The Canadian Crown and First Nations, Inuit and Métis

The Canadian Crown and First Nations, Inuit and Métis

The relationship between the Canadian Crown and the First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples of Canada stretches back to the first interactions between European colonialists and North American indiginous people. Over centuries of interaction, treaties were established, and Canada's First Nations have, like the Māori and the Treaty of Waitangi in New Zealand, come to generally view these agreements as being between them and the Crown of Canada, and not the ever-changing governments. [ [ A Historical Analysis of Early Nation to Nation Relations in Canada and New Zealand:The Royal Proclamation of 1763, the Treaty of Niagara and The Treaty of Waitangi] ] Today, First Nations continue to celebrate these connections with the monarchy, both historical and contemporary. [ [ Mainville, Sara; "Toronto Star": Lawsuits, treaty rights and the sacred balance; June 1, 2007] ]


Nature and definition

The associations exist between the Aboriginal peoples of Canada and the reigning monarch of Canada; as was stated in the proposed "First Nationsndash Federal Crown Political Accord": "cooperation will be a cornerstone for partnership between Canada and First Nations, wherein "Canada" is the short-form reference to "Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada". These relations are governed by the established treaties; the Supreme Court stated that treaties "served to reconcile pre-existing Aboriginal sovereignty with assumed Crown sovereignty, and to define Aboriginal rights," [ A First Nations - Federal Crown Political Accord] ] and the First Nations saw these agreements as meant to last "as long as the sun shines, grass grows and rivers flow."

The earliest treaties date back to the first half of the 18th century; the Treaty of 1725 established the relationship between the "Maeganumbe delegates of the... tribes Inhabiting His Majesty's Territories" and King George III, acknowledging the King's title to the provinces of Nova Scotia and Acadia in exchange for the guarantee that the Aboriginals "not be molested in their persons... by His Majesty's subjects." [ [ Treaty of 1725, Promises By Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia] ] However, the main foundation for most treaties in Canada is the Royal Proclamation of 1763, issued by George III, and which remains a part of the constitution. It affirmed their title to their lands, while also setting out the boundaries between the territories reserved for the natives and those reserved for the colonists, all within the King's North American realm. It also made clear that, though under the sovereignty of the Crown, the Aboriginal bands were autonomous political units, making their relationship with the non-Aboriginals one of a "nation-to-nation" nature, [ [ Fundamental Treaty Principals] ] with the sovereign as the intermediary. As such, and with the added duty of the Crown to provide certain guarantees to the First Nations, the affiliation is defined as a fiduciary one, and the Crown's fiduciary duty is a constitutionally charged obligation, as affirmed by the Supreme Court in Sparrow v. The Queen. [ [ R. v. Sparrow, 1990 CanLII 104 (S.C.C.)] ] Hence, the "honour of the Crown" is at stake in dealings between it and First Nations people. The Supreme Court also found that the Constitution Act, 1982ndash namely, section 35(1)ndash sets out provisions that acknowledge and reconcile the distinct and ancient practices of First Nations with the sovereignty of the Crown.

The provincial crowns can also be party to the relations between Aboriginals and the monarch. For example, though, per Section 91(24) of the British North America Act, 1867, responsibility for "Indians and lands reserved far the Indians" falls as a responsibility of the Crown in Right of Canada, [Constitution Act, 1867; Section 91 (24)] through the 1929 Manitoba Natural Resources Transfer Agreement, the Manitoba Crown was made responsible for setting aside some of the province's Crown Land to satisfy treaty obligations of the sovereign. [ [ Government of Manitoba: Manitoba Treaty Land Entitlement] ] In other cases, which of the Crown's branches in Canada would administer the monarch's duties was unclear. In the Constitution Act, 1867, Quebec was given authority over lands and resources within its boundaries, subject to "interest other than that of the province in the same," and it was commonly held that First Nations' title was such an interest; as early as 1906, federal treaty negotiators were explaining to Algonquin in Quebec that the Crown in Right of Canada could only ratify treaties with the Alonquins' counterparts in Ontario. Consequently, since Confederation, it has been the Crown in Right of Quebec, with the permission of the Crown in Right of Canada, that has guided settlement and development of Algonquin lands, such as the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement between the Cree and Inuit of northern Quebec and the Crown in Right of Quebec. This arrangement, however, has led to criticism from First Nations leaders of the sovereign's exercise of her duties within Quebec.

