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Alberta Online Encyclopedia

No. 125: Traités, première partie

Ce texte a été publié en anglais et n'est pas disponible en français.

1999 marks the one hundredth anniversary of the signing of Treaty #8 in Alberta.

It was one of the last in a series of numbered treaties which the government of Canada negotiated with the Aboriginal people of the West.

And according to historian Michael Payne, treaties were usually only entered into where the land had acquired value for Euro-Canadians.

For the government, treaties were intended to secure ownership of the land. They also hoped to convince Aboriginal people to surrender their title and all claims to the land, to have them keep the peace, as the treaties say, and to respect non-Aboriginal people's property and persons.

Although I think it's probably important also to note that these were not necessarily significant problems with the Aboriginal population.

First Nations in the West were very law abiding and peaceful peoples and very respectful of other people's properties and rights. And probably, if anything, it was the other that was true, that they needed protection from new settlers.

While the government had a very clear idea of what it was prepared to offer, all the treaties were subject to discussion and negotiation.

And the leaders of the First Nations did manage to extract significant concessions in return for their agreement to the treaty.

It was a very sophisticated approach to taking over the territory, and in fact a very legalistic one as well. And it probably speaks well of all of the parties that they were able to come to this kind of accommodation and agreement.

I think its also, though, kind of interesting, and there's been a lot of speculation and discussion over the years as to what were the motives behind First Nations agreeing to signing these treaties, and I think those motives are quite complex and are worthy of people's consideration.

Consistently, First Nations peoples have argued that they see the treaties as sacred agreements between sovereign peoples and they are intended to share land and resources.

Treaty Number 1 was signed at Lower Fort Garry on July 27th, 1871. It covered southern Manitoba, and the terms agreed to at that time set the stage for Treaties number 7 and 8, which were signed later with Alberta's Aboriginal people.

On the Heritage Trail,

I'm Cheryl Croucher.

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