Compact, Contract, Covenant: Aboriginal Treaty Making in Canada


From the Author's Introduction: "This volume is a historical examination of treaty-making by Aboriginal peoples and the Crown throughout post-contact Canadian history. While there are several studies that look at specific treaties, usually from a historical, but occasionally from a legal, perspective, there is none that surveys the entire field. That lack is unfortunate, because one of the important, if ill-understood, aspects of Canadian history is that treaty-making has evolved since the early seventeenth century. Natives and newcomers have moved from making agreements about trade to entering alliances of peace and friendship, and then proceeded to make treaties that focused upon ownership, control, and usage of territory. Finally, since 1973 the country has been engaged in developing new forms – the plural is chosen advisedly – for concluding agreements between indigenous and immigrant Canadians. The evolution of treaty-making – from commercial pacts to modern agreements – reflects the underlying Native-newcomer relationship. When that association was mutually beneficial, as it was especially in early commercial partnerships, the treaties were respectful of both parties and benefited all participants. When the relationship deteriorated, as it did when newcomers focused on settlement rather than trade, the treaties that resulted were much less advantageous to Aboriginal peoples. In short, treaty-making is an artifact and indicator of Native-newcomer relations in Canada. -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Compact, Contract, Covenant is designed to be a historical survey that explores the motivations of the parties to treaty-making and the impact of treaties upon them. Except where necessary to explain later developments, it does not dwell on treaty implementation. Nor is it a legal history of Aboriginal treaties. If it is unavoidably an overview rather than an in-depth or exhaustive treatment, the justification must be that it is necessary and advisable to sketch the broad outlines of the narrative before more microscopic treatments are produced. Fortunately, there are a number of individual case studies available, and where that is so I have not attempted to redo that work. In selecting examples of individual treaties to illustrate my general argument about the evolution of treaty-making and in emphasizing one genre of treaty rather than another, I have used criteria that are in part Whiggish, to use a label from historiography. I have chosen to concentrate on those treaties that established a pattern, such as commercial compacts and the early Upper Canadian treaties, and those that have had a lingering effect down to the twenty-first century, such as the numbered treaties. As a result, this volume does not give equal weight to all types of treaty or even all regions where treaty-making occurred. The justification for such an approach must be that any other approach would have resulted in a project that I certainly could not have completed." Pg xi-xii.

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Miller, J. R. Compact, Contract, Covenant: Aboriginal Treaty-making in Canada. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2009.

Miller, J.R.
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