Today’s generations of the Anishinaabe people have taken to heart what our parents, grandparents, and Elders had been saying all this time – Treaty was about sharing the land—not giving it away. The treaty is a living document. This means that each generation, past, present and future applies its terms according to the experiences faced by their generation. This makes the treaty a living, breathing document.
Since treaty, the process utilized by the Crown when transferring, giving, selling, trading, and exploiting resources of Treaty 2 lands has excluded the Anishinaabe. By failing to consult and consent with the Anishinaabe of Treaty, the Crown has failed to honor the inherent rights and the Aboriginal Title of Treaty 2 people. The terms of the Treaty have a light shining on them that recognizes their true spirit and intent. Treaty signatories have the power to renew the treaty relationship of the past, for the present, and for the future.
Canada’s process and practice in dealing with Treaty 2 lands has not fulfilled the promise of sharing the land and its benefits. The Crown has failed in its fiduciary duty to protect Treaty 2, the land, and the interests of the Anishinaabe. Canada has transferred land, exploited resources, given unsettled and unoccupied land to federal and provincial parks that benefits settlers, and it has allowed wildlife refuges to be created and water resources modified; all of this, without consultation, consent, or benefit to the Anishinaabe of Treaty 2.
At the time of treaty, it is clear that the Crown recognized the historic title of what became Treaty 2 lands by the very fact that it sought such an agreement. The Crown was well-aware that this territory possessed fertile agricultural lands and resource-rich areas.
Indian Commissioner, Wemyss Simpson, reported “The Indians of both parts have a firm belief in the honor and integrity of Her Majesty’s representatives and are fully impressed with the idea that the amelioration of their present condition is one of the objects of Her Majesty in making these treaties.”
The Honorable Adam G. Archibald, the Lieutenant Governor of Manitoba wrote while reporting on the Treaty: “With that view, I have, amongst other things, asked Major Irvine to detail a few of his troops to be present at the opening of the treaty. Military display has always a great effect on savages, and the presence, even of a few troops, will have a good tendency.”
He further reported: “We told them that whether they wished it or not, immigrants would come in and fill up the country; that every year from this one twice as many in number as their whole people there assembled would pour into the Province, and in a little while it would spread all over it, and that now was the time for them to come to an arrangement that would secure homes and annuities for themselves and their children.”
The bargaining position of the two parties was not equal, the information possessed by the parties not the same, the negotiating was not fair. There is an argument that the Treaty was not effective. The bargain was that the price paid by the Crown was in fact a small portion of the land of the Anishinaabe, later delineated by the unilateral Indian Act of 1876. The land set out for the Anishinaabe in no way compares with the quantity and quality of the land taken up by the settlers. Fiduciary duty again was not honored.
The argument can be made that the Treaty has not been implemented and broken by the Crown (Canada); thus, it could be further argued that all the lands be reverted back to the Anishinaabe through their Inherent Rights due to the failing of the Crown to uphold contractual agreement.
The Honorable Adam G. Archibald, the Lieutenant Governor of Manitoba reported that he spoke to the people:
“First, Our Great Mother, the Queen, wishes to do justice to all her children alike. She will deal fairly with those of the setting sun, as she would with those of the rising sun.”
“Your Great Mother wishes the good of all races under her sway. She wishes her red children to be happy and contented. She wishes them to live in comfort….to till land and raise food…I drove yesterday through the village below this Fort. There I saw many well-built houses, and many well-tilled fields with wheat and barley and potatoes growing, and giving promise of plenty for the winter to come.”
“Your Great Mother, therefore, will lay aside for you ’lots’ of land to be used by you and your children forever. She will not allow the white man to intrude upon these lots.” “Your Great Mother knows no difference between any of her people.”
“There will still be plenty of land that is neither tilled nor occupied where you can go and roam and hunt as you have always done, and, if you wish to farm, you will go to your own reserve where you will find a place ready for you to live on and cultivate.”
“Furthermore, the Indians seem to have false ideas of the meaning of a reserve. They have been led to suppose that large tracts of ground were to be set aside for them as hunting grounds, including timberlands, of which they might sell the wood as if they were proprietors of the land.”
The Anishinaabe of Treaty 2 Territory are referencing two legal opinions regarding the strength of its case set out above which includes Kent McNeil and Peter Hutchins: “Cede, Release and Surrender: Let’s Face It – It Didn’t Happen Here”