Treaty 4 Negotiations


Throughout the many days of talks surrounding Treaty 4, Lieutenant-Governor of the North West Territories--Alexander Morris—never definitively indicated the future status of the lands affected by the treaty. However, the final draft of the government's printed version of Treaty 4 was explicit, that the Cree and Saulteaux tribes, and all other Indians in the district ceded their land to the Dominion of Canada. Though the documents suggest that Indigenous people ceded their lands, this is false. Indigenous people did not cede, surrender, or release their lands in any way to the Canadian government. Alternatively, they agreed to share the land and in no way did they extinguish their rights to their lands. It is also important to note that Indigenous leaders requested access to services such as education, health, and food security during these negotiations.

Though there is some degree of misunderstanding within the treaty negotiations because of interpretation issues, it is not to say that the Canadian government negotiated in good faith with Indigenous leaders. They actively attempted to assimilate Indigenous populations and used the treaties to further this agenda. The government believed the surrender of Indigenous lands to be a part of their treaty negotiations, and attributed the misunderstanding to poor interpretation. This is also incorrect. The government actively attempted to take these lands from Indigenous people for their own selfish gains. This reality often led to discontent, as the written treaty terms often differed from how Aboriginal signatories understood or interpreted the agreement. This has had a lasting effect on the relationship between Indigenous peoples and the government in which trust is lacking. The government has yet to rectify the mistakes of their past actions against Indigenous peoples.