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Treaties with Indigenous Peoples in Canada

Indigenous treaties in Canada are constitutionally recognized agreements between the Crown and Indigenous peoples. Most of these agreements describe exchanges where Indigenous nations agree to share some of their interests in their ancestral lands in return for various payments and promises. On a deeper level, treaties are sometimes understood, particularly by Indigenous people, as sacred covenants between nations that establish a relationship between those for whom Canada is an ancient homeland and those whose family roots lie in other countries. Treaties therefore form the constitutional and moral basis of alliance between Indigenous peoples and Canada.

(This is the full-length entry about Treaties with Indigenous Peoples In Canada. For a plain language summary, please see Treaties with Indigenous Peoples in Canada (Plain Language Summary).

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Williams Treaties

The Williams Treaties were signed in October and November 1923 by the governments of Canada and Ontario and by seven First Nations of the Chippewa of Lake Simcoe (Beausoleil, Georgina Island and Rama) and the Mississauga of the north shore of Lake Ontario (Alderville, Curve Lake, Hiawatha and Scugog Island). As the last historic land cession treaties in Canada, these agreements transferred over 20,000 km2 of land in south central Ontario to the Crown; in exchange, Indigenous signatories received one-time cash payments. While Chippewa and Mississauga peoples argue that the Williams Treaties also guaranteed their right to hunt and fish on the territory, the federal and provincial governments have interpreted the treaty differently, resulting in legal disputes and negotiations between the three parties about land rights. In 2018, the Williams Treaties First Nations and the Governments of Ontario and Canada came to a final agreement, settling litigation about land surrenders and harvesting rights.

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Treaty 9

Treaty 9 (also known as the James Bay Treaty) is one of the 11 post-Confederation Numbered Treaties negotiated with Indigenous peoples in Canada between 1871 and 1921. (See also Treaties with Indigenous Peoples in Canada.) Signed in 1905-6, Treaty 9 covers most of present-day Ontario north of the height of land dividing the Great Lakes watershed from the Hudson and James Bay drainage basins. The purpose of Treaty 9 was to purchase the interests of the resident Cree and Ojibwe peoples to lands and resources to make way for white settlement and resource development. Treaty 9, like other Numbered Treaties, contained provisions for cash treaty payments, the creation of reserves, education and hunting, fishing and trapping rights.

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Covenant Chain

The Covenant Chain is the name given to the complex system of alliances between the Haudenosaunee (also known as the Six Nations and Iroquois League) and Anglo-American colonies originating in the early 17th century. The first alliances were most likely between New York and the Kanyen'kehà:ka (Mohawk). These early agreements were referred to figuratively as chains because they bound multiple parties together in alliance. Today the Covenant Chain represents the long tradition of diplomatic relations in North America, and is often invoked when discussing contemporary affairs between the state and Indigenous peoples. (See also Treaties with Indigenous Peoples in Canada.)

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A Dish with One Spoon

The term a dish with one spoon refers to a concept developed by the Indigenous peoples of the Great Lakes region and northeastern North America. It was used to describe how land can be shared to the mutual benefit of all its inhabitants. According to the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois), the concept originated many hundreds of years ago and contributed greatly to the creation of the “Great League of Peace” — the Iroquois Confederacy made up of the Seneca, Cayuga, Oneida, Onondaga, and Mohawk nations. The Anishinaabeg (the Ojibwe, Odawa, Potawatomi, Mississauga, Saulteaux and Algonquin nations) refer to “a dish with one spoon” or “our dish” as “Gdoo – naaganinaa.”

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Murray Treaty of Longueuil (1760)

On 5 September 1760, three days before the Capitulation of Montreal, the chief of the Huron-Wendat of Lorette, who had accompanied the retreating French army from Quebec to the Montreal region, approached General James Murray at Longueuil. A treaty of peace — known as the Murray Treaty of Longueuil or simply, the Murray Treaty — was concluded whereby the Huron-Wendat came under British protection. (See also Treaties with Indigenous Peoples in Canada.)

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Treaty 6

​Treaty 6 was signed by Crown representatives and Cree, Assiniboine and Ojibwa leaders on 23 August 1876 at Fort Carlton, Saskatchewan, and on 9 September 1876 at Fort Pitt, Saskatchewan. The treaty boundaries extend across central portions of present-day Alberta and Saskatchewan.

