Treaty 4

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Treaty No. 4 between Her Majesty the Queen and the Cree and Saulteaux Tribes of Indians at the Qu'Appelle and Fort Ellice
Treaty 4 pictograph by Chief Paskwa.jpg
Pictograph made by Chief Paskwa in 1874 describing Treaty 4
Signed15−25 September 1874
LocationFort Qu'Appelle, Fort Ellice

Treaty 4 is a treaty established between Queen Victoria and the Cree and Saulteaux First Nation band governments. The area covered by Treaty 4 represents most of current day southern Saskatchewan, plus small portions of what are today western Manitoba and southeastern Alberta.[1] This treaty is also called the "Qu'Appelle Treaty," as its first signings were conducted at Fort Qu'Appelle, North-West Territories, on 15 September 1874. Additional signings or adhesions continued until September 1877. This treaty is the only indigenous treaty in Canada that has a corresponding indigenous interpretation (a pictograph made at the time by Chief Paskwa).[2]

Reasons for the treaty[edit]

In 1870, Hudson's Bay Company sold Rupert's Land for £300,000 to the Dominion of Canada.[3] The Company's land covered the edge of the Rocky Mountains to the Great Lakes and was divided into the Province of Manitoba and the North-West Territories.[4] The Indigenous people who lived on the land felt that it belonged to them, but they were not included in discussing the land transfer. After finding out about the transaction, the Indigenous people were not impressed and they wanted some sort of compensation.[5] The subsequent years, between 1871 and 1877, saw the first seven of the eleven numbered treaties signed by Canada and the Prairie First Nations. The government of Canada negotiated the first five Numbered Treaties to gain land from the First Nations for settlement, agricultural and industry. Also, Prime Minister John A. Macdonald saw the land as necessary to complete a transcontinental railway, which would run through the cities of Regina, Moose Jaw, and Swift Current in southern Saskatchewan. The Canadian Government feared that potential conflict with Indigenous people could disrupt the advancement in the west.Generally, the Indigenous people knew that change was inevitable because their natural food source was fading and settlers were arriving. They believed treaty negotiations would provide protection and resources.[4] Both parties cooperated with the treaty negotiations.

The making of the treaty[edit]

Treaty 4 was signed on September 15, 1874, between select Cree, Saulteaux and Assiniboine Indigenous who lived in the specified area, and “her most Gracious Majesty the Queen of Great Britain and Ireland”.[4] However, decisions were made by the Canadian Prime Minister Alexander Mackenzie, his government and the treaty commissioners.[6] The treaty was signed at Fort Qu’Appelle, which at the time was a Hudson's Bay Company outpost and is the cause for the nickname ‘Qu’Appelle Treaty’. The land which is represented by the treaty is the south of contemporary Saskatchewan.[4] Treaty 4 is the first of the numbered treaties in which First Nations adhered to the treaty after it had been determined and signed, therefore they had to accept the terms as is.[3] The commissioners for Canada were: Alexander Morris, appointed as Lieutenant-Governor for Manitoba and the North-West Territories in 1872, who acted as the primary negotiator; David Laird, the Minister of the Interior; and William Christie, the Esquire of Brockville in Ontario. These men were selected by the Canadian government as representatives, but they stated that the Indigenous people were making a deal with the Queen herself.[7] A number of Metis attended the Treaty negotiations as interpreters and signed Treaty 4 as witnesses. These men were: Charles Pratt, Pascal Breland, Edward McKay, Pierre Poitras, Jean Baptiste Davis, Pierre Desnomme,Joseph McKay, Donald McDonald and Pierre Lapierre. It is noteworthy that later on September 7, 1876,the Metis at Fort Walsh submitted a petition to Inspector Walsh on behalf of the Metis of the four districts of Assiniboia to join Treat 4. This petition did not received a favourable hearing.[8]

In 1873, the first three numbered treaties were concluded and as a result, a clear route was established for the intended transcontinental railway. The Canadian government had also decided that there was enough land for the beginning of settlement and development. Therefore, they had no interest to negotiate any other treaties at that time. However, the Indigenous people who had not been a part of treaty discussions were worried about their future because of the dwindling bison and the ongoing settlement. They were aware that other Indigenous communities who lived southeast in the newly confederated land had signed treaties for themselves.[4] They believed that the treaties provided protection from the change and economic hardships, and they wanted that for themselves too. Until treaties were signed with them, the Prairie Indigenous people made it clear to the Canadian government that they believed the land belonged to them and thus they demanded compensation and assistance. Chief of the Plains Cree, Sweet Grass, wrote a letter to Morris in which he wrote, “we heard our lands were sold and we did not like it”, and made a list of demands.[9] Chief Yellow Quill of Saulteaux bands also took action when settlers cut wood for timber without Indigenous permission. When he asked for a treaty and did not receive an answer, he put a sign on a church door warning the settlers not to cut any more wood because without a treaty, the wood belonged to the Saulteaux.[10] Because of this consistent pressure, the Canadian government agreed to negotiate treaties sooner than expected. The disruptions made by the Indigenous people were interrupting the development of the land.