These associations have been in evidence on more than one occasion, such as when Prince Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, toured Canada in the summer and fall of 1860, when First Nations put on a number of displays and took advantage of the opportunity to express their loyalty and present concerns about miconduct on the part of the Indian Department and the illegal sale of their lands. [Radforth, Ian; "Canadian Historical Review": Performance, Politics, and Representation: Aboriginal People and the 1860 Royal Tour of Canada; 84, no. 1; March, 2003; p.p. 1-32] In 1994, the Dene community of the Northwest Territories presented a list of grievances over stalled land claim negotiations to Queen Elizabeth II, rather than to then Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, while the two were attending an Aboriginal Cultural Festival in Yellowknife. After speaking with the Chief, the Queen handed the list to her Prime Minister for the Cabinet to address, and advise her on how to proceed. Similarly, in 1997, the Innu people of Quebec and Labrador presented a letter of grievance over stagnant land claim talks to Elizabeth II, while she and her Prime Minsterndash still Chrétienndash were visiting Sheshatshiu. After speaking with Tanien Ashini, Vice-President of the Innu Nation, the Queen handed the list to the Prime Minister for the Cabinet to address. [ [ Letter from Innu People to Queen Elizabeth II; June 30, 1997] ]

The monarch, however, was not always seen as supreme by the First Nations. In a speech given by Chief Peguis of the Ojibwa, sometime between 1812 and 1817, the leader stated that even King George III, though he was called the "Great Father", was below the Great Spirit and could not claim the lands of the spirit as his own.

Ceremonial expressions

The relations between Crown and First Nations is often demonstrated in a tangible manner, through meetings, gifts, and ceremonies. As early as 1710, Aboriginal leaders were visiting personally with the British monarch; in that year, three Mohawk ("Sa Ga Yeath Qua Pieth Tow" of the Bear Clan, called King of Maguas, with the Christian name Peter Brant; "Ho Nee Yeath Taw No Row" of the Wolf Clan, called King of Canojaharie, or John of Canojaharie; and "Tee Yee Ho Ga Row", meaning "Double Life", of the Wolf Clan, called King Hendrick, with the Christian name Hendrick Peters) and one Mahicanin Chief ("Etow Oh Koam" of the Turtle Clan, called Emperor of the Six Nations) of the Iroquoian Confederacy, were greeted in audience by Queen Anne at St. James's Palace. They were received in London as diplomats, being transported through the streets of the city in royal carriages, visiting the Tower of London and St. Paul's Cathedral. In addition to requesting military aid for defence against the French, the Chiefs also asked for missionaries to be sent to them. This request was passed by Anne to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Tenison, and a chapel was eventually built at Fort Hunter, near present day Johnstown, New York, in 1711, along with the gift of a reed organ and a set of silver chalices in 1712. [ [ Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory] ] Portraits of each of the Indian Kings were commissioned while they were in London, paintings which hung in Kensington Palace for almost 270 years, until Queen Elizabeth II donated them to the Canadian Collection at the National Archives of Canada, unveiling them personally in Ottawa in 1977, the same year that her son, Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, visited Alberta to attend celebrations marking the 100th anniversary of the signing of Treaty 7. Also, as a bicentennial gift in 1984, Elizabeth II gave the Christ Church Royal Chapel of the Mohawks a new silver chalice to replace the one lost from the 1712 Queen Anne set during the American Revolution. [cite web|url= |publisher=Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory |title=The Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte |accessdate=2007-09-15] Later, in 1860, Nahnebahwequay of the Ojibwa secured an audience with Queen Victoria, [Smith, Donald; "Nahnebahwequay (1824-1865): "Upright Woman"; in: Semple, Neil, ed.; "Canadian Methodist Historical Society Papers", vol. 13 (Toronto: 2001), 74-105] and Squamish Nation Chief Joe Mathias was amongst the Canadian dignitaries who were invited to attend the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in London in 1953. [ [ CBC Archives: Coronation of Queen Elizabeth] ]

The Regina campus of the First Nations University of Canada was opened by Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, in 2003. His mother, Queen Elizabeth II, made the institution her first engagement during the centennial celebrations of Saskatchewan and Alberta in 2005, at which she presented the university with a commemorative granite plaque, stating: "This stone was taken from the grounds of Balmoral Castle in the Highlands of Scotlandndash a place dear to my great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria. It symbolises the foundation of the rights of First Nations peoples reflected in treaties signed with the Crown during her reign. Bearing the cypher of Queen Victoria as well as my own, this stone is presented to the First Nations University of Canada in the hope that it will serve as a reminder of the special relationship between the sovereign and all First Nations peoples." [ [ Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, at the First Nations University of Canada, 2005] ]

