Arrival of Strangers - The Last 500 Years

Intergovernmental Relations


Treaties in Canada began with the peace and friendship treaties of the eighteenth century. These treaties were not about the surrender of land. They were negotiated to obtain First Nations' economic and military cooperation. By 1830, the administration of Indian affairs was under civilian control. The goal of the colonial government's Indian policy was to assimilate Aboriginal people, who were expected to become Christian and give up their distinctive cultural practices. In 1850, the negotiation of land cession and surrender treaties began in Upper Canada. From 1871 through 1921, numbered treaties 1 through 11 were concluded across the Canadian West and in parts of the Yukon and Northwest Territories. The contemporary comprehensive land claims (treaty) process began with the 1975 James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement.

Book: Treaty No. 6, 1876 Medal - I-A-1036 a,b - D2002-013318 - CD2002-346
(left) Copy of Treaty No. 6, 1876
CMC E 78 C2 T73 no. 6

Land cession and surrender treaties numbers 1 to 11 were signed between 1871 and 1921. They were based on a pattern established in 1850 in present-day Ontario. Treaty No. 6 (1876) included famine, pestilence and medicine chest provisions, an indication of the precarious conditions experienced by Native peoples at the time.

Early "peace and friendship" treaties tried to establish equal relations between colonial and Aboriginal governments. After Confederation, numbered treaties dealt with the surrender of Aboriginal land title to the Dominion of Canada. Today's comprehensive land claims are modern treaties with ideals similar to those expressed in the peace and friendship treaties.

(right) Medal
Government of Canada
Metal, pasteboard, acrylic and laminated wood
Canadian Museum of Civilization, I-A-1036 a,b, D2002-013318, CD2002-346

This medal was awarded to Cree and Inuit leaders who signed the 1975 James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement, the first comprehensive land claim agreement, or modern treaty, of the contemporary era. It recalls the tradition of awarding medals to Native leaders in the days of peace and friendship treaties (the 1700s).

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