Numbered Treaties

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Numbered Treaties
Map of Numbered Treaties of Canada. Borders are approximated.
Context Treaties to transfer large tracts of land from the First Nations to the Canadian Government in return for different promises laid out in the Treaty
Signed Between 1871 - 1921

Key Representatives of the British Crown: Adams George Archibald, Alexander Morris, David Laird, Duncan Campbell Scott, Wemyss Mackenzie Simpson, S.J Dawson, William J. Christie, James McKay, James MacLeod, James Hamilton Ross, J.A.J. McKenna, Samuel Stewart, Daniel G. MacMartin, Henry Anthony Conroy,

Key Representatives of First Nations Groups: Crowfoot (Blackfoot Nation), Big Bear (Cree Nation), Chief Powassin (Ojibwe Nation), Chief Keenooshayoo (Athabasca First Nations)
Languages English,
Numbered Treaties at Wikisource

The Numbered Treaties (or Post-Confederation Treaties) are a series of eleven treaties signed between the Aboriginal peoples in Canada (or First Nations) and the reigning monarch of Canada (Victoria, Edward VII or George V) from 1871 to 1921.[1] These agreements were created to allow the Canadian Government to pursue settlement and resource extraction in the affected regions, which include modern day Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, Saskatchewan, and the Northwest Territories.These treaties provided the Dominion of Canada large tracts of land in exchange for promises made to the Aboriginal people of the area. These terms were dependent on individual negotiations and so specific terms differed with each Treaty.

These Treaties came in two waves—Numbers 1 through 7 from 1871-1877 and Numbers 9 through 11 from 1899-1921. In the first wave, the treaties were key in advancing European settlement across the Prairie regions as well as the development of the Canadian Pacific Railway. In the second wave, resource extraction was the main motive for government officials

Today, these agreements are upheld by the Government of Canada, administered by Canadian Aboriginal law and overseen by the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. However, the Numbered Treaties are criticized and are a leading issue within the fight for First Nation rights. The 1982 Constitution Act gave protection of First Nations and treaty rights under Section 35. It states, "Aboriginal and treaty rights are hereby recognized and affirmed".[2] This phrase however was never fully defined. As a result, First Nations must attest their rights in court as the case in R v Sparrow.

Through centuries of interaction First Nations view the Numbered Treaties as sacred. As an expression of this association, First Nations in Canada and members of the Federal Government will regularly meet to celebrate milestone anniversaries, exchange ceremonial and symbolic gifts, and discuss treaty issues. Treaty Days are celebrated in Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.


For details of treaties in British Columbia, see Status of First Nations treaties in British Columbia.

The relationship between The Canadian Crown and Aboriginal peoples stretches back to first contact between European colonialists and North American Aboriginal peoples. Over centuries of interaction, treaties were established concerning interaction between the monarch and Aboriginal peoples. Both the Royal Proclamation of 1763 and the British North American Act of 1867 established guidelines that would be later used to create the numbered treaties.

The Royal Proclamation occurred in 1763, and is considered to be the foundation of treaty-making in Canada. This proclamation established a line between the Appalachian Mountain from Nova Scotia and the southern region of Georgia, and prevented settlement beyond that specific area by white colonists.[3] The Royal Proclamation of 1763: The proclamation also established protocols that needed to be acknowledged by the governing authority in regards to purchasing land from First Nations Peoples in North America and later Canada.[4] The Royal Proclamation was created as a result of the assertion of British jurisdiction over First Nation territory. While the British laid claim over First Nation territory, uprisings from Pontiac, the Three Fire Confederacy, and other First Nations Peoples resulted in a period of violence between the two peoples as the British attempted to maintain their claim and the Natives fought to dislodge British troops from their land. As a result of these uprisings, the intention of the Royal Proclamation was to prevent future disputes.[5] The Royal Proclamation stated that the only authoritative government that was able to purchase land from First Nations People was the British Crown. One of the stipulations of this agreement was that First Nation People were to be informed and attend the public assembly regarding the purchase of lands.[6]

When the British North American Act was created, a division of power was established between the Dominion Government and its provinces that separated First Nation Peoples and settlers. The federal government retained responsibility for providing health care, education, property rights and creating other laws that would affect the First Nations people.[7][8] Following the establishment of the British North America Acts in 1867, the Dominion Government of Canada replaced the British Crown as the leading authority, and gained control of 19th century First Nations land transfers.[9]

Both the Royal Proclamation and the British North America Acts impacted the procedures of governmental and First Nations People negotiations. They set the stage for future negotiations that would occur, including the numbered treaties that would begin in 1871.


