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During the treaty negotiations, First Nations people were promised lands for their communities to live on. These places were called ‘reserves.’ The Canadian government decided which section of land to give First Nations people to live on. The First Nations people believed they would live on reserves, but still have rights to all treaty land to use for their survival. Unfortunately, the government did not honour that treaty right.

A photograph of a First Nations family in front of their tipi wearing western clothing. Taken in Prince Albert District, NWT in 1901.


First Nations people had to live on reserves when the treaties were signed.

Land Claims

In the time that the First Nation reserves were established, it is said that settler farmers claimed some reserve land for their own without being given consent. Some of the reserves were supposed to be bigger, but farmers had already cultivated the land and set a claim to that land. 

To properly look at the area for the reserves, you would need a plane to view the land from the sky; but when the treaties were signed, planes were yet to be invented. Measuring tools were inaccurate and there was no way to view the land from the sky. Disagreements still exist today on actual size agreed upon in the treaties.

An illustrated drone flies on a white background.

There were no drones or planes to look at the land from above.

Poor Land

It was easy for settlers and government agents to take more than what they needed and let First Nations people live with barely enough to sustain themselves. The reserve lands were the lands that the government did not want. The lands chosen to be reserve lands were not economically or agriculturally useful.

A map of Saskatchewan is shown with a grouping of highlighted reserves that are small compared to the rest of the province.

Here is an example of the size of the reserve lands compared to the rest of Saskatchewan.

A group of farmers are harvesting grain in a farm field.

Some negotiations for land entitlements are still happening today.