Treaty 4 negotiations had a slow start and discussions were delayed several times. Conflict surrounding the negotiations arose from disagreement between the different bands. They also felt resentment towards the Canadians and the commissioners due to the sale of Rupert's Land and the £300,000 that the Hudson's Bay Company received. The Canadian commissioners arrived at the outpost on September 8, 1874, but the bands were not able to select spokesmen. The discussions were delayed until September 11 when they elected some of them to represent their side in the discussions. However, on that day, the Saulteaux informed the Canadian commissioners with a messenger that they were uncomfortable holding negotiations on land that belonged to the Hudson's Bay Company. Treaty discussions were postponed again, and the next day they met at camp closer to where the Indigenous people were staying. An Indigenous spokesman began by stating that they wanted to be paid the £300,000 that the Hudson's Bay Company received for Rupert's Land. Morris refused this request, and made it clear that it would not be given. Once again the treaty discussions were postponed. Finally, on the 15th, treaty terms were concluded. The terms were explained to the Indigenous people by an interpreter, and both parties signed.[4] In the following years, several adhesions to Treaty 4 occurred: on September 21, 1874, by Saulteaux; on September 8, 1875, by Cree, Saulteaux, and Stony Indigenous; on September 9, 1875, by Cree, Saulteaux, and Stony; on September 24 by Cree, Saulteaux, and Stony; on August 24, 1876, by Cree and Saulteaux; and on September 25, 1877, by Stony.[7]

To the Prairie First Nations, Treaty 4 ensured them protection. With the resources they were given, it was believed to provide assistance with the new way of life. The bison numbers were decreasing and it allowed for them to take up agricultural means instead. They also believed that the Queen would protect against the settlers in the area. The treaties were looked at as "nation-to-nation alliances", a partnership. To the Canadian government, it was merely a transaction. The Indigenous people were giving up the 'title' they had to the land.

Terms of the treaty[edit]

The terms of the treaty are as follows:

The Canadian Government will establish reserves in areas of land selected by them. This land cannot be sold by the Indigenous, but can be sold or leased by the Government in order benefit the Indigenous, and only with their consent. When they are willing to learn, schools will be provided on each reserve. 640 acres will be distributed to each family of five. Liquor is forbidden on the reserves. Every year, each man, woman, and child will be given $5; every chief will be given $25; all headman will be given $15 (with the exception of four headmen per band); as well as every chief and headman will get one set of clothing every three years. Powder, shot, ball, and twine is distributed and replaced every year, to help with hunting, fishing, and trapping – rights that they were still able to enjoy. To allow for a transition for the Aboriginal peoples to acquire agricultural skills, each willing family will be given two hoes, one spade, one scythe, and one axe. One plough and two harrows is given to be shared among ten families. The bands interested in agriculture will be given supplies as well. The chiefs receive one crosscut saw, one pitsaw, one grindstone, five augers, five handsaws, and a box of carpenter tools for band use. They get one yoke of oxen, one bull, four cows, and “enough” wheat, barley, potatoes, and oats for planting. Furthermore, the treaty states that the Indigenous must recognize the treaty and promise to be “loyal subjects”. They need to obey Canadian laws, keep the peace, and notify the Government when there are people who break the laws. They must also agree not to disturb the settlers or anyone who travels through the land.[11]


  • 15 September 1874: first signings at Fort Qu'Appelle by Cree, Saulteaux, and Assiniboine bands
  • 21 September 1874: Fort Ellice adhesion by Saulteaux band
  • 8 September 1875: Qu'Appelle Lakes adhesion by Cree, Saulteaux, and Stony bands
  • 9 September 1875: additional Qu'Appelle Lakes adhesion by Cree, Saulteaux, and Stony bands
  • 24 September 1875: Swan Lake adhesion by Cree, Saulteaux, and Stony bands
  • 24 August 1876: Fort Pelly adhesion by Cree and Saulteaux bands
  • 25 September 1877: Fort Walsh adhesion by Stony and Assiniboine bands

List of Treaty 4 First Nations[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "First Nations Communities and Treaty Boundaries in Saskatchewan". Indian and Northern Affairs Canada. 30 March 2009. Archived from the original on 2 December 2009.
  2. ^ Display at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum in Regina.
  3. ^ a b Miller, J.R. (2009). Compact, Contract, Covenant: Aboriginal Treaty-Making in Canada. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. p. 140.
  4. ^ a b c d e f "Treaty Research Report - Treaty Four (1874)". Archived from the original on 14 October 2011.
  5. ^ Miller, J.R. Skyscrapers Hide the Heavens: A History of Indian-White Relations in Canada. pp. Chapter 9.
  6. ^ St.Germain, Jill (2001). Indian Treaty-Making Policy in the United States and Canada 1867-1877. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. p. 47.
  7. ^ a b "Indian Treaties and Surrenders from 1680-1890".
  8. ^ Barkwell, Lawrence.
  9. ^ St.Germain, Jill (2001). Indian Treaty-Making Policy in the United States and Canada 1867-1877. Toronto: University of Toronto Pess. p. 29.
  10. ^ Miller, J.R. (2009). Compact, Contract, Covenant: Aboriginal Treaty-Making in Canada. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. pp. 128–129.
  11. ^ St.Germain, Jill (2001). Indian Treaty-Making Policy in the United States and Canada 1867-1877. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. pp. 175–184.

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