The Numbered Treaties

Regions affected by the treaties include portions of what are now Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, Saskatchewan and the Northwest Territories. When the Dominion of Canada was first formed in 1867 as a confederation of several British North American colonies, most of these regions were part of Rupert's Land and the North-Western Territory and were controlled by the Hudson's Bay Company.

The "National Dream" of Sir John A. Macdonald, the first Prime Minister of Canada, was to create a nation from sea to sea, tied together by the Canadian Pacific Railway. In order to make this dream a reality, the Government of Canada needed to settle the southern portions of Rupert's Land (present day Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan).

Administration of Rupert's Land and the North-Western Territory was transferred to the Canadian government in 1869. Out of these lands, Canada created the Northwest Territories. Canadian law recognized that the First Nations who inhabited these lands prior to European contact had title to these lands. The settlement of the Northwest Territories would not be possible, if title to the land remained with the First Nations. Therefore, it was vital to the National Dream to obtain title to the lands from First Nations.

In order to obtain title to most of the lands, the Canadian government proceeded with this series of treaties. Each treaty delineates a tract of land which was thought to be the traditional territory of the First Nation or Nations signing that particular treaty (the "tract surrendered"). In exchange for a surrender of their rights and title to these lands, the First Nations were promised a smaller parcel of land as a reserve, annual annuity payments, implements to either farm or hunt and fish and the right to continue to hunt and trap or hunt, trap and fish on the tract surrendered.

First Nations peoples had been decimated by disease outbreaks, the near-extinction of the plains bison, and whiskey traders. They were eager to receive food aid and other assistance from the government. When the government asked for the land in return, they were not in a position to say no. Historians critical of the government have called its actions a "submit or starve" policy. Thus, the treaties are tainted with colour of coercion and any modern interpretation of theirs terms (see modern legal interpretation' below) would accordingly tend to favour the coerced, i.e. native side.

The plan of settling Europeans in the Canadian west was not free of conflict. Two armed rebellions resulted from this policy: The Red River Rebellion of 1869 and the North West Rebellion of 1885.[10]

List of Numbered Treaties[edit]

In the table below, you will find information about each specific number treaty including their signing date, their location, the major signers, those affected, and a brief summary of what each group received following the agreement.[11][12] The 'show' button will expand the table with this information.

Meaning & Interpretations[edit]

First Nations[edit]

A common interpretation since the American Indian Movement of the 1960s, is that the treaties were never valid because of being:

  • coerced, accordingly not an agreement between equal partners [13]
  • breached many times in their history by the government,[14] notably by the genocidal Canadian Indian residential school system and resource extraction
  • not reached by agreement with the lawful hereditary chiefs, and especially without the involvement of women who by tradition often had final authority


The Assembly of First Nations, despite being composed of persons elected under the Indian Act as "Indian Agents" to perform its provisions on behalf of the federal government of Canada, maintained that the treaties were peer to peer lateral agreements between sovereignties and nothing less.


In 1981, all provinces other than Quebec agreed to a constitutional amendment that effectively removed the route of appeal to the UK parliament, courts, and crown.

Subsequent attempts (Meech Lake Accord, Charlottetown Accord) to try to appease the government of Quebec failed in part due to First Nations opposition. It has never been in dispute that First Nations would have to voluntarily agree with their formal treaty partner, the Canadian Crown, to modify the treaties. This was a major factor in the defeat of Charlottetown - public opinion favoured it before Elijah Harper's stand but not once it became clear that aboriginal rights might be threatened. Both Quebec and First Nations, accordingly, retained rights of direct recourse to the Queen.[citation needed]

In 2010, Canada signed the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In 2011 and again in 2012 the United Nations criticized the federal government over Attawapiskat.[15] In 2012, the Federal Court of Canada ruled that 200,000 off-reserve natives and 400,000 Métis were also "Indians" under S. 91(24) of the Constitution Act, 1867. Daniels v. Canada.[16] These however had no formal representation at the Assembly of First Nations which had hitherto been assumed by the federal government to speak authoritatively on all matters involving "Indians".

In 2012 the Idle No More movement and subsequent hunger strike by Attawapiskat First Nation chief Theresa Spence brought the fact that the treaties provided for direct Crown recourse back to public attention. Chief Spence demanded direct Crown attention to the Cabinet's attempt to remove federal government oversight of lands and waters and environmental issues that duplicated provinceial oversight of the same. After an agreement by opposition parties was struck to end Chief Spence's fast, the legal analysis that supported the principle of direct Crown recourse was adamantly supported by interim Liberal Party of Canada leader Bob Rae[17] and others. Idle No More itself presented its legal analysis via Pam Palmater.[18] Her analysis resembles that of Matthew Coon Come, who summarized the Grand Council of the Cree position in a scholarly analysis of the Quebec sovereignty movement and its authority to withdraw from Confederation taking First Nations territory with it. Both his analysis and Palmater's emphasize the need for voluntary renegotiation of treaties between equal partners, and the impossibility of cutting off any avenue of appeal to the Crown.

