It’s time to recall the foundational values of the Treaty relationship; an educational commentary shared by AFN Regional Chief Cindy Woodhouse as shared in The Hill Times (re-shared with permission from Regional Chief Woodhouse) It’s time to acknowledge that Canada would not have the global reputation it has, as a good, peaceful place to live,
It’s time to recall the foundational values of the Treaty relationship; an educational commentary shared by AFN Regional Chief Cindy Woodhouse as shared in The Hill Times (re-shared with permission from Regional Chief Woodhouse)
It’s time to acknowledge that Canada would not have the global reputation it has, as a good, peaceful place to live, as a place where people are generous and provide refuge to those in need, without our treaties.
The front and back of the medal presented to chiefs and councillors of Treaties No. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7. Our people are generous and extended a hand of friendship and continue to do so. And we still expect, and require, that the honour of the Crown, our Treaty partner, be upheld, writes Regional Chief Cindy Woodhouse.
The territories of the 11 numbered treaties stretch from Northern Ontario, across the Prairies to the northeastern corner of British Columbia and include part of the Northwest Territories. The numbered treaties remain foundational to the peace and the well-being of all the people who now live in our territories—whether you came to Canada as an immigrant, refugee, or you are a descendant of someone who was.
The challenges First Nations faced in 1871 were in many ways not dissimilar from some we see today—we suffered food insecurity because of settler activities and imposed laws, we faced new diseases that arrived with newcomers that we had never encountered before, and there were people migrating to our territories seeking our protection and opportunity in our lands as they fled conflict and oppression elsewhere.
When First Nations sought a Treaty with the Crown, we sought a respectful relationship not domination and oppression. We did not agree to “cession” of lands. In accordance with our values and laws, we were willing to share the lands and allow people to come to farm and sustain themselves—so long as they respected our inherent rights to sustain and govern ourselves.
Our Treaty partner has not upheld its part of the relationship that well. So, it’s time to acknowledge that Canada would not have the global reputation it has, as a good, peaceful place to live, as a place where people are generous and provide refuge to those in need, without our treaties, and not without the First Nations values of peace and mutual support that inform those treaties.
Without the vision and the values of our leadership, opportunities for millions of people to share in the rich resources of our lands would not have been possible.
Our people are generous and extended a hand of friendship and continue to do so. And we still expect, and require, that the honour of the Crown, our Treaty partner, be upheld. That is one thing you can count on with First Nations people—we are consistent in our beliefs and positions, even over hundreds of years. A commitment is a commitment, especially when made in ceremony before the Creator.
I am very proud to be a descendant of a signatory to Treaty No. 2, Chief Richard Woodhouse (Kee-wee-tah-quun-na-yash). My most cherished possession is the Treaty medal he received, and which can be seen in a photograph in the holdings of the National Archives. My father, Garnet Woodhouse, has entrusted it to one of my sons, who represents the seventh generation since Treaty, He is learning that the Treaty medal represents the sacred commitments of our people and those of the Crown.
I hope to leave my sons, and future generations, a Canada where Treaty implementation actually happens, where the honour of the Crown is upheld. And that means respecting First Nations’ inherent rights as peoples, including our right to our lands and self-determination. These are rights that the Creator entrusted to us. These are rights which cannot be extinguished.
At the moment, I still hold onto the hope of seeing Treaty implementation.
We have decisions ahead. Many Treaty regions are examining the need for a federal Treaty Commissioner to help educate and guide our Treaty partner. And we are looking at opportunities to ensure implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Article 37 of the Declaration states: “Indigenous peoples have the right to the recognition, observance and enforcement of treaties” and to have [member States of the United Nations] “honour and respect such treaties.”
And finally, let us all recall the principles of reconciliation suggested by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. The sixth principle states: “All Canadians, as Treaty peoples, share responsibility for establishing and maintaining mutually respectful relationships.”
I will work hard to advance this work. I look to the Crown, and to all Canadians, to join First Nations in realizing our joint commitment to peace and to hold each other up.
Regional Chief Cindy Woodhouse is a member of the Executive Committee of the Assembly of First Nations and is a proud member Pinaymootang First Nation in Treaty 2 Territory.
MTNLive has been granted permission by AFN Regional Chief Woodhouse to report this article. To view the original article, please click on the link below.
Miigwech Regional Chief Woodhouse.