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Aboriginals: Treaties & Relations
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1492 - 1779
1763 - 1791
1764 - 1836
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1867 - 1870
1871 - 1875
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Pionniers et Immigrants
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Métis Traders - NAC/ANC C-004164
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1867 - 1870: British North America Act, 1867 and Sale of Selkirk Treaty Lands (1869)

Following Confederation, Aboriginal treaties were no longer negotiated by representatives of the British Colonial Office, they were negotiated by representatives of the Canadian government. With this new era came old - and some new - problems. In 1869, the Métis and Aboriginal allies resisted the transfer of land covered in the Selkirk Treaty back to the federal government.

Topics in this section:

The British North America Act, 1867
Sale of Selkirk Treaty Lands, 1869

The British North America Act, 1867

Canada, 1867
Canada, 1867

Under Section 91 of the British North America Act, 1867, the newly created federal government had constitutional responsibility and authority over Aboriginals and any land that was to be reserved for them. Responsibility for treaty making was ultimately given to the Prime Minister, although the cabinet, the Privy Council, the Secretary of State for the Provinces and the Minister of the Interior would also have important roles to play during any future negotiations.

The Canadian government sought to remove Aboriginals from their land in large blocks and place them in smaller reserves in order to enfranchise them, and eventually assimilate them into white society. This stance was taken to quickly and cheaply clear the west for anticipated European settlement.

There is evidence that the government tried to act on the behalf of all Aboriginal people in fairness and good faith during negotiations. However, some Aboriginals and many Métis people soon came to distrust the government's motives after it bought land they lived on from the Hudson's Bay Company without their input.

Did you know?

The American government spent around $20 million annually to forcibly remove Aboriginal settlers living on the U.S. plains during bloody conflicts of the 1870s. In comparison, the Canadian government spent slightly more than $730,000 between 1875 and 1905 on costs related to its Aboriginal treaties. There was also comparatively little bloodshed in Canada during this period.


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The British North America Act, 1867

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Sale of Selkirk Treaty Lands, 1869

Painting: Pawnee Indians on the war path - NAC/ANC C-000434
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In 1869, the Hudson's Bay Company sold land to the federal government of Canada that had been covered by the Selkirk Treaty of 1817. This angered Aboriginal nations who had signed the treaty - including the Métis, whom had never secured any rights to the land despite being half-Aboriginal. This was one of the leading causes of the Red River Rebellion.

This sowed the seeds of deep distrust among many Prairie Aboriginals. Many began to fear that any treaties they signed in the future would be meaningless. Some Aboriginals were so upset that they began to block settlers and railway surveyors from crossing into their territorial land. It was in this climate that the federal government would have to negotiate its Numbered Treaties.

For more information please see the Riel Rebellions section of Events and Topics.



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Rupert's Land Act, 1868
(Allows government to admit Rupert's Land into Canada)

 
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Temporary Government of Rupert's Land Act, 1869 (bilingual)
(Establishes a temporary government for Rupert's Land when it is admitted into Confederation)
(Courtesy of Justice Department, Canada)

 
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Order of Her Majesty in Council admitting Rupert's Land and the North-Western Territory into the Union, June 23, 1870
(Brings the territories into Confederation.)

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Telegram regarding the blocking of Lieut.-Gov. William McDougall's party en route to Fort Garry by Métis insurgents, Nov. 23, 1869

 
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Response to preceding telegram from Earl Granville, Secretary of State, Nov. 25, 1869

 
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