Various First Nations and Inuit groups have also coined for the monarch and other members of the Royal Family names that reflect the Crown's position as an overreaching power. For instance, the Ojibwa referred to George III as the "Great Father",HBC Archives, "Peguis" Search File. (B.235/a/3 fos. 28-28d)] and Queen Victoria was dubbed as the "Great White Mother".Her Excellency the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson; Address at the University of Toronto Faculty Association's C.B. Macpherson Lecture. [ Governor General of Canada Home Page] ] Also, in 1976, the Inuit gave Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, the title of "Attaniout Ikeneego", meaning "The Son of the Big Boss", [ [ Are You an "Ace" at Kings and Queens?: A children's quiz on monarchy in Canada] ] and, in 1986, Cree and Ojibwa students in Winnipeg named Charles "Leading Star". [ [ Royal Involvement With Canadian Life] ] In 2001, Charles was also named "Pisimwa Kamiwohkitahpamikohk", or, "The Sun Looks at Him in a Good Way", by an elder in a ceremony at Wanuskewin Heritage Park, during the Prince's first visit to Saskatchewan.


French and British crowns

Under commission from King Henry VII, John Cabot arrived in North America, claiming what is today either Newfoundland or Cape Breton Island. Some thirty years later, King Francis I sent Jacques Cartier, who proceeded further up the Saint Lawrence River. With the establishment of colonies in these areas, the Europeans settlers had increasing contact with the indiginous peoples, establishing an informal rapport with them. However, as colonial governments were founded, their jurisdictions extended, and territorial disputes broke out between the French and English, the relationship between the colonial representatives of the respective crowns and the First Nations leaders became more formal; alliances were fashioned in order to bring about mutual benefit to both parties: the Aboriginals were offered weapons and other goods, while the viceroys received furs and the military assistance of the Indians.

The Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) was founded in 1670 by Royal Charter of King Charles II, in order to compete with the French in the fur trade. However, it also served as a vehicle for establishing Crown dealings with the First Nations; as the HBC traders and outposts spread westward across the continent, they introduced the concept of a just, paternal monarch to "guide and animate their exertions," to inspire loyalty and promote peaceful relations. They also brought images of the British monarch to the Indians, such as the medal bearing the effigy of Charles II that, in 1776, which the HBC agents presented to chiefs as a mark of distinction; chiefs who wore these medallions received particular honour and recognition at HBC posts, [Hudson's Bay Company Archives (HBC), Thomas Hutchins to Governor-in-Council, London, 24 June, 1776. Albany Inward Letters, 1776. Thomas Hutchins Private Journal. "Medals" Search File.] and they were passed down through the generations of the chiefs' descendants. [ Certer, Sarah; "Canadian Encyclopedia": "Your great mother across the salt sea": Prairie First Nations, the British Monarchy and the Vice Regal Connection to 1900; September 22, 2004] ] Concurrently, between 1725 and 1779, the Mi'kmaq signed a series of peace and friendship treaties with the British Crown, but none were land cession treaties. The Nation historically consisted of seven districts, but this was later expanded to eight with the ceremonial addition of Great Britain, with the King as chief, at the time of the 1749 treaty.

In contrast, the French monarchs saw all their lands in North America as held by them in totality, including those which were occupied by First Nations, and did not admit the claims of the Indians to lands in New France. However, the French Crown did set aside certain territories within its jurisdiction for the exclusive use of First Nations; for example, from 1716 onwards, lands north and west of the manorials on the Saint Lawrence River were designated as forbidden to settlement and clearing of land, without the express authorization of the King. These lands were known as the "pays d'enhaut", or, Indian country. [ Matchewan, Jean-Maurice; Algonquin Nation: Presented to the Members of the Committee to Examine Matters Relating to the Accession of Quebec to Sovereignty; Quebec City, Quebec; February 4, 1992] ]

By the early part of the 18th century the British monarch had formed alliances with the Six Nations Iroquois, while the French monarch did the same with the Algonquin tribes. These coalitions remained in force until 1760, when New France and Acadia was captured and/or ceded to King George III, after which confusion set in over how First Nations in Quebec were to be treated. The capitulation of Montreal, signed on September 8, 1760, inferred in article 40 that the Indians were still considered subjects of Louis XV, and would become subjects of George III: "The Savages or Indian allies of his most Christian Majesty, shall be maintained in the Lands they inhabit; if they chuse to remain there; they shall not be molested on any pretence whatsoever, for having carried arms, and served his most Christian Majesty; they shall have, as well as the French, liberty of religion, and shall keep their missionaries..." However, by that date the First Nations had already abandoned their alliance with Louis XV and turned to George III: two days before the fall of Montreal, the Hurons of Lorette, the Algonquin Nation, and eight other tribes, ratified a treaty at Fort Lévis, making them allied with, and subjects of, the British king. The King, in 1760, instructed General Jeffrey Amherst, Baron Amherst, to treat the Aboriginals "upon the same principals of humanity and proper indulgence" as the French, and to "cultivate the best possible Harmony and Friendship with the Chiefs of the Indian Tribes." The retention of civil code in Quebec, though, caused the relations between the Crown and First Nations in that jurisdiction to be viewed as dissimilar to those which existed in the other Canadian colonies.

