Accepted Paper:

Negotiating and implementing treaty eight in the Athabasca District/Northern Alberta, Canada: 1899-2017  

Author:

Clinton Westman (University of Saskatchewan)

Paper short abstract:

Treaty Eight, concluded circa 1899, is somewhat distinct from other historical treaties in the Canadian Northwest. Its implementation was incomplete, particularly in terms of the oral, but also the written, accounts of its negotiation. Treaty fulfillment continues to challenge contemporary politics.

Paper long abstract:

Treaty Eight, concluded between 1899 and 1901 between representatives of Canada and those of Cree and Dene, is somewhat distinct from other historical treaties in the Canadian Northwest, both in its terms and its process. Hunting was identified as the principal concern by First Nations; however, acquiring reserve lands and band membership under the terms of the treaty eventually became a key issue in some areas. Owing in part to the mobility of regional populations, treaty implementation was incomplete, particularly in terms of the oral, but also the written, accounts of its negotiation. This has been particularly the case north of Lesser Slave Lake, where several hundred individuals living in organized bands were not contacted by the Treaty Commission or its counterpart, the Métis Scrip Commission. Subsequently these communities and individuals were treated in highly arbitrary ways regarding their rights.

Treaty fulfillment continues to challenge contemporary politics. While First Nations have successfully concluded several specific claims and lawsuits to fulfill and clarify the terms of the treaty, areas of disagreement remain. Bilateral discussion processes to define the treaty relationship have largely faltered; the prominent struggles of the Lubicon community remain unresolved and divisive; implementation of specific claims is challenged by industrial land tenure; industrial impacts on the land are perhaps the largest challenge to fulfilling the treaty relationship. While focusing mainly on First Nations issues, I also address in passing Métis rights and politics in northern Alberta, since Métis people are also part of the communities I discuss.

Panel LL-NAS04
Living together with the land: reaching and honouring treaties with Indigenous Peoples