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

Indigenous People and the Environment

treaty 8 territory One of the most important relationships for the First Nations people of North America has been with the land. Traditionally the natural environment provided them with the means for survival as well as an ever-present connection to their ancestors who came before them. The people of Treaty 8 are no exception.

The spiritual beliefs of the people of Treaty 8 have forever been interconnected with the plants, animals, mint rivers and places they have inhabited  throughout their history. Within these beliefs are the indigenous philosophies that hold everything in the natural world as sacred.  Fragile ecosystems that support numerous forms of plant and animal life also supported the Cree, Beaver, Chipewyan, and Dene Indians. In pre-contact times indigenous people took everything that made their lives fishing possible from the land. Traditional knowledge passed from generation to generation allowed the First Nations to make use of the plants for food and medicine, and the products of animals as shelter, clothing, tools and food. The waterways provided fish for food, water for drinking as well as facilitating a means of transportation and trade. Their traditional knowledge also gave the native people the philosophy that they were not the masters of the earth, but merely a part of the delicate balance of the earth's cycle of life. With such a deeply felt connection to the natural world, many people of Treaty 8 feel that events since the treaty signing such as the massive influx of people, industry and development have disrupted this delicate balance.

Many of the Elders and leadership feel that their people were placed where they are in creation to act in a position of stewardship for the lands they occupy. For many within the First Nations community the signing of Treaty 8 was seen as an agreement to share in the land's gifts. However, some now feel that this agreement has been overlooked and taken for granted as local logging scene and foreign industry have been practicing what First Nations determine to be unsustainable resource exploitation and not planning for future generations of First Nations peoples and all Canadians. Many people from Treaty 8 First Nations feel that their traditional way of life, in many ways, is and has been threatened and that they are not being included in the economic benefits of resource development within their own traditional territories. 

For more information on some of these issues, visit the following websites:

  • Global Forest Watch (Canadian Overview): Global Forest Watch increases the public's access to information on forests and forest development. This work improves transparency and accountability in forest management decisions and helps ensure better management of forest resources.
  • First Nations and Natural Resources - the Canadian Context: an article by Carol Chandran.  Includes information on the effects of eroding First Nations' relationship to natural resources and legal developments in Aboriginal Rights and Natural Resources

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