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Alberta Online Encyclopedia

No. 155: Traité Numéro 8: première partie

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

Treaty Number 7 was signed in 1875 with the Blackfoot Nation. But after that, the federal government lost interest in making treaty.

All the land it considered valuable to settlers had been secured. But then, almost a quarter of a century later, gold was discovered in the Klondike. And, as historian David Leonard explains, the government woke up to the value of the north.

First of all, there were many rumours going around throughout the North about the disruption, theft and even murder committed by Klondikers in the area, so it was felt that a police force was necessary.

It was also recognized that the North was on the verge of large-scale settlement. The Peace River country had long been touted for agricultural development, and during the 1890s, mineral exploration was undertaken along the lower Athabasca River, as well.

So it seemed that it was a proper time to settle with these people

But who could the government of Canada negotiate a treaty with? There were no chiefs in the north to negotiate on their people's behalf. Natives of the boreal forest were more independent than the natives of the plains.

In the southern prairies, the natives lived off the buffalo, and so, hunting the bison with large parties of braves meant that these people would live together and wander the Prairies together as a large unit.

However, on the north, northern fringes of the Canadian Shield and the boreal forests, the natives did not hunt buffalo herds or any herd animal whatsoever. Their hunting took place in the forest, for moose, primarily, but deer and elk as well, in the North. And, so, hunting these animals is not best done with a large party of braves.

Rather, with firearms, one or two men with firearms, where stealth was of the essence, and therefore, the intent was to feed a small family or an extended family. And therefore there was no need for large, social organizations.

So, in 1898 the federal government set out to convince the native people of the North to elect chiefs, and these would be the leaders who could represent their concerns at the upcoming negotiations for Treaty Number 8.

On the Heritage Trail,

I'm Cheryl Croucher.

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