The government saw the First Nations people as an unrefined people who needed to be assimilated, and
eventually extinguished. They were thought to be pagans and their language, ceremonies and culture, believed to be outpourings of these pagan beliefs, were to be taken away. Most bands of First Nations people believed the treaties would help them to adjust to a new way of living as times changed, and that they would continue to live on their land as
though the treaties had never been signed. This was not to be the case.
These treaties consisted of much negotiation, and even then there was often confusion about what each was entitled to, especially on the part of the First Nations people. Much confusion stemmed from the fact that different "settlements" were offered: the native people were to choose between land in common, land
in severalty, or
scrip. Often, what the people got and what they thought they were getting were two different things.
Formal agreements were often not written down, and much was read into what the "Spirit and Intent of the Treaty" dictated. Oral traditions and commissioners' reports give some insight into discussion not included in treaty text. Both sides had their own intentions and agendas to bring to the negotiating
table and their own way of interpreting what each side meant. What the government offered was usually not enough; the First Nations people often negotiated additional terms and provisions, which in the history books would be noted as "extravagant
demands." In reality, the First Nations people were trying to relieve anxiety they felt about their own survival, while the government was merely striving to forestall any potential problems with the native
Reprinted from Vision Quest: "Oti nekan,"
Treaty 8 Centennial Commemorative Magazine, with permission from Tanner
Young Marketing Ltd.