Treaty 8 Adhesion

In 1899 the Clearwater River nation signed onto Treaty 8. Much like earlier numbered treaties, Treaty 8 promised reserves, annuities, funding for school teachers, and a guarantee of hunting, trapping and fishing rights. Treaty 8 negotiations also included verbal promises of medical aid, that the government would appoint persons to be in charge of free medical service distribution to all who required such service. The government official recording the treaty did not include these verbal promises in the final "legal"/written document. ------------------ Christine Smillie writes in her thesis "The People Left Out of Treaty 8": "Today there are three First Nations Bands in Saskatchewan which are covered by Treaty 8 : the Fond du Lac Denesuline Nation, the Black Lake Denesuline Nation, and the Clearwater River Denesuline Nation . At some point Maurice's Band became known as the Fond du Lac Band . The Black Lake Band, formerly known as the Stony Rapids Band, was formed in 1949/50 when 258 members broke away from Fond du Lac Band.[12] Members of the Clearwater River Dene Nation, formerly known as the Portage La Loche Band, signed Treaty 8 at Fort McMurray on August 4, 1899. The Treaty Commissioners' report of September 22, 1899 said that Commissioner McKenna "secured the adhesion of the Chipewyan and Cree Indians" at Fort McMurray on August 4 . While McKenna likely met with members of different Cree and Chipewyan bands on that day, government reports refer to this group as the "free, Chipewyan Band"' . The people who signed Treaty 8 at Fort McMurray who were not from the "Fort McMurray Band" were referred to in government reports as "stragglers" of the "Fort McMurray Band". A document obtained from DIAND files entitled "Historical Notes - Portage La Loche Band" said -------------- "The Portage la Loche Band originally formed part of the "Cree, Chipewyan Band" which signed Treaty 8 under Headmen Seapotakinum and Adam Boucher on August 4, 1899 at Fort McMurray. By 1908 two groups of stragglers of Fort McMurray Band had been paid their annuity at Buffalo River . In 1909 the Annuity Paylists listed 44 members paid at Portage La Loche, and in 1926 both groups of stragglers were combined and listed as Portage la Loche Band (66 members).[13 ]" ------------------ As with the Indian people who signed Treaty 8 in northern Alberta, the main concern of the Indian people living in Saskatchewan who signed Treaty 8 was to ensure "the survival and well-being of their children, grandchildren and future generations of First Nations people ."[14] They asked for assurances from the treaty commissioners that they would be as free to hunt, trap, and fish over their land after signing the treaty as before. The Commissioners' report stated ------------------ "Our chief difficulty was the apprehension that the hunting and fishing privileges were to be curtailed . The provision in the treaty under which ammunition and twine is to be furnished went far in the direction of quieting the fears of the Indians, for they admitted that it would be unreasonable to furnish the means of hunting and fishing if laws were to be enacted which would make hunting and fishing so restricted as to render it impossible to make a livelihood by such pursuits . But over and above the provision, we had to solemnly assure them that only such laws as to hunting and fishing as were in the interests of the Indians and were found necessary in order to protect the fish and fur-bearing animals would be made, and that they would be as free to hunt and fish after the treaty as they would be if they never entered into it ." Pg 80-81.

Aboriginal peoples attained immediate monetary aid after signing the treaties. During the 1910s, Treaty 8 signatories experienced delays, sickness, land surveys and game regulation. Historian René Fumoleau illustrates that the years following the treaty signings was characterized by a “gradual but steady” erosion of the treaty promises made. This demonstrates a pattern of "bad faith" negotiations on behalf of the government, to first neglect to include the agreed-upon medicine chest clause, and then to further undermine the inter-governmental relationship by failing to live up to the legal terms of the treaty. ------------- Smillie writes, "Most of the First Nations who signed Treaty 8 did not want to be confined to reserves, so it was agreed that the allocation of reserve land could be done at a later date . The bands understood that if and when they wanted reserve land it would be given to them according to the land provisions of Treaty 8 . Yet when the Treaty 8 bands in Saskatchewan decided that they needed reserves and began petitioning the government for their land entitlements beginning in the 1930s, they were obliged to wait for decades before they got the reserve lands they were entitled to . One of the reasons for the delay was that the provincial government had given mining companies mineral leases on land claimed by the bands. Negotiations for reserve land were now complicated by the fact that mining companies had legally binding contracts with the provincial government and the federal and provincial governments had to find solutions which would satisfy the bands as well as the mining companies . The other reason for the delay may simply have been that these were people and land in the remote north-western corner of Saskatchewan, and the needs of these people were not seen as a priority by the governments of the day. --------------- Chief Alphonse Piche of the Portage La Loche Band wrote to the Indian Agent in 1937 asking for reserve lands to be set aside for the band at Whitefish Lake and Swan Lake [16], but reserve lands were not finally transferred to the band until 1970. Government records indicate that discussions regarding the creation of reserves for the Stony Rapids Band began in 1959. Indian Reserve (I .R.) #226 was transferred from the province to the band in September 1970, [17] I .R. #224 in April of 1972, [18] and I .R. #225 in October 1973 .[19]" Pg 81-82.
Rural or Urban
Start Date
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Clearwater River Band