I. Why was a treaty required in this time and place?
The populations of the Cree, Assiniboine, Saulteaux, and Chipewyn peoples of Alberta and Saskatchewan had been devastated by small pox and their numbers were further threatened by the disappearance of the buffalo, their primary source of food. As well, the North West Mounted Police were moving westward into Cree lands, with government land surveyors following close behind. Under these circumstances, the Plains Cree First Nations were eager to sign a treaty in order to participate in the new agricultural base to prevent starvation and bring an income, to receive medical aid, and to protect their land rights. And so they prevented governmental work on their land until a treaty could be signed, with negotiations beginning in the summer of 1876.
II. What First Nations were included in this treaty?
Treaty Six was signed by about 50 different nations from Alberta, Manitoban and Saskatchewan. The most significant of the signatories of Treaty Six were Poundmaker, and Big Bear, both Cree Chiefs on the Plains.
III. What did these people want from the treaty process?
The Cree (as well as some Assiniboine, Saulteaux, and Chipewyan) involved in the creation of Treaty Six wanted to ensure that their land would belong to them and hoped to minimize European influence. This desire stemmed from a Smallpox epidemic within the tribes; brought to their land through European contact, as well as fear of starvation; as increased settlement within their nation would further deplete buffalo populations and other game. The Cree, and others, wanted to be able to perform agriculture practices and have medicinal supplies and education accessible by the population.
IV. What did the government want from the treaty process?
The Canadian Government wanted an end to Native raids on settlements and to be able to continue to settle further west. The Government was required by British law that treaties be made before colonization can take place Canada, therefore treaties were mandatory pre-colonization agreements. Through this treaty the Government was able to place the Native populations on reserves, attempt restrict the alcohol they received, set up systems to assimilate the Natives into Canadian culture and buy much of the land the promised the Natives back off them.
V. What were the treaties core provisions?
Reserves would be established in which the selling and distributing of alcohol would be banned
Hunting, trapping and fishing on native land would be permitted
Each native person would be paid $5 annually
$1500 per year would be given for the purchase of ammunition and twine
Agricultural tools, seed, and livestock would be provided
Each chief would receive $25 per annum and a few other articles
Aide would be provided in the event of pestilence and famine
A medicine chest would be provided at the offices of the Indian agents
VI. What is the status of the treaty today?
Yes, the treaty is still active. 17 first nations groups that originally signed Treaty Six started a confederacy in 1993, (to represent the other first nation groups that were part of Treaty Six). In 2012 the city of Edmonton signed a partnership with the Confederacy.
Beal, Bob. “Treaty 6.” The Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan.
http://esask.uregina.ca/entry/treaty_6.html (accessed January 20, 2013).
John Leonard , Taylor. Treaties and Historical Research Centre, “Treaty Research Report – Treaty Six (1876).” Last modified 2010. Accessed January 21, 2013. http://www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/eng/1100100028710/1100100028783.
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