Treaty Negotiations, 1877 to 1878, Between Canada and First Nations of Manitoba and the Northwest Territories.

The Administration of the Treaties. 285


HAVING placed before my readers, a history of the treaties of Canada with the Indian tribes, of Manitoba, the North- West Territories and Kee-watin, I now proceed, in conclusion, to deal with the administration of these treaties and to consider the future of these interesting aboriginal races. I remark in the first place that the provisions of these treaties must be carried out with the utmost good faith and the nicest exactness. The Indians of Canada have, owing to the manner in which they were dealt with for generations by the Hudson's Bay Company, the former rulers of these vast territories, an abiding confidence in the Government of the Queen, or the Great Mother, as they style her. This must not, at all hazards, be shaken. It can be easily and fully maintained. The treaties are all based upon the models of that made at the Stone Fort in 1871 and the one made in 1873 at the north-west angle of the Lake of the Woods with the Chippewa tribes, and these again are based, in many material features, on those made by the Hon. W. B. Robinson with the Chippewas dwelling on the shores of Lakes Huron and Superior in 1860.
These may be summarized thus :
1. A relinquishment, in all the great region from Lake Superior to the foot of the Rocky Mountains, of all their right and title to the lands covered by the treaties, saving certain reservations for their own use, and
2. In return for such relinquishment, permission to the In 286 The Treaties of Canada with the Indians. dians to hunt over the ceded territory and to fish in the waters thereof, excepting such portions of the territory as pass from the Crown into the occupation of individuals or otherwise.
3. The perpetual payment of annuities of five dollars per head to each Indian—man, woman and child. The payment of an annual salary of twenty-five dollars to each Chief, and of fifteen dollars to each Councillor, or head man, of a Chief (thus making them in a sense officers of the Crown), and in addition, suits of official clothing for the Chiefs and head men, British flags for the Chiefs, and silver medals. These last are given both in the United States and in Canada, in conformity with an ancient custom, and are much prized and cherished by the Chiefs and their families. Frequently the Indians have exhibited to me with pride, old medals issued, with the likeness of the King before the American war of Independence, and which have passed down as heirlooms of their families. On one occasion a young Chief, who had come of age and aspired to be recognized as a Chief, was decorated in my presence with the old King George silver medal, by one of the band, to whom it had been entrusted for safe keeping by the young man's father, who was a Chief, with the charge that on the boy's coming of age, it would be delivered over to him. The Chieftainships were at first partly hereditary, partly won by deeds of daring and of leadership against the foe. They are now generally elective, though the tendency to hereditary succession still largely exists. The power of the Chiefs has been much broken of late, and I am of opinion that it is of importance to strengthen the hands of the Chiefs and Councillors by a due recognition of their offices and respect being shewn them. They should be strongly impressed with the belief that they are officers of the Crown, and that it is their duty to see that the Indians of their tribes obey the provisions of the treaties. The importance of upholding the Chiefs, may be illustrated by an incident which occurred near Fort Ellice, after the making of the treaty. A party composed of three men and the wife The Administration of the Treaties. 287 of one of them, were travelling as freighters ; two of the men were Half-breeds, the other a Canadian. One night, one of the Half-breeds shot the Canadian, and attempted to kill the other Half-breed, who fled to an Indian camp in the vicinity. The Chief of the band was there, and he at once took his young men with him, proceeded to the scene of the murder, and after making the offender a prisoner, took him to the nearest police station and delivered him to the authorities. The culprit was subsequently tried in Manitoba, convicted of murder and hanged. For this action the Chief received the thanks of His Excellency the Earl of Dufferin, then Governor- General of Canada. This case affords an illustration of the value of the recognition of the Chiefs of the various bands, and shews of how much advantage, it is to the Crown to possess so large a number of Indian officials, duly recognized as such, and who can be inspired with a proper sense of their responsibility to the Government and to their bands, as well as to others. In all the negotiations for treaties, the Chiefs took a controlling part, and generally exhibited great common sense and excellent judgment. It is therefore of the utmost importance to retain their confidence and cause their office to be recognized and respected by both whites and Indians.
