Treaties: A Two Culture Process
SPRING 2000 v30 n02 p06
Since time immemorial, North America was home to thousands of distinct First Nations. While distinct in their political organizations, economies, social systems and environments, First Nations respected differences and accommodated change. As well, First Nations modeled their societies in a way that reflected their sacred relationship to Mother Earth. All relationships that they formed respected this basic rule.
When Europeans explorers first arrived in North America, First Nations entered into new alliances in the form of sacred Treaties.
Both the Crown and First Nations concluded the Treaties through the exchange of solemn promises. These solemn promises were entered into in the presence of the Creator through the sacred pipe ceremonies. First Nations therefore believe that they made covenants with Her Majesty, which are unalterable arrangements of the highest order.
The Treaty-making process contains the customs of both the Crown and First Nations, which give shape to the Treaty relationship. The Treaty-making process was a demonstration of the mutual recognition of the authority on behalf of the Crown, and the Chiefs and Headmen on behalf of their First Nations to enter into treaties.
The Chiefs and Headmen entered into treaties freely. In doing so, they retained their inherent authority over their territories. In this regard, the Treaties are nation to nation agreements.
More than a century has passed since the conclusion of the first Treaty in what is now Saskatchewan. Treaty First Nations continue to express a strong hope that the Treaty relationship will continue to serve as the foundation for an enduring treaty partnership with the Crown, Her government and Her citizens.
SOME COMMON UNDERSTANDINGS FROM THE OFFICE OF THE TREATY GOVERNANCE PROCESSES
THE NATURE OF THE TREATY RELATIONSHIP
PURPOSE OF TREATY-MAKING
- Treaty making included the customs of First Nations and the Crown (both parties to Treaty) and created a fundamental political relationship between Treaty First Nations and the Crown.
- Treaties gave shape to this relationship, creating obligations and expectations on both sides.
- The treaty-making process involved the exchange of solemn promises, based on mutual respect for the spiritual and traditional values of the other. The Crown and First Nations entered into the agreements freely and of their own accord as the best possible means of advancing their respective interests.
- In entering these agreements, the Crown and First Nations recognized each other's authority and capacity to enter into treaties on behalf of their own peoples.
- The treaty-making process includes the principle of maintaining the honour of the Crown and the honour of Treaty First Nations in maintaining the treaty relationship. Equally important was the conduct and behavior of the parties to honour and respect the commitments made in the Treaties.
TREATY RELATIONSHIP IN THE FUTURE
- Treaties were to provide for peace and good order between the parties and amongst the First Nations.
- Treaty-making was a way to build lasting and meaningful alliances between the Crown and First Nations that would foster the future well being of the people they represented.
- Treaties were foundational agreements entered into for the purposes of providing the parties with the means to achieve survival and stability, anchored on the principle of mutual benefit.
- The relationship between the First Nations and the Crown is one in which both parties receive benefits from and create responsibilities to each other. The treaties created mutual obligations that were to be respected by the parties.
- The treaty relationship is one in which the parties expect to resolve differences through mutual discussion and decision.
- The parties share a common commitment to reinvigorate the treaty relationship and to address the well being of both parties in a respectful and supportive way.
- Treaty First Nations and Canada can enter into arrangements that build on their existing treaty relationship so Treaty First Nations will be able to exercise jurisdiction and governance over their lands and peoples. These agreements are not to alter treaties, they are implement the treaty partnership in a contemporary way while respecting the principles of treaty making.
- The parties recognize the Government of Saskatchewan has to participate to make progress in implementing Treaty First Nations' jurisdiction and governance in Saskatchewan. The parties believe the principles of the treaty relationship are beneficial for all people in Saskatchewan.