Treaties between Native people and the Crown and the
rights within them are part of a legal contract written by government and
seen as sacred agreements by Aboriginal people.
Treaty rights can be exercised on the basis that the
agreements are legally binding contracts.
The Queen and her representatives assured the Treaty
8 signers that: "...my Government of
Canada recognizes the importance of full compliance with the spirit and
terms of your Treaties".
The rights outlined in Treaty 8 were strictly stated as being effective for
"As long as the sun shines and the rivers flow ".
It is important to remember that Treaty 8 was an
agreement between two sovereign nations and the interpretations of that
agreement come from two sides. When treaties were negotiated and
signed it represented two worlds, value systems, and philosophies
trying to agree over where they fit on common ground. There is no doubt
that with regards to land, family and lifestyle there were profound
differences between the two peoples. These differences were reflected in
the desired goals of each nation when the treaty was signed and are
reflected in the debates over Treaty Rights and issues today.
There is still a debate over exactly what was promised to Aboriginal
people in Treaty 8. Many promises and assurances are
remembered by First Nations Elders and have been passed down through
generations since the Treaty was signed. Such verbal agreements and
assurances made by treaty negotiators do not appear in the treaty wording.
Some of these include; The amount of land agreed upon and future land base
considerations, mineral and water rights, limitations on hunting trapping
and fishing (traditional lifestyle), resource exploitation and leases to
industry, types, methods and extent of education, to name but a few.