4. The allotment of lands to the Indians, to be set aside as reserves for them for homes and agricultural purposes, and which cannot be sold or alienated without their consent, and then only for their benefit; the extent of lands thus set apart being generally one section for each family of five. I regard this system as of great value. It at once secures to the Indian tribes tracts of land, which cannot be interfered with, by the rush of immigration, and affords the means of inducing them to establish homes and learn the arts of agriculture. I regard the Canadian system of allotting reserves to one or more bands together, in the localities in which they have had the habit of living, as far preferable to the American system of placing whole tribes, in large reserves, which eventually 288 The Treaties of Canada with the Indians. become the object of cupidity to the whites, and the breaking up of which, has so often led to Indian wars and great discontent even if warfare did not result. The Indians, have a strong attachment to the localities, in which they and their fathers have been accustomed to dwell, and it is desirable to to cultivate this home feeling of attachment to the soil. Moreover, the Canadian system of band reserves has a tendency to diminish the offensive strength of the Indian tribes, should they ever become restless, a remote contingency, if the treaties are carefully observed. Besides, the fact of the reserves being scattered throughout the territories, will enable the Indians to obtain markets among the white settlers, for any surplus produce they may eventually have to dispose of. It will be found desirable, to assign to each family parts of the reserve for their own use, so as to give them a sense of property in it, but all power of sale or alienation of such lands should be rigidly prohibited. Any premature enfranchisement of the Indians, or power given them to part with their lands, would inevitably lead to the speedy breaking up of the reserves, and the return of the Indians to their wandering mode of life, and thereby to the re-creation of a difficulty which the assignment of reserves was calculated to obviate. There is no parallel between the condition of the North-Western Indians, and that of the Indians who have so long been under the fostering care of the Government in the older Provinces of Ontario and Quebec.
5. A very important feature of all the treaties, is the giving to the Indian bands, agricultural implements, oxen, cattle (to form the nuclei of herds), and seed grain.
The Indians are fully aware that their old mode of life is passing away. They are not " unconscious of their destiny ;" on the contrary, they are harassed with fears as to the future of their children and the hard present of their own lives. They are tractable, docile, and willing to learn. ' They recognize the fact that they must seek part of their living from "the mother The Administration of the Treaties. 289 earth," to use their own phraseology. A Chief at Fort Pitt said to me,—"I got a plough from Mr. Christie of the Company twelve years ago. I have no cattle ; I put myself and my young men in front of it in the spring, and drag it through the ground. I have no hoes; I make them out of the roots of trees. Surely, when the Great Mother hears of our needs, she will come to our help."* Such a disposition as this should be encouraged. Induce the Indians to erect houses on their farms, and plant their " gardens " as they call them, and then while away on their hunts, their wives and children will have houses to dwell in, and will care for their patches of corn and grain and potatoes. Then, too, the cattle given them will expand into herds. It is true that the number assigned to each band is comparatively limited, and the Government are not bound to extend the number. This was done advisedly, by the successive Governments of Canada, and the Commissioners, acting under their instructions; for it was felt, that it was an experiment to entrust them with cattle, owing to their inexperience with regard to housing them and providing fodder for them in winter, and owing, moreover, to the danger of their using them for food, if short of buffalo meat or game. Besides, it was felt, that as the Indian is, and naturally so, always asking, it was better, that if the Government saw their way safely to increase the number of cattle given to any band, it should be, not as a matter of right, but of grace and favor, and as a reward for exertion in the care of them, and as an incentive to industry. Already, the prospect of many of the bands turning their attention to raising food from the soil is very hopeful. In the reserve of St. Peter's, in Manitoba, the Church of England has for many years had a church and mission, and long before the advent of Canada as ruler of the lands, the Indians of the Indian settlement had their houses and gardens, the produce of which, went to supplement the results of 290 The Treaties of Canada with the Indians. fishing and hunting. And so on the shores and islands of the Lake of the Woods and on Rainy Lake, the Indians had their gardens. Since the treaties, the Indians are turning their attention much more to cultivating the soil. The Indian district agent in the Qu'Appelle region, reported in November, 1878, that of the twenty-four bands in this treaty, eleven are gradually turning their attention to farming, and of these Chief Cote, of Swan River, is the most advanced, having harvested that year two hundred and eighty bushels of barley, over three thousand bushels of potatoes, and a large quantity of other vegetables. The increase from the four cows he received two years since is eleven head. This may appear large, but such is the fact.
