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No. 170: Treaty Number 8: The Negotiation

Treaty Number 8 brought many people together in the summer of 1899. The natives of the North came with their newly elected leaders to Grouard on the shores of Lesser Slave Lake [and other sites in the north]. These people included the Chipewyan, Cree, Beaver and Slavey.

And as historian David Leonard points out, Treaty Number 8 also brought north some very important Euro-Canadians.

David Laird was the former Lieutenant-Governor of the Northwest Territories and had served as Indian Commissioner. He had actually negotiated Treaty Number 7 with the Blackfoot Confederacy in 1877, and he had introduced Canada's first Indian Act in Parliament. So, he was a very influential person.

Charles Mair was already a recognized poet and journalist, and a wilderness lover.

Twelve Foot Davis was there to observe the negotiations. Allie Brick, from Peace River Crossing, who would be the first member of the provincial parliament in Alberta for Peace River - he was there.

Jim Cornwall - Peace River Jim - the greatest promoter of the Peace River Country.

Also present were missionaries from the Catholic and Anglican churches, who had great influence with the natives. These included Father Lacombe, Bishop Grouard, Reverend George Holmes and Reverend G. D. White.

So important was their role in Treaty Number 8, the clergy flanked David Laird when he made his opening statement to the people gathered.

And Father Lacombe was actually called on to make a statement to these people, and of course at the time, he was very much in favour of the treaty, like many missionaries. He felt that the only way the Aboriginals of the North would survive as people would be as if they become farmers, take the treaty, learn to become farmers, and that way you could survive as a people.

But the clergy also recognized the opportunity Treaty Number 8 presented to the church.

From the point of view of the missionaries, both Catholic and Anglican, it was to their benefit to have treaty made, because the way the government intended to provide education to the people of the North was simply to give grants to the missions, Anglican and Roman Catholic, in order that they may establish and run boarding schools.

And so began the first presentation of the terms of Treaty Number 8 on June 20, 1899.

On the Heritage Trail,

I'm Cheryl Croucher.

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