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



Signing Treaty Eight

Father Lacombe As the missionaries and police soon discovered however, the First Nations people in the Treaty 8 area were not eager to sign a treaty. They had witnessed the impact of similar treaties in the south and were concerned such an agreement would confine them to reserves and disrupt their traditional way of life, particularly their hunting, trapping and fishing rights. There were also rumours that a treaty would subject First Nation people to the British military draft for service in the Boer War.

As in other parts of the country, plans were to settle the First Nation people with the provision of reserves, annuity payments, the promise of supplies and other assistance, while the MétisTreaty Party were to be issued scrip, a kind of certificate, which entitled each individual to a portion of Crown land or cash1. In 1898, the federal government passed two orders-in-council which set out the mechanics of commissions which would be created - one to negotiate a treaty with the First Nations people, and another, the Half-Breed (Métis) Scrip Commission, headed by Major James Walker and J.A. Coté, to settle the claims of the Métis. Heading up the Treaty Commission was David Laird, a distinguished public servant with a solid reputation in treaty negotiations. Laird had been responsible for introducing Canada's first Indian Act in 1876, as well as negotiating Treaty 7 with the Blackfoot Confederacy. He was joined by two other commissioners, James Ross and J.A. McKenna.

Having only dealt with the First Nations people of the south, the Commissions' lack of knowledge about the northern First Nations people created its own set of problems. The Treaty 8 region consisted of many different bands, yet the government had little understanding of this social structure, and promptly lumped all the bands together. The resulting land claim problems this created are still going on today. [continue]

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

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