Numbered Treaties

“For as long as the sun shines, the grass grows, and the river flows” 

The Western Treaties or sometimes known as “The Number Treaties” by Canadians or “The Pipe Treaties” by the First Nations. There are eleven numbered Treaties signed between the Crown and First Nations from 1871 to 1921. Out of the eleven Indian Treaties signed in Canada the Anishinaabe (Ojibwa) Nation signed nine of them.

This brings us to the numbered treaties, in which through all the negotiation speeches reported by Treaty Commissioner Alexander Morris’ own accounts as well as transcripts of shorthand recording of meetings, there was not one reference that even hints at “cede, release and surrender”. What is recorded are references to protection and continuation of way of life, nothing being taken that would affect the way of life. Indeed – it was Morris who said it – if they had told the gathered First Nations about “cede, release and surrender”, there would have been no treaty. What is recorded are promises that “what you are offered does not take away from your living, you will have it then as you have it now, and what I offer now is put on top of it. This I can tell you – the Queen’s Government will always take a deep interest in your living.” [WSH Notes]

By entering into Treaty, the Crown accepted fiduciary obligations with respect to the lands and peoples involved. In addition to permitting settlement on their lands, the First Nation signatories agreed to observe the terms of the Treaty, maintain peaceful co-existence with the settlers, not to interfere with their property, and not make Treaty with the Americans, in exchange of additional benefits other than what they always had before Treaty.

Sacred pipe ceremonies at the beginning of negotiations were statements of faith by the Indian people. Government participation in these ceremonies was taken as acceptance of the significance of this practice as binding the parties (The Creator, First Nations and the Crown) to ongoing obligations and relationship to each other. Under Treaty, the Queen would recognize the Chiefs and their leaders as her officers and they are provided uniforms and medals identifying them as such. (That is why Chiefs and the Principle Men of the Bands are considered as the Officers of the Crown and not subordinates of the Indian Act)

First Nations people maintain that promises made during negotiations were solemn sacred binding agreements that are to last forever (Perpetuity), including those promises that were said and that did not appear in the published written text of the Treaty.

“For as long as the sun shines, the grass grows, and the river flows.”