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Both the Aboriginals
and the federal government had very good reasons for wanting to pursue treaty
negotiations in good faith from the 1870s to 1920s. This section will examine
Treaty Benefits for the Federal
Treaty Benefits for Aboriginals
Some Costs for Aboriginals
or Important Documents
for the Federal Government
The federal government had much to gain
from the Numbered Treaties, and very little to lose:
would get access to land that could be profitably used by industry for farming,
forestry, and mining, among other industrial needs. These industries earned tax
revenue for the government.
The treaties would establish grounds
for lasting 'peace' in the region, which had just seen a Métis
rebellion in the Red River area in 1869.
It was cheaper to "feed"
or support the Aboriginals than to fight them. The Americans were spending $20
million a year to forcibly remove Natives from land. Conversely, the Canadian
government spent little more than $700,000 on the Aboriginals during the late
It would ensure European settlement westward, thereby creating
a national link of 'civilized' people with set beliefs and values from coast-to-coast.
This was important because there were serious concerns throughout the 1800s that
American expansionism could head north of the 49th parallel, and take this land
from the Canadian government.
Benefits for Aboriginals
There were treaty benefits for the Aboriginals
The treaties would ensure that they would receive
an annual income (or annuities) from the government - plus farm animals and tools
that might help them to survive poverty and famine
would give them access to non-Native 'technology' and skills that they desperately
needed to get by in a changing world economy.
Probably most importantly,
it was believed that the treaties would prevent Aboriginal races and cultures
from dying out completely due to European displacement, disease and the near-extinction
of the buffalo herds.
Costs for Aboriginals
Despite these benefits there were some costs
for the Aboriginals:
- They would lose much of their land as well as
some cultural and self-government rights, since they would have to follow the
rules of law set by the Canadian government. The Aboriginals under these treaties
would now be treated like colonials.
- With the repeals of the Niagara
Treaty in 1836 and the Selkirk
Treaty in 1868, many Aboriginals - particularly those who hadn't been converted
to Catholicism - wondered if they would be signing meaningless treaties whose
terms could change over time on the federal government's whim.
Interesting or Important Documents