Nation-Based Sovereign-Based Government

Life Long Learning – Treaty Two (1871)

November 16, 2019

Treaty 2 Territory – Life Long Learning Circle Keeper, Donna Beyer, has been thinking about treaty education in schools; particularly, Treaty Two education in Treaty Two territory and/or Treaty Two Nations.

Alexander Morris was the treaty commissioner during Treaty Two. In his journals, reprinted in the book, The Treaties of Canada with the Indians of Manitoba and the North-West Territories including the Negotiations of which they were based (1991), one can examine the perspective(s) of First Nations leadership during treaty negotiations. This is important when teaching and learning about treaties.

In the book, it states: “After some delay they stated that there was a cloud before them which made things dark, and they did not wish to commence the [treaty] proceedings till the cloud was dispersed” (Morris 33). Although this book is written from the perspective and position of a government treaty commissioner, one can see that First Nations leadership refused to participate in further negotiations until another issue was resolved between the two parties. As it turns out, the Hudson’s Bay Company had imprisoned four Cree men. First Nations leadership wanted them released prior to any further discussion(s). It seems that the HBC was accusing the four men of entering into contract with the HBC as boatmen, “deserting” the HBC, and defaulting on a payment. At the same time, as mentioned in a previous LLL blog, when we examine the past, HBC “sold” Rupert’s Land without prior consent of First Nations in those territories. At that time, First Nations leadership were stating that they had never surrendered lands to the HBC. The four men were released.

Next, it is noted that Chief Henry Prince refused to enter negotiations. As a First Nations leader, Prince “said that he could not then enter upon any negotiations, as he was not empowered to speak or act for those bands of Indians not then present” (Morris 35). These are the details of treaty negotiations that many may not be aware of, but perhaps should be as they can reveal the view(s) of First Nations leadership. Negotiations were put on hold until more chiefs and headmen arrived.

It is written that on July 29th, 1871, “the Indians had misunderstood the object of these reservations, for their demands in this respect were utterly out of the question” (Morris 36). It does not note what First Nations leadership proposed for reserve lands, but it would be safe to assume that it was beyond the 160 acres per family of five.

In November 1871, it is mentioned that “the Indians were anxiously awaiting my arrival [because] they were much excited on the subject of their lands being occupied without attention being first given to their claims of compensation” (Morris 37). It seems there were newcomers arriving “in the area of Portage la Prairie and other parts of the province”, who were building homes and removing timber without treaty and/or permission from the original inhabitants of those areas (Morris 37). Do we not make laws and/or rules today that state it is illegal to remove resources without permission of an owner?

One very important note in Morris’s journal: “But it is to be remembered that a large number of Indians, whose lands were ceded by the second treaty, were not present” (Morris 42). It seems many people were at their traditional “hunting grounds” during that time (Morris 42). In considering all of this, what discussion would take place with your family, friends, colleagues, and community? Or, in the classroom with students whom belong to Treaty Two?

In the years after the signing of Treaty One and Treaty Two (1871), Treaty Three (the North-West Angle Treaty) was signed in the Lake of the Woods area. In Morris’s book, it is written that a “CHIEF” stood up to speak to the treaty commissioners. This leader stated: “I will now show you a medal that was given to those who made a treaty at Red River by the Commissioner. He said it was silver, but do not this it is….[Here the Chief held up the medal and struck it with the back of his knife. The result was anything but the ‘true ring’ and made every man ashamed of the petty meanness that had been practiced.]” (Morris74). Does this mean the medal broke? This story, although told from the perspective of the commissioner, reveals that First Nations leadership from Treaty One and Treaty Two traveled to that territory knowing that the leaders in those areas would soon be negotiating their own treaty (Treaty Three).

When it comes to re-examining history and treaty education, what does looking closer at the context of treaty negotiations mean to you? Just as one First Nations leader said in Treaty Three negotiations: “You must remember that our hearts and our brains are like paper; we never forget” (Morris 69).

Last modified: November 18, 2019

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