In 1763, George III issued a Royal Proclamation which acknowledged the First Nations as autonomous political units and affirmed their title to their lands. The King thereafter ordered Sir William Johnson to make the proclamation known to the Indian Nations under the King's sovereignty, and, by 1766 its provisions were already put into practical use when the Imperial Privy Council endorsed a grant of convert|20000|acre|km2 to Joseph Marie Philibot at a location of his choosing, but Philibot's request for land on the Restigouche River was denied by the Governor of Quebec on the grounds that "the lands so prayed to be assigned are, or are claimed to be, the property of the Indians and as such by His Majesty's express command as set forth in his proclamation in 1763, not within their power to grant."

After the American Revolution

Following the American Revolution, there was a marked difference between how the new United States government related to the First Nations and how the Crown continued to interact with those peoples north of the new border. First Nations tribes had helped the King's North American Forces in the revolutionary warndash military services to the Crown that were later detailed in oratories that also called on the honour of the Crown to keep its promises.Petrone, Penny; "First People, First Voices"; Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1983; Chapter 1] As a consequence of the Mohawk Nation's alliance with the King in his fight against the rebellion, at the cessation of conflict the Mohawks were forced by the reviolutionaries from their lands in the Mohawk Valley, in present-day New York State. As compensation, the King promised land in Canada to the Six Nations, and, in 1784, some Mohawks settled in what is now the Bay of Quinte and the Grand River Valley, where North America's only two Chapels Royalndash Christ Church Royal Chapel of the Mohawks and Her Majesty's Chapel of the Mohawksndash were built to symbolise the connection between the Mohawk people and the Crown. Thereafter, the treaties with Aboriginals across southern Ontario were dubbed the Covenant Chain, and ensured the preservation of First Nations' rights not provided elsewhere in the Americas.

The treatment of Aboriginal tribes as allies of the Crown continued to be militarily advantageous in the defence of Canada, especially during the War of 1812, and later in preserving the western territories of the Dominion of Canada from annexation by the United States. [ Hall, Tony; "Canadian Forum Magazine": The politics of monarchy: it's not what you might expect; April, 1998] ] Towards those ends, as well as to provide for peaceful settlement of new non-Aboriginals in the prairies of the Northwest Territories, the Numbered Treaties were crafted between 1871 and 1921, wherein the First Nations surrendered land to the Crown in exchange for reserves and other compensation, such as livestock, ammunition, certain rights, [ [ "The Monarchy in Saskatchewan"] ] and the protection of their culture. They further saw these treaties as a way to avoid the problems that had befallen their cousins under the United States government, and wished to establish peaceable relations with a more benign British Crown. [ University of Calgary: Canada's First Nations: Treaty Evolution] ] However, the treaties did not ensure peace: by 1885 the Métis people of Saskatchewan had concerns for the survival of their people, and, in what came to be known as the North-West Rebellion, under Louis Riel, established the Provisional Government of Saskatchewan at Batoche, to administer an independent republic. A further uprising by Cree warriors, led by Big Bear, against Frog Lake (dubbed the Frog Lake Massacre), was fuelled by anger over perceived unfairness in the treaties signed with the Queen.

In 1996, the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples was set up to address many of the concerns surrounding the relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in Canada. 178 days of public hearings took place, with 96 commuities visiting, and numerous past inquiries and reports were reviewed. The central conclusion was summaraised as: "The main policy direction, pursued for more than 150 years, firt by colonial then by Canadian governments, has been wrong," focusing on the previous attempts at assimilation. It was recommended that the "nation-to-nation" relationship of mutual respect be re-established between the Crown and Canadian First Nations. [ [ Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples: Highlights from the Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples] ]

