Horse, March 14, 1975, Frog Lake Alberta
(Interviewer Richard Lightening):
Lightning: Can you give me your name, age, and place of
Horse: I was born here at Frog Lake, and I passed my
sixty-fourth year in January. I have been raised here on the
Frog Lake Reserve.
Lightning: Where did you get your information? Who told
you about these things?
Horse: All the old stories I know were told to me by my
father; he told me many stories. He also said that in the
future the stories would be needed, the people would use
them. I do not not know how he knew, but today people
approach me for this information. I am under age when you
compare me with older men, but they did not listen to their
parents. They, too, were probably told these different
things, but for that reason, when someone approaches them
for information, they are unable to provide it. For me, it
was different; I listened to my father; that is why I know a
few of the stories.
Lightning: The term "treaty" as used by the white man, is
it used in its proper context? The Indian understands it as
payment of money, is that proper? Or is it a
Horse: Yes, today almost everything is lost as it was
promised at the treaty; it sounded very good at the time. Is
that what you wanted to ask me?
Lightning: Do the terms tipahamatowin and asotamatowin
mean two different things?
Horse: Yes, they are two things. Tipahamatowin means once
a year, to last forever. At the beginning, fifty dollars
were promised to each person; after about six years, that
was reduced. They thought of a way to make the Indians
believe that the money was being put aside for them. Then
they received fifteen dollars per person; only the chief
continued to receive fifty dollars; but the rest of the
people, including the children, only received fifteen
dollars. Then after about six more years, they reduced the
payment again; the chief now was paid twenty-five dollars
and the adults and children each received five dollars. That
still exists today. The people wondered what happened to the
rest of the money. They were told the money was kept at the
government. Many people questioned that and today it is
still the same way.
Asotamatowin referred to the land. Of that, too, nothing
is seen around here. Even at my age, I have not seen
anything that has anything to do with asotamatowin. The
commissioner who came with the promises made it sound so
good. They even made their promises in God's name (Manitou).
He cheated Manitou the white man did, and all the people to
whom he made the promise. The promises were great-"If I get
this land, you will have some very good food on your table."