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Alberta Online Encyclopedia

No. 180: Traité 8, Commission du traité, 1889 et 1900

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Not everyone could make it to Lesser Slave Lake for the negotiation of Treaty Number 8 in June of 1899.

So, after the Treaty was signed, commissioners were sent out to meet with the rest of the natives, in their communities.

But, as historian David Leonard explains, it was not an easy task.

One of the problems of 1899 was due to bad weather and complications in getting the initial concurrence, is that they were persistently two to three weeks behind time.

The Treaty Commission party actually split into two. Commissioners Ross and McKenna went straight on to Fort St. John and Dunvegan, while Commissioner Laird went straight ahead to Peace River Crossing, Fort Vermilion and Fond du Lac.

Well, when Commissioners Ross and McKenna were approaching Fort St. John, they had heard that the Beaver Indians there had left to pursue their summer hunts. And at Dunvegan, too, they only found a handful of people there because the natives just didn't know when these commissioners were going to show up.

No one signed at Fort St. John, and very few at Dunvegan in 1899.

So Ross and McKenna went straight up to Little Red River, and they went up to Fort Smith, Fort Chipewyan and Wabasca.

And in their wake came the slower moving scrip commission, which was going to offer scrip to those natives, or anybody with some traces of Aboriginal ancestry, who wanted scrip instead of treaty.

But still, there were many missed in 1899, and, as a result of that, another commission, led by J.A. MacRea, travelled basically the same route in 1900, making sure that they kept to their appointed dates.

Despite their efforts, the Treaty Commission still managed to miss some aboriginal communities.

The Cree from Lubicon Lake, as we all know, are still out of the system. But, as a result of MacRea's sojourn and his signings, both for scrip and for treaty, in 1900, as a result of that, they were convinced - and MacRea put it in his report - that the majority of the natives of the northwest within the Treaty Area had concurred with either the treaty, or had taken scrip.

On the basis of those two journeys into the North by the Treaty Commission, the government felt everything was settled. And, with the exception of the reserves, the North was now open for development.

On the Heritage Trail,

I'm Cheryl Croucher.

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