So You Want to Read a Treaty

This post is a result of having been posed the following question:

I’ve never read any of them, but it seems like a good thing to at least take a look at, given the political conditions, and the woefuly [sic] lacking education in First Nations that I got in school. (A unit on “Indians” or “Natives” in later years every year, but never a word about the political relationship we ended up with.) Do you have any idea where to find the treaties? Are they public record?

The short and dirty answer is: Yes, I know where to find treaties, and yes, they are public record.  The short and slightly more helpful answer is: The textual portions of numerous treaties are available on line from a variety of sources, and are public record.  If you would like to find a treaty to read, a good first step is to use “treaties in Canada” as your search engine key phrase.

The actual and relevant response, of course, is more complex.  Please read:

Comprehending current and historical treaty issues, as well as pertinent socioarcheology with respect to each of the relevant Nations (whether Britain, Canada, Six Nations, Nipissing, Sioux Lookout, Attiwapiskat, Sony Creek, etc), as well as Tribes (English, British, French, Mohawk, Ojibway, Blackfoot, Cree, etc) is crucial to reading and understanding treaties.

Understanding the relationship between the Crown  and the government of Canada at the time (and the relationships between each of those with the French government, as well as the relationships and dynamics between the three is also pretty important groundwork.  Too, the relationships of each Nation to treaty and political process, governance, land, resources, economics and commerce is vital, because it indicates, quite clearly, the forces and intents driving each of the Nations involved in given treaties.

In that respect, treaties are really not something one can just “take a look at” and so become responsibly and appropriately informed and educated, socially and politically speaking.  Although the gesture can, conceivably be a helpful one, and of use.

In truth, even that shallow a glance at the issue shows clearly that treaties are repeatedly and habitually violated.  It just does not provide any real meat, with which to developing an informed opinion on the issues facing us.

Unless one is to champion affixing a “letter of the law” band-aid solution as a stop-gap to bring some issues under order while the full scope of the treaty issues is addressed, reading a treaty is not the answer.  Treaties were and are not solely written things, and many of those things negotiated and agreed upon were omitted from textual portions of treaties.  This is evidenced by the diaries of various representatives of the Crown who negotiated treaties.

So you see, reading a treaty is akin to reading a paragraph (maybe a page) of the flight manual, if one’s intent is to comprehend the current social and political state in which we find ourselves.  It will definitely tell a person *some*thing, but will be sorely lacking in context.

All of that being said, the textual portions of many treaties are available on line, and are public record.  If you would like to find a treaty to read, a good first step is to use “treaties in Canada” as your search engine key-phrase. Search “Canada treaty issues” next, to give treaty text some context, so that it becomes possible to  understand the actual challenges, develop informed opinions and positions, and hopefully, to seek to be a part of conceiving of and implementing actual, sustainable solutions beneficial to all.


About (Blue) Kim Anderson

Nipissing Ojibway and Celtic singer, songwriter, writer. Permanent student of life and the natural world, two-spirited, teacher, parent, friend.
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