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Treaties of Fort Stanwix (1768 and 1784)

The first Treaty of Fort Stanwix was signed in 1768 between the Haudenosaunee (also known as the Six Nations or Iroquois Confederacy) and British Superintendent of Indian Affairs in the Northern District, Sir William Johnson. It was the first major treaty to be negotiated according to the Royal Proclamation of 1763. Five years after the proclamation had set the western boundary of colonial settlement at the Appalachian Mountains — reserving the vast North American interior as Indigenous territory — the Treaty of Fort Stanwix pushed the border west to the Ohio River, opening up lands to white settlers. The second Treaty of Fort Stanwix, signed in 1784, was an agreement between the Haudenosaunee and the newly independent United States. This treaty redrew the eastern boundaries of the first Treaty of Fort Stanwix, surrendering more Indigenous territory.

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Toronto Purchase (Treaty 13)

The Toronto Purchase of 1805 (also known as Treaty 13) was negotiated in an attempt to clarify and confirm the terms of the Johnson-Butler Purchase of 1787-88. Ultimately, it failed to do this and additional negotiations were required. These later discussions resulted in the Williams Treaties of 1923 and a compensatory settlement between the Government of Canada and the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation in 2010. (See also Upper Canada Land Surrenders.)

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Treaty 7

Treaty 7 is the last of the Numbered Treaties made between the Government of Canada and the Plains First Nations (see Indigenous Peoples: Plains). It was signed on 22 September 1877 by five First Nations: the Siksika (Blackfoot), Kainai (Blood), Piikani (Peigan), Stoney-Nakoda, and Tsuut’ina (Sarcee). Different understandings of the treaty’s purpose, combined with significant culture and language barriers and what some have argued were deliberate attempts to mislead the First Nations on the part of the government negotiators, have led to ongoing conflicts and claims.

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Treaties with Indigenous Peoples in Canada (Plain-Language Summary)

Indigenous treaties in Canada are agreements made between the Crown and Indigenous people (First Nations, Métis, and Inuit). These agreements concern land. Indigenous people agree to share their land in exchange for payments of one kind or another and promises. Before Confederation, Britain controlled the treaty making process. After Confederation, the federal government took control of the treating making process.

(This article is a plain-language summary of Treaties with Indigenous Peoples in Canada. If you are interested in reading about this topic in more depth, please see our full-length entry Treaties with Indigenous Peoples in Canada).

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Treaty of Paris 1763

The Treaty of Paris was signed on 19 February 1763 and ended the Seven Years’ War between France, Britain and Spain. It marked the end of the war in North America and created the basis for the modern country of Canada. France formally ceded New France to the British, and largely withdrew from the continent.

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Treaties 1 and 2

Treaties 1 and 2 were the first of 11 Numbered Treaties negotiated between 1871 and 1921. Treaty 1 was signed 3 August 1871 between Canada and the Anishinabek and Swampy Cree of southern Manitoba. Treaty 2 was signed 21 August 1871 between Canada and the Anishinaabe of southern Manitoba (see Eastern Woodlands Indigenous Peoples). From the perspective of Canadian officials, treaty making was a means to facilitate settlement of the West and the assimilation of Indigenous peoples into Euro-Canadian society (see Treaties with Indigenous Peoples in Canada). Indigenous peoples sought to protect their traditional lands and livelihoods while securing assistance in transitioning to a new way of life. Treaties 1 and 2 encapsulate these divergent aims, leaving a legacy of unresolved issues due to the different understandings of their Indigenous and Euro-Canadian participants.

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Oregon Treaty

The Oregon Treaty was an agreement between Britain and the United States. It came into force on 15 June 1846. It formalized the border between the United States and British North America west of the Rocky Mountains. It extended the border along the 49th parallel to the Pacific Ocean and down “the middle” of the channel that separates Vancouver Island from the mainland. The treaty resolved an important dispute between the two nations. But the lack of precision regarding the waterways between the mainland and Vancouver Island led to a dispute over the San Juan Islands, which resulted in an 1859 diplomatic conflict known as the Pig War.

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Treaty Day

Treaty Day commemorates the day that certain treaties were signed by the Government of Canada and Indigenous peoples between the 18th and 20th centuries. Treaty Day is also a celebration of the historic relationship between Indigenous peoples and the federal government. It promotes public awareness about Indigenous culture, history and heritage for all Canadians.