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Virtual Museum of Canada The Making of Treaty #8 in Canada's Northwest
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Precursor: Focus 1899

 

 

Signing Treaty Eight

   

The conditions of the treaty established, those who consented with the terms were then asked to stand. One by one, the Cree rose, signaling their agreement, and that evening, a draft of the treaty was drawn up. Hunting rights, access to education and farming tools were stipulated, while medicine and medical supplies although promised verbally did not make it into the written treaty.

The following day, in preparation for the signing, the treaty was read aloud and Chief KeeNooShayoo rose to give his acceptance speech. Suddenly though, perceiving dissent from his people, he stopped and sat back down. The cause of concern apparently involved the right to hunt and fish in the face of new game laws, as well as the persistent fear of reserves. The Commissioners assured the First Nations people that any laws placed on hunting and fishing would be in their own interest, that they would be as free to hunt and fish after the treaty as before.

A lengthy discussion followed and more reassurances were given,Treaty Discussions specifically regarding game laws, including the freedom to hunt, fish and trap. By the end of the day, the concerns had been vanquished and following a verbal vote, KeeNooShayoo and Headmen approached the table, each marking a cross on Treaty 8 - and on Canadian history.

The first six signatures were instrumental in gaining acceptance of the treaty from other bands in the region. However, obtaining signatures from everyone in the area was a daunting task, given the wide expanse of territory and the scattered nature of the bands. The Treaty Commission split into two groups to speed up Commission Camp the process. That year, nine other Treaty 8 sessions were held and when the Commissions returned to Edmonton in September 1899, 2,217 people were on record as having agreed to the terms of Treaty 8 while another 1,243 had accepted scrip. Still, due to the hurried nature of the negotiation, many native people had been missed. In order to ensure that a majority of native people were bound to the treaty, a second group departed in 1900 to obtain signatures from those who had been missed. On their return though, it was noted that distance had prevented them from settling with a number of native people, leaving a contingent of First Nations people who had not signed a treaty. Among those were the Cree of Lubicon Lake - a band whose claim for settlement would still be on the table some 90 years later.

For the government, however, the settlement of the area had been completed to their satisfaction, clearing the way for survey and settlement. For all intents and purposes, the native rights to this land - in total an area of 841,750 square kilometres, larger than both Great Britain and France combined - had been extinguished.

Audio Feature:

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Treaty 8 Part Four: The Negotiation
Summary: The signing of Treaty 8 on the shores of Lesser Slave Lake drew dignitaries from government, church and First Nations. What were the benefits to the clergy? Listen to find out.
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Treaty 8 Part Five: The Terms
Summary: The treaty was not unanimously incorporated.find out what happened!
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Reprinted from Vision Quest: "Oti nekan," Treaty 8 Centennial Commemorative Magazine, with permission from Tanner Young Marketing Ltd.

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