The status of the First Nations (aboriginal) people of British Columbia is a long-standing problem that has become a major issue in recent years. With the exception of what are known as the Douglas Treaties, negotiated by Sir James Douglas with the Native people of the Victoria area, no treaties were signed with the Crown in British Columbia; many Native people wished to negotiate treaties, but the province refused until 1990. A major development was the 1997 decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in the Delgamuukw v. British Columbia case that aboriginal title still exists in British Columbia. Two-thirds of the bands in British Columbia, represented by the First Nations Summit, are now engaged in trilateral negotiations with the Crown in Right of British Columbia and the Crown in Right of Canada. Only one treaty, the Nisga'a Treaty (1998) has been signed in recent years, and that one outside of the current British Columbia Treaty Process. There is considerable disagreement about treaty negotiations; many non-native British Columbians are vehemently opposed to it, while a substantial minority of native people consider the current treaty process inadequate and have therefore refused to participate.

Into the 21st century

The idea that friendly relations between the Monarchy and indigenous Canadians must continue, in aid of the defence of Canadian territories, is evident in the recent treaty with the Inuit of Nunavut, wherein the new territory's legislature is seen as the primary bearer of Crown sovereignty over the eastern Arctic, through which the Northwest Passage, contested by the United States as international waters, runs. The effect was similar to the creation of the James Bay Agreement of 1975, which formed a new alliance between the Sovereign of Canada and the Cree of northern Quebec, and which established a basis for another defence of Canada from loss of sovereignty over indigenous lands.

Nevertheless, First Nations groups complained that their role during the Queen's visit was a purely symbolic one, and were disappointed that neither the provincial nor federal governments granted them a private audience with the Queen to express concerns about treaty violations. [ [ Monchuk, Judy; "The Globe and Mail": Natives decry 'token' presence for Queen's visit; May 11, 2005] ] First Nations leaders have also raised concerns about what they perceive as a crumbling relationship between their people and the Crown, fuelled by the failure of the federal and provincial crown ministers to resolve land claim disputes, and perceived intervention of the Crown into Aboriginal affairs. [ [ Jamieson, Roberta; "Presentation to the Canadian House of Commons Standing Committee on Aborigional Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources"; March 21, 2003] ]

Viceroys and the First Nations, Inuit and Métis

Governors, both general and lieutenant, travelled the country to meet with various First Nations tribes throughout their time in service to the monarch. During these meetings the viceroys often carried out discussions with First Nations peoples, on behalf of the monarch, learning about Aboriginal peoples' cultures and displaying concern about First Nations' welfare.

Following the American Revolution, a tradition began in eastern Canada of appealing to the vice-regal representatives of the sovereign for redress of grievances. Between 1866 and 1867, then Governor General Viscount Monk met with a native chief, in full feathers, as some of the first guests at Rideau Hall. [Hubbard, R.H.; "Rideau Hall"; McGill-Queen’s University Press; Montreal and London; 1977; p. 15] During their journeys around the country, the Governors General would also often meet with Aboriginal people at their villages; the Marguess of Lansdowne smoked a peace pipe with Aboriginal people in the prairie, [Hubbard; p. 65] Returning from a trans-Canada tour in 1901, wherein he had travelled through the Yukon territories, Governor General Lord Minto urged the government of the day to redress the wrongs he has seen in the North, and to preserve Native heritage and folklore. [Minto Papers; "Across Canada to the Klondyke"; p. 2] One of his predecessors, Lord Byng, undertook a far-reaching tour of the North in 1925, during which the Governor General met with First Nations and hearing their grievances at Fort Providence and Fort Simpson. [Hubbard; p. 158] Lord Tweedsmuir was honoured by the Kainai Nation by being created a chief of the Blood Indians, and later met Grey Owl at Prime Minister Mackenzie King's cabin in northern Saskatchewan, where the Governor General stayed an extra day to view, with Grey Owl, the beavers building their dam. [Hubbard, p. 186]

Lieutenant Governor James Bartleman was Ontario's first viceroy of First Nations descent, a member of the Mnjikaning First Nation. Responding to First Nations claims of inadequate funding for education, Bartleman listed the encouragement of indigenous young people as one of his key priorities, and during his term launched several initiatives to promote literacy and bridge building. He traveled to remote Native communities in northern Ontario to speak with First Nations leaders, and assess the conditions facing the Native peoples in that area of the province. He initiated the Lieutenant Governor's book Program in 2004, and raised over 1.4 million books which were flown into Ontario's north to stock the shelves of Native community libraries. He also instigated a program to pair up Native and non-Native schools in Ontario. This program was continued by Bartleman's successor, David Onley.

ee also

* Monarchy of Canada
* List of First Nations governments
* List of First Nations peoples
* Numbered Treaties
* British Columbia Treaty Process


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