|Signed||June 21, 1899|
|Location||Just south of present-day Grouard, Alberta|
|Parties||Queen Victoria and various First Nations of the Lesser Slave Lake area|
Treaty 8 is one of eleven numbered treaties made between the Government of Canada and First Nations. The Government of Canada had between 1871 and 1877 signed Treaties 1 to 7. Treaties 1 to 7 covered the southern portions of what was the Northwest Territories. At that time, the Government of Canada had not considered a Treaty with the First Nations in what would be the Treaty 8 territory necessary, as conditions in the north were not considered conducive to settlement. Along with Douglas Treaties, they were the last treaties signed between the crown and the First Nations in British Columbia until Nisga'a Final Agreement.
In the mid-1890s, the Klondike Gold Rush began to draw Europeans northward into the previous undisturbed territory. The increased contact and conflict between First Nations of the region and Europeans prompted the Government of Canada to enter into Treaty 8. In September 1899, the Treaty and Half Breed Commissioners finally concluded the treaty process, with 2217 accepting the treaty, and another 1234 people opting for scrip. Sherissa Grosestete was one of the people who helped in treaty 8 in the years of 1901 and 1902.
The land covered by Treaty 8, 840,000 square kilometres (84,000,000 ha), is larger than France and includes northern Alberta, northeastern British Columbia, northwestern Saskatchewan and a southernmost portion of the Northwest Territories. Adhesions to this agreement were signed that same year on July 1 at Peace River Landing, July 6 at Dunvegan, July 8 at Fort Vermilion, July 13 at Fort Chipewyan, July 17 at Smith's Landing, July 25 and 27 at Fond du Lac, August 4 at Fort McMurray, and August 14 at Wabasca Lake. Further Adhesions were in 1900 on May 13 at Fort St. John, June 8 at Lesser Slave Lake, June 23 at Fort Vermilion and July 25 at Fort Resolution.
Chief Keenooshayoo was one of the First Nations signatories to Treaty 8. First Nations that are considered signatories to Treaty 8 include Woodland Cree, Dunneza (or "Beaver") and Chipewyan. Other signatories included David Laird, Father Albert Lacombe, Rev. George Homes, Bishop Émile Grouard, J.A.J. McKenna, J.H. Ross, W.G. White, James Walker, A. Arthur Cote, A.E. Snyder, H.B. Round, Harrison S. Young, J.F. Prud'Homme, C. Mair, H.A. Conroy, Pierre Deschambeault, J.H. Picard, Richard Secord, M. McCauley, Headman Moostoos, Headman Felix Giroux, Headman Wee Chee Way Sis, Headman Charles Neesotasis.
Father Albert Lacombe, a trusted Catholic missionary, had been asked by Canadian officials to be present to help convince First Nations that it was in their interest to enter into a treaty. He was present on June 21, 1899 and assured the First Nations that their lives would remain, more or less, unchanged. He was also present at some of the meetings at which adhesions were signed. The elements of Treaty 8 included provisions to maintain livelihood for the native populations in this 840,000 square kilometres (84,000,000 ha) region, such as entitlements to land, ongoing financial support, annual shipments of hunting supplies, and hunting rights on ceded lands, unless those ceded lands were used for forestry, mining, settlement or other purposes.
Gordon Benoit, a Mikisew Cree, filed a legal challenge against the income taxes in 1992 citing Treaty 8 rights still applied. His case was upheld in 2002 at the federal court level, but was subsequently overturned by the Federal Court of Appeal, and in 2004 the Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear a further appeal. Benoit had his housing and employment outside of a reservation; a section of the Canadian Indian Act (1876) provides tax exemption for properties and jobs only within reserves.
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This treaty still governs the region today, but much has changed in terms of its landscape and use. The original signatories of the treaty could not have predicted the energy resources under the soil and how they would change the promises of the treaty.
As forests are clear cut and wetlands destroyed, the ability of the aboriginals in the area to live their traditional way of life has been diminished. The construction of roadways has opened areas to overfishing and hunting, further degrading the way of life promised in Treaty 8. In addition, sections of northeastern Alberta have been adversely affected by the pollution of air and water by oil sand extraction which has decreased the quality and value of fish and animals hunted by the local Indigenous Peoples.
- List of treaties
- Numbered Treaties
- The Canadian Crown and First Nations, Inuit and Métis
- Status of First Nations treaties in British Columbia
- "The Making of Treaty 8 in Canada's Northwest". Alberta Online Encyclopedia. 2009. Retrieved August 1, 2009.
- "Treaty 8". Government of Canada. Library and Archives Canada. 2009. Retrieved August 1, 2009.
- "1899 Treaty 8". Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre. 2009. Retrieved August 1, 2009.
- "Numbered Treaty Eight". Canadiana.org. 2009. Retrieved August 1, 2009.
- Patricia McCormack. "Conflicting Obligations: Oil Sands Development and Treaty No. 8." Paper presented at the Energy in the Americas Conference, Calgary, Alberta, October 23–24, 2014: 4.