Numbered Treaties

Numbered Treaties

The numbered treaties (or Post-Confederation Treaties)[1] are a series of eleven treaties signed between the aboriginal peoples in Canada and the reigning Monarch of Canada (Victoria, Edward VII or George V) from 1871 to 1921.[1] It was the Government of Canada who created the policy, commissioned the Treaty Commissioners and ratified the agreements. These Treaties are agreements with the Government of Canada,[2] administered by Canadian Aboriginal law and overseen by the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.[3]



The relationship between The Canadian Crown and Aboriginal peoples stretches back to the first interactions between European colonialists and North American indigenous peoples. Over centuries of interaction, treaties were established concerning the monarch and aboriginal tribes. Canada's First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples have, like the Māori and the Treaty of Waitangi in New Zealand,[4] come to generally view these agreements as being not between them and the ever-changing Cabinet, but instead with the continuous Crown of Canada, as embodied in the reigning sovereign.[5] As an expression of this association, Aboriginal peoples in Canada and members of the British Royal Family will regularly meet to celebrate milestone anniversaries, exchange ceremonial and symbolic gifts, and discuss treaty issues.


The Numbered Treaties

Regions affected by the treaties include portions of what are now Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, Saskatchewan and the Northwest Territories. When the Dominion of Canada was first formed in 1867 as a confederation of several British North American colonies, most of these regions were part of Rupert's Land and the North-Western Territory and were controlled by the Hudson's Bay Company.

The "National Dream" of Sir John A. Macdonald, the first Prime Minister of Canada, was to create a nation from sea to sea, tied together by the Canadian Pacific Railway. In order to make this dream a reality, the Government of Canada needed to settle the southern portions of Rupert's Land (present day Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan).

Administration of Rupert's Land and the North-Western Territory was transferred to the Canadian government in 1869. Out of these lands, Canada created the Northwest Territories. Canadian law recognized that the First Nations who inhabited these lands prior to European contact had title to these lands. The settlement of the Northwest Territories would not be possible, if title to the land remained with the First Nations. Therefore, it was vital to the National Dream to obtain title to the lands from First Nations.

In order to obtain title to most of the lands, the Canadian government proceeded with this series of treaties. Each treaty delineates a tract of land which was thought to be the traditional territory of the First Nation or Nations signing that particular treaty (the "tract surrendered"). In exchange for a surrender of their rights and title to these lands, the First Nations were promised a smaller parcel of land as a reserve, annual annuity payments, implements to either farm or hunt and fish and the right to continue to hunt and trap or hunt, trap and fish on the tract surrendered.

First Nations peoples had been decimated by disease outbreaks, the near-extinction of the plains bison, and whiskey traders. They were eager to receive food aid and other assistance from the government. When the government asked for the land in return, they were not in a position to say no. Historians critical of the government have called its actions a "submit or starve" policy.

The plan of settling Europeans in the Canadian west was not free of conflict. Two armed rebellions resulted from this policy: The Red River Rebellion of 1869 and the North West Rebellion of 1885.[6]

List of Numbered Treaties

Photograph showing the two sides of a round silver medal, showing the profile of Queen Victoria on one side and the inscription "Victoria Regina", with the other side having a depiction of a man in European garb shaking hands with an Aboriginal in historic first nation clothing with the inscription "Indian Treaty 187"
The Indian Chiefs Medal, presented to commemorate Treaties 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7, bearing the effigy of Queen Victoria.

See also

Further reading

  1. ^ a b "Numbered Treaty Overview". (Formerly Canadian Institute for Historical Microreproductions). Canada in the Making. Retrieved 2009-11-16. "The Numbered Treaties - also called the Land Cession or Post-Confederation Treaties - were signed between 1871 and 1921, and granted the federal government large tracts of land throughout the Prairies, Canadian North and Northwestern Ontario for white settlement and industrial use. In exchange for the land, Canada promised to give the Aboriginal peoples various items: cash, blankets, tools, farming supplies, and so on. The impact of these treaties can be still felt in modern times." 
  2. ^ "Historic Treaties". Indian and Northern Affairs Canada. Retrieved 2009-11-16. "Before Confederation, the Dominion of Canada signed treaties with First Nations. Since Confederation, the Government of Canada continues to negotiate modern treaties. Treaty relationships provide a resource for resolving long-standing claims and disputes and for improved cooperation between the Government of Canada and First Nations. Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) is the federal department responsible for negotiating and implementing treaties (including comprehensive and specific land claims). INAC also maintains a centre of expertise for understanding Canada's historic treaties with First Peoples." 
  3. ^ "Treaty areas". Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat. Government of Canada. 2002-10-07. Retrieved 2009-11-16. "Although all Crown lands in Canada are owned by Her Majesty, the administration of these lands is assigned to departments, agencies, and Crown corporations to support the delivery of government programs. These organizations are commonly referred to as custodians." 
  4. ^ Cox, Noel (2001), The Evolution of the New Zealand monarchy: The Recognition of an Autochthonous Polity, University of Auckland,, retrieved 2009-11-16, "The Crown, it will be argued, has become an integral part of the New Zealand constitution. In so doing it has helped to give New Zealand full legal as well as political independence. It has become, to some extent at least, distinct from its historical origins, and (particularly in the absence of an entrenched constitution) remains an important conceptual basis of governmental authority. It is partly for these reasons that a significant republican movement, such as that in Australia, has not developed in New Zealand. While the Crown, as an institution of government, retains significant administrative and legal importance2, its political significance has tended to be undervalued, in part due to the physical absence of the Sovereign3." 
  5. ^ Mainville, Sara (1 June 2007), "Lawsuits, treaty rights and the sacred balance", Toronto Star,, retrieved 2009-11-16, "The land claims policy of Canada are a fundamental right of action of the indigenous peoples of Canada. The communities in my area have been protesting breaches of treaty rights since Ontario got involved in regulating and outlawing our coexistence rights in the 1880s. Only recently, in 2004, has the Supreme Court of Canada stated that the honour of the Crown creates real on-the-ground legal duties to accommodate First Nations in the resource activities and exploitation of lands that once were our own." 
  6. ^ "Reminiscences of the North-West Rebellions". Boulton, Charles A.. 1886 Toronto. Retrieved 2009-11-16. "One of the first acts of the new Parliament was to provide for the transfer of the North-West Territory to the Dominion of Canada. Negotiations, however, had first to be opened up with the Hudson's Bay Company, which for many years had enjoyed a charter giving them exclu- sive trading privileges in furs. Their charter was granted them as early as the reign of Charles the Second. The Company's means of access to England was chiefly by the shores of Hudson's Bay, the communication being maintained by an annual ship which brought out the season's outfit and carried back the furs. Thus isolated from Canada, little was known to the Canadian people of the vast resources of the Hudson's Bay region. But the value of the fur trade had early attracted the enterprise of the inhabitants of the shores of the St. Lawrence, and under the title of the North-West Company" an association of traders, penetrated the confines, of the vast territory. It is thus due to Canadian enterprise that this fertile belt is now under the Government of the Dominion ion of Canada" 

External links

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