The Royal Proclamation of 1763 decreed that First Nations should not be disturbed in their use and enjoyment of the land. It also declared that only the Crown could acquire land from First Nations, and only through treaty-making. The Royal Proclamation set the framework for negotiation based on co-operation rather than conquest.
Treaty making soon became the main mechanism for defining the relationship between First Nations and other Canadians.
However, the last of the historical treaties was signed in 1923. At that time, the federal government made it a criminal offence for a First Nation to hire a lawyer to pursue land claims settlements.
As a result, 100 years after the signing of Treaty 8, there is a large
and ever expanding debate over land, jurisdiction and borders.
Consequently, many issues remain around the decision-making process that
effectively ceded huge amounts of land to the Crown and, as a result, the
issues surrounding the authority and the upholding of those old agreements
tend to become clouded.
From a First Nations perspective, even the semantics of these debates are
Many First Nations groups prefer to use the term "Land Entitlement" as
opposed to "Land Claims". The rationale being that the word
"claim" infers a desire to take possession of something that is not of
your ownership, and that the word "entitlement" infers that possession
is not a question, it is a right. [continue...]