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

Treaty Status Today: Some General Misconceptions

In Canada today there remain several misconceptions regarding what exactly Treaty Indians are entitled to and why.  It is difficult to understand why these misconceptions have been generated but it is clear that there exists a lot of misunderstanding amongst Canadians when it comes down to the role of First Nations in our modern society.  Most of these misconceptions seem to be rooted in a belief that somehow First Nations peoples are treated with extra special care by the government due to the treaties and their claim to be the first inhabitants of this land.  It is unfortunate but these types of misconceptions and lack of a general understanding of events surrounding the treaties has generated a great deal of mistrust and embitterment between the First Nations peoples and those citizens considered to be of European descent.  There are two sides to every story, and here we would like to engage you in both sides in an attempt to reach a further understanding.

Misconception:  Treaty Indians are entitled to great sums of money and special educational and career incentives from the government, seemingly on demand.

Reality:  Treaty Indians are not entitled to unlimited funds and free handouts. The annual treaty payment is still a nominal payment of five dollars.

Misconception: Hunting and fishing rights are exclusionary and unfair for other Canadians as the First Nations peoples are allowed unlimited hunting and fishing captures.

Reality:  Hunting and fishing rights are an extension of common practices of pre-treaty life

Misconception: Treaty rights are in existence because the First Nations peoples cannot take care of themselves and rely on the government for their day to day needs.

Reality:  Treaty rights are in existence because the Canadian government approached the First Nations peoples to enter into treaty in order to open up large tracts of Canadian land to settlement from abroad.  Treaties are legal contracts devised by the government of Canada and adhered to by those members of First Nations bands who saw fit to settle with the federal government and enter a new way of life.

These issues are hotly debated amongst many Canadians and can be, at times, difficult to understand and accept at face value.  The role of Canada's First Nations peoples is an integral and important part of our countries past.  It is important for all Canadians to understand and discuss these issues openly so that we can appreciate the rich legacy the First Nations peoples of Canada bring to our country and the world.

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