Lieut.-Gov. Laird reported in 1877, "That some of the bands within the limits of Treaties Numbers Four and Six sowed grain and potatoes with good results that year, one band having about one hundred acres under cultivation." He also states that the Indians are very desirous of farming, and that he has hopes that a much larger quantity of seed will be sown next year (1879). He also states that the band at White Fish Lake, raised enough that year to maintain themselves without going to hunt. The Superintendent also reported that in the Manitoba superintendency "a general desire to be taught farming, building and other civilized arts exists, and some of the Indians in Treaty Number Three, living in the vicinity of Fort Francis, are said to evince enterprise and progress in their farming operations." At Lac Seule, also in this treaty, the progress of the Indians is quite marked. They have established two villages in order to have the benefit of schools.
The Indian agent in the Lake Manitoba district makes a similar statement. One band has eighteen small farms of one hundred acres in all, on which they raise potatoes, Indian corn and garden vegetables. They have twenty-nine houses, twenty- four horses, and thirty-six head of cattle, of their own. Another built during the year a good school-house, nineteen new houses, The Administration of the Treaties. 291 and had one hundred and twenty-five acres under cultivation. Another had just begun farming, built six houses, two stables and a barn, and possess seven head of cattle. Still another had twenty-three houses and one hundred and fifty acres under tillage, raising barley, wheat, potatoes and vegetables, and having thirty-six head of cattle. It is unnecessary to multiply instances, of the aptitude, the Indians are exhibiting, within so recent a period after the completion of the treaties, to avail themselves of obtaining their subsistence from the soil. Their desire to do so, should be cultivated to the fullest extent. They are, of course, generally ignorant of the proper mode of farming. In the year 1876, I reported to the Minister of the Interior, the Hon. David Mills, after my return from the negotiation of the treaties at Forts Carlton and Pitt, "that measures ought to be taken to instruct the Indians in farming and building."
I said "that their present mode of living is passing away; the Indians are tractable, docile and willing to learn. I think that advantage should be taken of this disposition to teach them to become self-supporting, which can best be accomplished by the aid of a few practical farmers and carpenters to instruct them in farming and house-building."
This view was corroborated by my successor, Lieutenant- Governor Laird, who in 1878 reported from Battleford "that if it were possible to employ a few good, practical men to aid and instruct the Indians at seed time, I am of opinion that most of the bands on the Saskatchewan would soon be able to raise sufficient crops to meet their most pressing wants."
It is satisfactory to know, that the Government of Canada, decided to act on these suggestions, at least in part, and have during the past summer sent farm instructors into the Plain country. It is to be hoped, that this step may prove as fruitful of good results, as the earnest desire of the Indians to farm would lead us to believe it may be.
292 The Treaties of Canada with the Indians.
6. The treaties provide for the establishment of schools, on the reserves, for the instruction of the Indian children. This is a very important feature, and is deserving of being pressed with the utmost energy. The new generation can be trained in the habits and ways of civilized life—prepared to encounter the difficulties with which they will be surrounded, by the influx of settlers, and fitted for maintaining themselves as tillers of the soil. The erection of a school-house on a reserve will be attended with slight expense, and the Indians would often give their labour towards its construction.
