by Ruth Griffiths
The after-dinner speaker at a conference often puts me to sleep. Perhaps it’s the combination of a long day and a full stomach. I nod off fairly easily during such events. But a presentation by a representative from The Office of the Treaty Commissioner had me fully awake during a conference a few years ago. My ears were opened.
Although I’ve lived my whole life within the area covered by Treaty 6, I was unaware of its implications for my life. I had read the treaty, at least in part, because it had been published in full in the Prince Albert Daily Herald during the time that I worked in the newsroom.
Nevertheless, reading the treaty and having someone explain it to me were two different things.
The phrase that stayed with me from that after-dinner presentation was, “We are all treaty people.”
A treaty is an agreement negotiated between sovereign nations. Everyone benefits from the treaty. All the people living within the treaty territory are beneficiaries.
The Office of the Treaty Commissioner states: “Newcomers and their descendants benefit from the wealth generated from the land and the foundational rights provided in the treaties.
There are misconceptions that only First Nations peoples are part of the treaties, but in reality, both parties are part of treaty. All people in Saskatchewan are treaty people.”
The First Nations understood that under the treaty they would receive assistance to the transition of a new lifestyle, maintenance of their cultural and spiritual rights, right to hunt, trap, and fish, education, medical assistance, reserve land, agricultural tools and support, and peaceful co-existence with the newcomers.
Newcomers would receive a peaceful co-existence with First Nations people, access to lands for settlement, farming, railways and future industrial development.
Treaty 6 was negotiated between the Dominion of Canada on behalf of the Queen and several First Nations groups: Cree, Saulteaux, Nakota, and Dene. Treaty 6 was signed on Aug. 23, 1876 at Fort Carlton and at Fort Pitt on Sept. 9, 1876. Some First Nations bands were not present at the Treaty negotiations and therefore signed an adhesion to the treaty at later dates. Little Pine and Lucky Man bands adhered to Treaty 6 at Fort Walsh on July 2, 1879, Big Bear in 1882 and the Lac La Ronge and Montreal Lake bands in 1889.
The spirit, intent, and provisions of the treaties last forever, as long as the sun shines, the grass grows and the rivers flow.