After some personal reflection in Cree and then in English, Chief Wallace Fox gives a helpful overview of Treaty Relations History. I am humbled again, as a citizen of Canada and as a Saskatchewan teacher that this history is still new to me. If this is to be a turn-around generation, as I hope it is, we must listen to -- and truly hear -- our history. As my great teacher was known to say, "Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear." -- Sheena
Wallace Fox: Chief, Onion Lake Cree Nation
I great you all, my relatives and friends, I thank the Elders that raised the pipes this morning. I thank them for the prayers, as I rely on the Creator for my endeavors as I truly believe profound spiritual language is used in the raising of the pipe.
I heard these stories of the Treaty promises the Elders told me. As I get older it bothers me to have to face up to the things that could happen for our children and grandchildren. I have reached the age of conscientious-ness and I am worried about the future as I also had problems in my youth.
I look at my grandchildren; the twins are three years old now. I wonder how they will be when they turn eighteen. I also raised a grandchild. I wonder if they will see the implementation of Treaty promises.
There are a lot of things that distract us. I thank the Elders who have come, and who give us the support of strength. We are trying to stick to the nehiyew way of thinking. Caring for each other and thinking of the children and great grandchildren. We have no one to rely on but the Creator. The crises come and only then do we go to the Elders. My grandfather told me, grandchild look at your neighbors in the future and look at the Treaty and see Treaty will not be acknowledged and that will be when you will see hard times. You educated people will forget the spiritualism and remember when the grass grows in the spring it spurts. Remember when you get up in the morning and the sun is rising the Treaty is still alive. And the water, it is in your body, you are still alive. Whatever you will be taught, in the white education you will think the white man way. He said you will forget spiritualism. But this soul is alive as the sun rises. The Elders did not have paper to write on but had a belief system that kept them going. I did not know too but I want my poor people to know all those teachings.
I did not sleep too much last night; I thought about that a lot. I wondered what I would be talking about. If a person does not want to know about the spiritual and what the spiritual content of Treaty is you are fighting with one arm but if you follow the spirit and intent of Treaty the old man told me it will help. He sat me down for four days talking about Treaty and the teachings. An old lady told me too. She told me to seek knowledge. She told me to look into the past and get the acquired knowledge and use it for the future what you are going to do about the causes pertaining to Treaty.
I will be reading in English written by a First Nation lawyer that follows First Nation spiritualism and taught in the white way. She believes in First Nation ways and was educated. We help each other with the workers sitting over there and the Elders. Let’s try and help each other and return to our ways. I have never accepted the white way on the things that this white man spoke. The name we gave him – commissioner – I was included in there. He does not have the strength the commissioner had in the first Treaty.
That is why there is nothing strong happening about our Treaty. That first commissioner went to tell the Queen what was being done in Treaty in this country. This one does not do that, he cannot do that. We as Chiefs have to straighten that out. (Make it right)
But my relatives I do not want to insult anybody, I feel humbled and I was given tobacco let us use our way of thinking and use our teachings (virtues).
To the people in the assembly I am very humbled; I was given tobacco and print. I say good day in the name of the Creator to the people that are here. What I said in our language was taught to me by Elders. Like many young people, I didn’t listen but as we get older many of us begin that Elder transition. My wife and I raised our 13 year old grandson. He has two younger brothers and I worry, when they are 18 years old, will they have the same Treaty rights we have today?
The old people talked to me about the spirit and intent of Treaty and the inherent rights of our people. Our Elder who led the pipe ceremony, his father spoke to me and explained what happened in Fort Pitt during the Treaty negotiations – the spiritual aspect, the oral part and why we have inherent rights. We have an inheritance from the land, from the beginning of time, from Creation. Many of us don’t know that history especially our young people.
In talking about the spirit of the Treaty, mosōm Jim Canepotato said, “As Chiefs you’re only fighting half the battle. When you start talking Treaty, you are going to be surrounded by people that will have the education and the cunning of the white man who have the knowledge on paper. Be mindful to learn the spirit of Treaty and hang on to it. When you go challenge governments, you’re fighting with one arm behind your back because you’re fighting with money, with paper and with their laws. When you understand the spirit of the Treaty, nōsisim, that’s when you’re going to fight like this [two hands]. The white man cannot stand before you because the Creator is with you.” These are the teachings of the inherent rights of our people. The inheritance of this land – go back to learn the creation story and why we are the keepers of the land. Many things are distracting us. Colonization is alive and well today amongst us, as people. That indigenous thought, very few people think that way today but it needs to come back.
I had a problem with that word “commissioner” right from the beginning, yet I was a part of this assembly that helped create that. The commissioner we have today needs to change or the title needs to change. The commissioner that sat with our people in the Treaty-making era reported directly to the Queen and had a mandate from the Queen, the Crown. This commissioner does not have that. There’s another level of government interfering and that is Canada. We need to change that title or fight for a real commissioner that reports to the Governor-General and to the Queen. I wanted to say that because I said it in Cree and I don’t want to talk behind your back, I’ll talk in front of you.
