The changes wrought by the introduction of the fur
trade modified the perception of established law, if for no
other reason than another order of meaning was introduced
for marriage and kinship. Christian ideas directly impacted
because the missionaries used their ceremonials as ways to
control and re-direct ritual proclivities of the Indigenous
peoples. They did not change quickly, however, and much of
the Amerindian territory remained a mixture of values, or
pragmatically bi-cultural. To indicate how the traditional
views remained alive, the following oral selections from
old-timers are present-indicating that even to this day on
some reserves, aspects of the old ways still prevail.
In the first case, Louison Martel indicates that the
young couple could live with the father-in-law, or move into
the bush on their own:
(Translation into the Slavey Dene Tha' dialect and
back into the English language)
||He said, "back then people did not live in the
community like today. Where we live in (Sah-tay),
during the winter time like this, people would be
out in nature, in a nomadic lifestyle but they were
not in a community settlement."
||Ask Louison was it common practice
when he got a wife or when anybody else got a wife
that he had to work for his father in law for a
couple of years?
||Louison Martel speaks and answers in
the Dene Tha' dialect.
||He said, "not really, not all people are the
same, but sometimes when a man asked for the woman's
hand or the daughter's hand they usually get
approval or permission first and then it was o.k. to
move away and that's when they moved. Then sometimes
its different too, they had to stay there for
awhile. So it's not always the same."
Martel, Born: 1915
Dene Tha' First Nation Band
Date: November 15, 1995
On the other hand, some families used the treaty list as
a way of responding to other potentials, such as eliminating
treaty for the spouse while retaining it for the husband:
||Could you tell us why you got
eliminated from the treaty list?
||Like I said, the first time the
Indian agents arrived here, then all of sudden,
about this time when school was almost out, we got
thrown out of treaty. I was supposed to stay one
more month at the Anglican Mission, and when we were
there and it was treaty day, (but) we never received
our treaty money. There were many other people in
the same situation that time, like Francis Auger’s
children, I was with them at the mission. Then we
never got paid nothing.
||No, my mother was treaty for a long time.
Then my father arranged for her to be eliminated
since they were married, because if a person got out
of a treaty, he’d get one hundred dollars. Like in
ten year’s time, she could’ve got back into treaty.
That’s what they said. But she’s still a Metis. So
nothing was ever mentioned about that again, why
that happened. Like after ten years, they would get
more money, they were told, but they never got paid.
That business was never clarified. There were lots
of people in that situation. They got out of treaty
but never got paid, only the one hundred dollars
that were given to them, like that was for ten
Interview with Archie O’Ar, 1955.
By: Ernest Crane
Some women did not marry because it would have required
them to follow their husband’s possession of treaty or not.
Mary is a good example:
||What about her parents, were they
||Well the first man my mother stayed with was
a treaty, but he had died. He wasn’t our father,
when that man died she lived with our father who was
not a treaty. And then she lived with Dolphus’ dad,
that one too was non-treaty. Our mother was a treaty
but she never married either of those two men. That
old man was a treaty, that’s what counts, because
she never married either one of the other two. Her
first husband died, and she didn’t remarry again.
Treaty rights should automatically occur right from
the start when my mother married that old man and
she was always a treaty.
Mary Robinson: Cree, 1955
By Ernest Crane
The issue of the legitimacy of treaty in defining who was
in and who was not became a matter of considerable concern
for women. Some opted to take the money and leave the
reserve, accepting that their marriage meant losing their
||And I’ll ask you something else.
Those treaty women that married outside the reserve,
a whiteman or a Metis. What do you think of losing
their Indian status? Do you think they should retain
their treaty rights or to lose it?
||No, they should lose their treaty
||To lose their treaty rights?
||Yes, as it was said by the
Indian Agent. When a treaty woman marries a
non-treaty, white man or a Metis she would
automatically get out of the reserve. She wouldn’t
have rights on the reserve. And out of the reserve.
She wouldn’t have the rights on the reserve. And she
could never get back in. This is what was told to
our Chief. They usually get one hundred dollars as
soon as they get married out.
||That’s the question I want to ask you, of
what would you think?
||She had anticipated the consequences and
therefore she should stay as it is. As she had
already been out for quite a while then she went and
started the issue. I believe she was from here in
Saskatchewan as I was told. She created a big thing
out of it.
Interviewee: Solomo Peyopiskos: Cree
Location: Canoe Narrows, Saskatchewan
Interviewed by: Louis Rain
Date: May 14, 1974