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Teaching our Children and Youth About the Numbered Treaties

2021 marks the year that we will commemorating 150 years since the signing of Treaties 1 and 2.  This is a great opportunity for our communities to talk to our children and youth about life before the treaties, the history of the Treaties and how they affect us 150 years later. Seventy treaties were signed

2021 marks the year that we will commemorating 150 years since the signing of Treaties 1 and 2.  This is a great opportunity for our communities to talk to our children and youth about life before the treaties, the history of the Treaties and how they affect us 150 years later.

Seventy treaties were signed between First Nations and the Crown (Canada) between 1701 and 1923.  An additional 25 modern day treaties have been signed since 1975.  In Manitoba we have the numbered treaties, with Treaties one and two having been entered into in August of 1871, 150 years ago.

So, what are the Treaties in simple terms?  Treaties by definition, are agreements that two parties enter into, in order to provide or maintain peaceful relations between them.  For First Nations peoples, the Treaties are much more that a written document between two nations.  Treaties are sacred agreements between the First Nations peoples and the British Crown, with the Creator as witness. So, they were a three-party agreement.  Collectively, these legally binding documents define the rights of First Nations peoples and their relationship to the Canadian government, including any land and financial agreements, and rights to self-government.

Treaties are ‘living,’ foundational agreements that are based on the combining of two worldviews: our oral traditions (values and natural laws) of the First Nations peoples and the written traditions and common law of the Crown who in turn, represents the Newcomers.

It’s these natural laws which guided the spirit and intent of the Treaties.  These were laws that were based on balance, harmony and reciprocity.   It was our belief that entering into the Treaties would result in a sharing of the land.  In return, the Crown promised to allow First Nations to retain their own way and life.

Treaty No. 1 was negotiated and signed in August 1871 at Lower Fort Garry.

Treaty No. 2 was negotiated at Lower Fort Garry and signed in August 1871 at Manitoba House.

Treaty No. 3 was negotiated and signed in October 1873 at a traditional First Nation fishing station near Harrison Creek at the Northwest Angle of Lake of the Woods, northeast of the Buffalo Point First Nation in Manitoba. Adhesions to Treaty No. 3 were signed in other locations within the Treaty area.

Treaty No. 4 was negotiated and signed in September 1874 at Fort Qu’appelle, Saskatchewan. First Nations within Manitoba signed adhesions to Treaty No. 4 at Fort Ellice.

Treaty No 5 was negotiated and signed by the largest number of First Nation communities within Manitoba at different locations and times. The first signing of Treaty No.5 occurred at Berens River in September 1875. Adhesions to Treaty No. 5 were signed throughout Manitoba’s north.

Treaty No. 6 was signed in August 1876 at Fort Carlton, Saskatchewan. First Nations within Manitoba signed adhesions to Treaty No. 6.

Treaty No. 10 was signed in August 1906. First Nations within Manitoba signed adhesions to Treaty No. 10.

Although the Dakota people were not a part of the Numbered Treaties they are recognized as having use and occupation of territories within Manitoba and have secured alliances and arrangements with the Crown

“For as long as the sun shines, the grass grows and the water flows” (Tecumseh, Shawnee Nation)

What our children and youth need to understand is that we were never defeated, we were never conquered, and we never surrendered.  It was about coexistence and respect; how we treat each other and how we respect the land.  The problem, however, is that the Crown (colonizer) chose to not follow the spirit and intent of the Treaties.  Their intent was to dominate and defeat our lands and people.

It’s important to remember that treaty doesn’t define us, nor does it give us our identity as First Peoples of Turtle Island. Our identity predates all Treaties.  But in order to identify ourselves, we need to look at our beginning and our relationship with spirit and the land, our Creation stories, our ancestors, our ceremonies, our teachings, our history, our languages and our way of life. “We would be much stronger as a People if we were grounded and rooted in our identity.” (Dr. Dave Courchene, Jr)

While the Canadian government has obligations to honour the Treaties, our People also have a responsibility to live up to our main treaty responsibility, and that’s to stay rooted in our own identity. We can do that by practising our ways of life, speaking our languages and staying connected to the land.  We need to work proactively to define our own vision of the future to ensure that our children and generations to come, live a good life.  It’s time to rebuild ourselves based on our own languages, culture, spirituality and our connection to the land.

August 21, 2021 commemorates 150 years since we entered into Treaty 2.  There will be events planned for the week leading up to that day, so stayed tuned for more information about what is being planned. In the meantime, I encourage you and your families to learn more about the Treaties by visiting the TRCM.ca website.

There are a number of children’s books available to help your young ones learn more about the history and significance of the Treaties.  I would highly recommend a newly released book by Aimée Craft, entitled, “Treaty Words for as Long as the Rivers Flow.”  It’s a beautifully written book about a Mishomis who tells his granddaughter about life before Treaty, what treaty means and the spirit and intent of the treaties.

“Long ago, we entered treaties with our brothers and sisters, the animal nations…You remember those stories, don’t you? We made those treaties to live well together.  With the deer nation, for example, we agreed not to take too many of them.  In turn they would provide us with food and sustenance.  We agreed to work together…to continue to act in relationship, and toward mino-bimaadiziiwin, that collective and reciprocal sense of well-being.” (p. 33)

So, I encourage you to learn more and to take the time to teach your children and our youth about the Treaties, before, during and after.  As First Nations people we need to better understand our history, our values and renew relationships that have existed since millennia. We are all in this together now.  It’s about all of us.

 

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