Why Did the Government Want Treaties?
When Europeans first arrived in North America, they wanted to make alliances with Indigenous people to gain access to natural resources and maintain peace. The Indigenous nations were helpful allies to all while the British and French were more interested in fighting each other. Indigenous peoples knew the terrain (land) and were skilled fighters.
PHOTO CREDIT: SASKATCHEWAN ARCHIVES BOARD
Atimoyoo, a Cree man is shown in traditional clothing in 1905.
When Britain defeated the French and gained control of Canada, they wanted control over all treaties with Indigenous people. The British wanted access to the traditional territories for settlers and development. They also wanted the natural resources and did not want the Indigenous people to interfere or object to their colonizing.
The Canadian Government wanted the land for people from Europe to farm.
Between 1871 and 1921, the Federal government (representing the Crown) and the Cree, Saulteaux, Assiniboine(Nakota), and Dene people negotiated treaties in the territory that is now called Saskatchewan. The federal government and First Nations signed Treaties 2, 4, 5, 6, 8 and 10 between 1871 and 1906 in the area that is now Saskatchewan.
Treaty 6 may be the most pivotal treaty to be signed. The leaders looked at the Treaty 4 signing from 1874 and made some additional requests. Chief Poundmaker ensured that the agreement of the ‘Medicine Chest’ was promised and agreed to. This had ensured healthcare be provided to First Nations people for sicknesses and illnesses that were brought with the Europeans. Healthcare is a treaty right.
Photo Credit: U of S Libraries Special Collections
Chief Poundmaker, Pîhtokahanapiwiyin, tried to protect his people during Treaty 6 negotiations.
The terms also included more agriculture implements and a famine clause, to protect them from such problems. Treaty 6 was signed on August 23, 1867.
Photo Credit: Library and Archives canada
The Plains Cree Chief, Big Bear, was concerned with the impossible treaty conditions that seemed to ensure perpetual poverty and the destruction of his people’s way of life.