7. The treaties all provide for the exclusion of the sale of spirits, or "fire-water," on the reserves. The Indians themselves know their weakness. Their wise men say, "If it is there we will use it, give us a strong law against it." A general prohibitory liquor law, originally enacted by the North- West Council and re-enacted by the Parliament of Canada, is in force in the North-West Territories and has been productive of much benefit, but will, in the near future, be difficult of enforcement owing to the vast extent of the territory.
Such are the main features of the treaties between Canada and the Indians, and, few as they are, they comprehend the whole future of the Indians and of their relations to the Dominion.
To carry them out, the treaty area has been divided into two Superintendencies, that of Manitoba, including Treaties Numbers One, Two Three and Four; and that of the North- West Territories, including Treaties Numbers Five, Six and Seven. Mr. Dewdney, late a Member of the House of Commons from British Columbia, has recently been appointed to the latter Superintendeney as Chief Superintendent, and has spent the summer among the Indian tribes. He has had large The Half-breeds. 293 experience among Indians, and will prove, I have no doubt, an efficient and able officer. His residence will be in his Superintendency, and he will be able to meet the Indians and supervise his deputies. Under the Superintendents are agents having charge of particular districts and the bands within them, who reside among them. The Chief Superintendents and agents are officers of the Department of the Interior, and are directed by and report to the Deputy Superintendent of Indian Affairs at Ottawa, Lawrence Vankoughnet, Esq., who has had long experience of Indian management in the older Provinces, and his superior, Col. Dennis, Deputy Minister of the Interior, who had a large practical acquaintance with the North-West, and the head of the Department, now the Premier of the Dominion, the Right Hon. Sir John Macdonald. The system of management is thus a complete one, and doubtless, day by day, its mode of management, will be perfected and adapted to the growing exigencies and wants of the native population.
Ere passing from the subject, I cannot refrain from alluding to the Half-breed population of the North-West Territories. Those people are mainly of French Canadian descent, though there are a few of Scotch blood in the territories. Their influence with the Indian population is extensive. In Manitoba there is a large population of French Metis and Scotch Half- breeds, and they are proud of their mixed blood. This race is an important factor with regard to all North-West questions. His Excellency the Earl of Dufferin, with his keen appreciation of men and facts, astutely seized the position and thus referred to them in his speech at a banquet in his honor, given by the citizens of the whilome hamlet, and new city of Winnipeg, on the occasion of his visit to the Province of Manitoba in the year 1877.
"There is no doubt that a great deal of the good feeling 294 The Treaties of Canada with the Indians. thus subsisting between the red men and ourselves is due to the influence and interposition of that invaluable class of men the Half-breed settlers and pioneers of Manitoba, who, combining as they do the hardihood, the endurance and love of enterprise generated by the strain of Indian blood within their viens, with the civilization, the instruction, and the intellectual power derived from their fathers, have preached the Gospel of peace and good will, and mutual respect, with equally beneficent results to the Indian Chieftain in his lodge and to the British settler in the shanty. They have been the ambassadors between the east and the west ; the interpreters of civilization and its exigencies to the dwellers on the prairie as well as the exponents to the white men of the consideration justly due to the susceptibilities, the sensitive self- respect, the prejudices, the innate craving for justice, of the Indian race. In fact they have done for the colony what otherwise would have been left unaccomplished, and have introduced between the white population and the red man a traditional feeling of amity and friendship which but for them it might have been impossible to establish."
For my own part, I can frankly say, that I always had the confidence, support and active co-operation of the Half-breeds of all origins, in my negotiations with the Indian tribes, and I owe them this full acknowledgment thereof. The Half-breeds in the territories are of three classes—1st, those who, as at St. Laurent, near Prince Albert, the Qu'Appelle Lakes and Edmonton, have their farms and homes ; 2nd, those who are entirely identified with the Indians, living with them, and speaking their language ; 3rd, those who do not farm, but live after the habits of the Indians, by the pursuit of the buffalo and the chase.
As to the first class, the question is an easy one. They will, of course, be recognized as possessors of the soil, and confirmed by the Government in their holdings, and will continue to make their living by farming and trading.
The Future of the Indians. 295
The second class have been recognized as Indians, and have passed into the bands among whom they reside. .
