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

 

 

Treaty 8

   
KlondikersThe most pressing need for a treaty came from the trouble of the Klondike gold rush. As news of gold finds spread, many of them exaggerated, more and more miners made their way from Edmonton to Yukon on what was called the "All-Canadian Route." The routes varied, but undoubtedly the extensive trespassing by hopeful prospectors on native territory meant problems: the First Nations people reported miners shooting their dogs and horses and driving away the animals they needed to hunt to survive. In short, the large influx of miners disrupted the First Nations people's way of life and, as the demand increased for an overland route through native lands to Yukon, some solution had to be reached. The Canadian government feared that the gold rush would lead to more settlement in the mineral-rich area of the Canadian Shield, and in the Peace River. To avoid a rush of "squatters" into the area, an area the government hoped to develop in the near future, treaty was absolutely necessary. As the First Nations people grew more discontent with the prospectors encroaching upon their territory, the government realized it had the perfect reason to present treaty to the natives.

It took much influence by outside forces to convince the FirstFather Lacombe Nations people that Treaty 8 was in their best interests. The Catholic and Anglican missionaries, particularly Father Albert Lacombe, played an important role in appealing to the First Nations people to sign Treaty 8. Yet even as the days to the treaty signing neared, no one was sure what the outcome would be, or how the local residents would respond. Native resistance stemmed in part from a fear of losing their land and hunting, trapping and fishing rights, for the native people's livelihood was borne on the land. These fears were calmed slightly by reassurances from the government that the native way of life would not be restricted and that the native people would be exempt from taxation and conscription.

On June 21, 1899, at Grouard, Alberta, six First Nations leaders signed Treaty 8. It began a treaty process that by its completion in 1900 would cover the land between Athabasca Landing and the Great Slave Lake, from Lake Athabasca to the Rockies. It would be the largest treaty in Canada.

Reprinted from Vision Quest: "Oti nekan," Treaty 8 Centennial Commemorative Magazine, with permission from Tanner Young Marketing Ltd.

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