Mosōm said we need to understand that the spirit of the Treaty is alive, “nōsisim look at this.” It was 5:30 in the morning and he came to open the sweat lodge and lift the pipe and I went with my helpers. After we spoke about the Treaty – it is alive – “mosōm sun is coming up over the tree line.” He picked a blade of grass, “This is alive, that sun is alive. The water in the lake and the river, that spirit is still alive. That’s the inheritance of us as people.”
I’ve watched this organization and I’ve been a part of it for almost 30 years now. They said this morning it is 65 years old. Imagine 65 years ago, what those old people talked about here. I can guarantee you they did not want the Federation to become a bureaucracy which we have created. So I commend the Executive and staff for trying to find out how it was. The Elders are the people that have that knowledge. I wanted to make those comments and, again, I don’t mean to offend anyone. Now I will begin this PowerPoint.
The First Peoples and their land
You need to understand what happened yesterday in order to be able to walk into tomorrow – what happened to us as a people, what happened back then, and then the creation of this whole process. We, as First Nation people, are the first people to live on Turtle Island and that’s part of this Treaty, Turtle Island. On the back of that turtle you’ll see 13 markings. How many of us know that there are 13 moons? That’s indigenous law. The mōniyāw created that 12 month calendar.
Since time immemorial, since the beginning of creation, our stories tell us the Creator gave us this land and in return we were to protect it, to keep it pure, this is a sacred promise. When the Crown’s representatives came from abroad we agreed to share the land. The state of Canada was created by the Crown and they have not honoured the Treaties and they will never honour the Treaties.
Creator’s Laws never given up under Treaties
The laws were never given up under Treaty, the natural laws of the Creator and our inherent rights including the right to maintain our own traditional ways of living. Under Treaty, the Chiefs did not agree to give up the whole country and the minerals in exchange for nothing. Our mosōms, our cāpāns, did not give up everything for nothing. They had everything to live off the land and they did not give that up for us to have nothing in return.
Assimilation policies and processes
The government of Canada has an agenda to assimilate us. Their plan was outlined in the ‘69 White Paper. I encourage people to read that. The government has used many, many different assimilation methods:
· missionaries and residential schools;
· the Indian Act;
· being unable to speak our languages or conduct our ceremonies;
· controlling Chief and Council – we have to sign funding agreements and that’s how they control First Nations;
· the pass system;
· loss of status if you obtained a degree and when women married non-Indians; and
· the ‘60s and ‘70s scoop.
This is still the government’s objective today and part of the assimilation policy is the whole devolution process that Sol spoke about for years. They give more money to municipalities and cities for education and child welfare and they give much less for housing and everything else on reserve. So people are forced to move and assimilate in the urban centres and get involved in that system. They start to think like the white man and lose their identity.
What inherent laws do we have left?
The colonial government of Canada tried to remove our natural laws and our inherent rights through their policies and legislation. The state has tried to leave us with their legislation and these are just some of them:
· the governance act;
· First Nations Land Management Act;
· Membership Codes;
· Matrimonial Real Property; and
· water – to bring water under provincial jurisdiction.
When we talk about citizenship and membership – at Treaty time they asked the Chiefs, “Who are your people?” The Chiefs spoke to the people who got up and lined up behind their leader. That’s how the Treaty pay lists were created. The Commissioner didn’t separate the people and line them up behind different Chiefs. Now they’re trying to develop legislation to determine who your members and citizens are. We never gave that up.
Royal Proclamation of 1763
In 1763 King George proclaimed and recognized Indian Nations. What is nationhood? Nationhood includes three things – culture, language and land. That’s nationhood and we have that. The King recognized Indian title to land and resources and established a Treaty-making process. Only the British Crown could make Treaties with First Nations to access our territories. The Royal Proclamation is a founding constitutional document that established the state of Canada. Without the Treaties, we would not be in Canada.
What happened to our Treaty rights?
The NRTA is a Treaty violation. We never gave our consent for resources to be transferred. The Crown asked to use some of our land to the depth of a plough. It was not our ancestors, it was not our people, that talked about a plough. Who was a farmer back in 1876 in our territories? Our people weren’t farmers, they were hunters. They said only the depth of a plough is what we are asking you. It did not include the resources. The Government of Canada does not recognize our rights under Treaty.
Natural Resources Transfer Agreement (NRTA) 1930
Canada gave up all our natural resources to the province without any consent. The provinces will not share revenues; they feel they don’t have to. When we were at the CERD meeting, I asked one of CERD’s rapporteurs to ask Canada something for me. I gave him a cigarette and told him it is our custom to offer tobacco when asking for something. When Canada made their report, he asked how they obtained legal title to the land from the Indians and they did not have a reply or an answer. He asked – “of all the wealth in Canada and the resources that you obtain from the land, how much royalty do you give Indian people?” No answer. So Canada is being watched by the United Nations. The provinces will not share resource revenues because they feel they don’t have to. But in the NRTA it says – subject to any underlying trusts – and the reserves are land trusts.
What do Treaties represent between the Crown and First Nations people?