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  1. ^ "Numbered Treaty Overview". (Formerly Canadian Institute for Historical Microreproductions). Canada in the Making. Retrieved 2009-11-16. The Numbered Treaties - also called the Land Cession or Post-Confederation Treaties - were signed between 1871 and 1921, and granted the federal government large tracts of land throughout the Prairies, Canadian North and Northwestern Ontario for white settlement and industrial use. In exchange for the land, Canada promised to give the Aboriginal peoples various items: cash, blankets, tools, farming supplies, and so on. The impact of these treaties can be still felt in modern times. 
  2. ^ "PART II: RIGHTS OF THE ABORIGINAL PEOPLES OF CANADA". Justice Laws Website. Government of Canada. March 9, 2015. Retrieved March 10, 2015. 
  3. ^ Del Papa, Eugene (1975). "The Royal Proclamation of 1763: Its Effect upon Virginia Land Companies". The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 83 (4): 406. Retrieved 17 March 2015. 
  4. ^ Government of Canada. "History of the Royal Proclamation". 250th Anniversary of the Royal Proclamation of 1763. Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada. Retrieved 17 March 2015. 
  5. ^ Pasternak, Shiri (2014). "Jurisdiction and Settler Colonialism: Where Do Laws Meet?". Canadian Journal of Law and Society 29 (2): 156. Retrieved 17 March 2015. 
  6. ^ Beaulieu, Alain (2013). "‘‘An equitable right to be compensated’’: The Dispossession of the Aboriginal Peoples of Quebec and the Emergence of a New Legal Rationale (1760–1860)". Canadian Historical Review 94 (1): 5. doi:10.3138/chr.1060. Retrieved 17 March 2015. 
  7. ^ Stewart, Sheila C. (2006). "First Nations Education: Financial Accountability and Educational Attainment". Canadian Journal of Education 29 (4): 1001. Retrieved 17 March 2015. 
  8. ^ Milloy, John S. (1999). A National Crime: The Canadian Government and the Residential School System, 1879 to 1986. Manitoba: University of Manitoba Press. p. 20. ISBN 0-88755-166-1. 
  9. ^ Whitehouse, Derek (1994). "The Numbered Treaties: Similar Means to Dichotomous Ends". Past Imperfect 3: 30. Retrieved 17 March 2015. 
  10. ^ "Reminiscences of the North-West Rebellions". Boulton, Charles A. Toronto. 1886. Retrieved 2009-11-16. One of the first acts of the new Parliament was to provide for the transfer of the North-West Territory to the Dominion of Canada. Negotiations, however, had first to be opened up with the Hudson's Bay Company, which for many years had enjoyed a charter giving them exclu- sive trading privileges in furs. Their charter was granted them as early as the reign of Charles the Second. The Company's means of access to England was chiefly by the shores of Hudson's Bay, the communication being maintained by an annual ship which brought out the season's outfit and carried back the furs. Thus isolated from Canada, little was known to the Canadian people of the vast resources of the Hudson's Bay region. But the value of the fur trade had early attracted the enterprise of the inhabitants of the shores of the St. Lawrence, and under the title of the North-West Company" an association of traders, penetrated the confines, of the vast territory. It is thus due to Canadian enterprise that this fertile belt is now under the Government of the Dominion ion of Canada 
  11. ^ "Treaty Texts". Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. Government of Canada. 2013-08-29. Retrieved 2015-03-03. 
  12. ^ "Canada in the Making: Treaty Overview". Canadiana. Retrieved 2015-03-03. 
  13. ^ Pithouse, Kathleen; Mitchell, Claudia; Moletsane, Relebohile (2009). Making Connections: Self-Study & Social Action. Peter Lang. pp. 208–209. ISBN 1433105012. 
  14. ^ Knight, David B.; Joseph, Alun E. (1999). Restructuring Societies: Insights from the Social Sciences. McGill-Queen's Press. pp. 140–142. ISBN 0886293502. 
  15. ^ "UN envoy criticizes government over Attawapiskat". CTV News. 20 December 2011. Retrieved 29 January 2013. 
  16. ^ "Federal Court grants rights to Métis, non-status Indians". CBC. 8 January 2013. Retrieved 29 January 2013. 
  17. ^ "Struggle will continue: Spence Spokesman". CBC. 24 January 2013. Retrieved 29 January 2013. 
  18. ^ Bambury, Brent (4 January 2013). "Pam Palmater: Treaty Rights, Bill C-45 and Idle No More". CBC Radio. Retrieved 29 January 2013. 

External links[edit]