The position of the third class is more difficult. The loss of the means of livelihood by the destruction of the buffalo, presses upon them, as upon our Indian tribes ; and with regard to them I reported in 1876, and I have seen no reason to change my views, as follows :
" There is another class of the population in the North-West whose position I desire to bring under the notice of the Privy Council. I refer to the wandering Half-breeds of the plains, who are chiefly of French descent and live the life of the Indians. There are a few who are identified with the Indians, but there is a large class of Metis who live by the hunt of the buffalo, and have no settled homes. I think that a census of the numbers of these should be procured, and while I would not be disposed to recommend their being brought under the treaties, I would suggest that land should be assigned to them, and that on their settling down, if after an examination into their circumstances, it should be found necessary and expedient, some assistance should be given them to enable them to enter upon agricultural operations."
And now I come, to a very important question, What is to be the future of the Indian population. of the North-West. I believe it to be a hopeful one. I have every confidence in the desire and ability of the present administration, as of any succeeding one, to carry out the provisions of the treaties, and to extend a helping hand to this helpless population. That, conceded, with the machinery at their disposal, with a judicious selection of agents and farm instructors, and the additional aid of well-selected carpenters, and efficient school teachers, I look forward to seeing the Indians, faithful allies of the Crown, while they can gradually be made an increasing and self-supporting population.
296 The Treaties of Canada with the Indians.
They are wards of Canada, let us do our duty by them, and repeat in the North-west, the success which has attended our dealings with them in old Canada, for the last hundred years.
But the Churches too have their duties to fulfil. There is a common ground between the Christian Churches and the Indians, as they all believe as we do, in a Great Spirit. The transition thence to the Christian's God is an easy one.
Many of them appeal for missionaries, and utter the Macedonian cry, "come over and help us." The Churches have already done and are doing much. The Church of Rome has its bishops and clergy, who haVe long been laboring assiduously and actively. The Church of England has its bishops and clergy on the shores of the Hudson's Bay, in the cold region of the Mackenzie and the dioceses of Rupert's Land and Saskatchewan. The Methodist Church has its missions on Lake \Vinnipeg, in the Saskatchewan Valley, and on the slopes of the Rocky Mountains. The Presbyterians have lately commenced a work among the Chippewas and Sioux. There is room enough and to spare, for all, and the Churches should expand and maintain their work. Already many of the missionaries have made records which will live in history: among those of recent times, Archbishop Tache, Bishop Grandin, Pere Lacombe, and many others of the Catholic Church; Bishops Machray, Bompas, Archdeacons Cochran and Cowley of the Church of England; Revs. Messrs. Macdougall of the Wesleyan and Nisbet of the Presbyterian Churches, have lived and labored, and though some of them have gone to their rest, they have left and will leave behind them a record of self-denial, untiring zeal, and many good results. Let the Churches persevere and prosper.
And now I close. Let us have Christianity and civilization to leaven the mass of he-athenism and paganism among the Indian tribes; let us have a wise and paternal Government faithfully carrying out the provisions of our treaties, and doing The Future of the Indians. 297 its utmost to help and elevate the Indian population, who have been cast upon our care, and we will have peace, progress, and concord among them in the North-West ; and instead of the Indian melting away, as one of them in older Canada, tersely put it, "as snow before the sun," we will see our Indian population, loyal subjects of the Crown, happy, prosperous and self- sustaining, and Canada will be enabled to feel, that in a truly patriotic spirit, our country has done its duty by the red men of the North-West, and thereby to herself. So may it be.


Morris, Alexander. The Treaties of Canada with the Indians of Manitoba and the North-West Territories Including the Negotiations on Which They Are Based, and Other Information Relating Thereto.. Toronto: Willing & Williamson, 1880. Digitized by University of Alberta Libraries.



Selection of input documents and completion of metadata: Gordon Lyall.


  • * This band a year ago raised, sufficient farm produce to support themselves without hunting.

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