A nation-to-nation relationship exists between the Crown and First Nations people. First Nations uphold the peace and friendship as requested by the Crown. Each trusts that the other will fulfill their obligations as stated in the Treaty. The state of Canada is a successor state. What is sovereignty? The term sovereignty originated from the concept of a sovereign King or Queen. A state is defined as having a permanent population, having a defined territory, having a government in place, and most importantly having the ability to enter into relations with other nations. That’s what our people did as sovereign nations. Our nations possess all of the requirements and that’s the Indian understanding of sovereignty. We believe we are sovereign under the Creator; we are subjects of the Creator. The Creator is the sovereign of all creation. Our laws are the will of the Creator. The Creator’s law applies to and governs the entire universe.
Types of Treaties and elements of a Valid Treaty
Peace and Friendship Treaties between our Indian nations and Treaties made with the Crown that are recognized as international agreements. Elements of a valid Treaty include Treaty parties and their ability to enter into Treaties. Whoever negotiates Treaty must have authority and our ancestors did, as sovereign entities. The parties must intend to create legally binding obligations on both sides that must be fulfilled. There is formality and a measure of solemnity or seriousness.
1969 White Paper
The ‘69 White Paper was Canada’s official assimilation policy. I was 8 years old when our people fought this. I’m glad they did. It would lead to genocide to integrate First Nations into mainstream society; to get rid of the Treaties and the reserves. Remove any references to Indians and lands reserved for Indians from the constitution of Canada.
Treaty people were on Treaty pay lists before 1951 but in 1951, when the Indian register was created, we became status Indians. That little red card we carry is not a Treaty card it’s a status card under the Indian Act. When you look at the McIvor case and understand what could happen in two or three generations, ma-kīkway nēhiyaw, because there won’t be any more status Indians, then there will be no need for land, so the reserves will disappear.
Duncan Campbell Scott 1920
Duncan Campbell Scott was Superintendent General of Indian Affairs in 1920. The terminology, his title indicates a military alliance. He said, “I want to get rid of the Indian problem, our objective is to continue until there is not a single Indian in Canada that has not been absorbed into the body politic and there’s no Indian question and no Indian department. That is the whole object of this Bill.” That is what they are still trying to do with us.
Constitutions of Canada
The British North America Act of 1867 was the Act that created Canada and set out the division of powers between the provinces and Canada. It made Canada responsible for Indians and lands reserved for Indians under Section 91(24). The Constitution Act of 1982 was a patriation act passed by both the British and Canadian parliaments. Constitutional ties to Britain were severed. First Nations were concerned that our Treaties would be undone and insisted that Section 35 be inserted. It states, “Existing aboriginal and Treaty rights of the Aboriginal peoples of Canada are hereby recognized and affirmed.”
Justice Lord Denning on First Nations Concerns re: 1982 Constitution
When First Nations brought their concerns to London during the 1982 constitutional talks, these Elder statesmen were a part of it back then, Lord Denning said, “There is nothing so far as I can see to warrant any distrust by the Indians of the Government of Canada. But, in case there should be, the discussion in this case will strengthen their hand so as to enable them to withstand any onslaught. They will be able to say that their rights and freedoms have been guaranteed to them by the Crown – originally by the Crown in respect of the United kingdom – now by the Crown in respect of Canada – but, in any case, by the Crown. No parliament shall do anything to lessen the worth of these guarantees. They should be honoured by the Crown in respect of Canada as long as the sun rises and the river flows.”
Nation to Nation
First Nations entered into Treaty as nations as set out in the Royal Proclamation of 1763. First Nations never gave up the right to be sovereign entities through any Treaty. We are not a conquered people. We were allies of the Crown of Great Britain.
Governments are in agreement that we are still an Indian problem; that we should be part of mainstream society. Their objective is to make our lives as difficult as possible on reserves so we will want to leave. Attawapiskat is a perfect example. The 2% cap on funding since 1996 is another example. Even in education, the discrepancy in funding on reserve and off reserve, $3,000 per student, is another example. The cap on post-secondary education and medical funding are others. We need to find economic solutions to become independent.
Canada does not intent to uphold the spirit and intent of the Treaties made with the Crown. Canada wants to assimilate and extinguish First Nation rights and identity. Our ancestors did not give up our inherent rights to Creator-given laws. First Nations did not give up our resources and we do not wish to assimilate into mainstream society. We believe we are sovereign nations as recognized in the Royal Proclamation of 1763 with the making of the Treaties.
In conclusion, like I said, I didn’t mean to offend anyone. We have to decolonize our people. How can we talk about Treaties if we don’t understand the other side? Those of you that have children and grandchildren and little babies I ask you to think about what their lives will be like 10, 20, 30 years from today and how they will be classified. As Cree, Dene, Saulteaux, Nakota, Dakota people or Canadians?
Hai Hai – thank you.
page 14-19, excerpt from
Chiefs' Forum on Treaty Implementation
Dakota Dunes Casino and Conference Center
March 29 & 30, 2012
shared as public document with permission from
Dan Bellegarde, Executive Director, Treaty Governance Office
CD of Chiefs' Forum on treaty Implementation available for $5.00
or free transcript is available
by contacting Dan Bellegarde at Dan.Bellegarde@fsin.com