During the signing of the treaties, the two sovereign Nations agreed to terms. Many Indigenous nations believe that the Creator was also present during the development and signing of the treaty. In exchange for land and resources, the government agreed to share with First Nations people the western way of living (for example: education, tools, technology, and agriculture).
Government officials agreed to give the First Nations people tools and teach them how to farm. They did not always keep their promises though.
The details in each treaty were different, but generally, all Indigenous people would have a space to live called a reserve. Each individual family on the reserve was to be given a certain amount of land and items to help set them on a path to sustain themselves.
The government promised farm implements and farm instruction to the First Nations people, but they were slow to deliver it. Farming was challenging just as it was for the early settlers. The land had to be broken, the weather was harsh and farming implements were not advanced.
First Nations farmers had to break the land.
European methods of farming were introduced to First Nations people. However, the European view of cultivating the land was quite different than the First Nation worldview of living in harmony with the land. The European farming practices involved clearing the land of what grew naturally and cultivating it to grow crops that they brought over from Europe. Farming completely changed the landscape of the Prairies.
Land was broken and crops were grown.
First Nations people learned new farming methods. They did not change their knowledge of the land. First Nations people understood the land very well and knew what to do and what not to do. Unfortunately, the knowledge that the First Nations people had was not appreciated by settlers.
PHOTO CREDIT: U OF S LIBRARIES SPECIAL COLLECTIONS
Chief Fine Day in farmers clothing.
By the late 1880s, many First Nations people were finding success with farming. The reasons First Nations people were so good at farming included their knowledge of the land and the fact that they often farmed collectively, not individually like European settlers. They had deep relationships with the land, the environment, and one another and applied these relationships to their farming practices.
PHOTO CREDIT: SASKATCHEWAN ARCHIVES BOARD
These are farmhouses on a reserve.
First Nations people began winning seed and farming competitions. These competitions were put on by the government in order to promote agriculture in the province. It was a problem for the government and the settlers that the First Nations groups were winning. The settlers claimed that because First Nations people were getting farming ‘coaches’ (as a part of treaty promises), the competition wasn’t fair. The government wanted the European farmers to be more successful so they could attract more settlers to the Prairies.
First Nations farmers won competitions for growing the best wheat. This upset the settlers and the government.