Mediating the numbered treaties: eyewitness accounts of treaties between the Crown and Indigenous Peoples, 1871-1876.
This thesis looks at the historical period of treaty-making in Western Canada when six numbered treaties were negotiated between Canada and the Anishnabeg, Cree, Saulteaux, and Assiniboine Nations between 1871 and 1876. The main interpretation of treaty-making during this period is that the treaty commissioners and Indigenous leadership experienced “cultural misunderstandings” and that Euro-Canadian witnesses to treaty did not understand the treaty relationship. As a result, most of the eyewitness accounts by Euro-Canadian fur traders, missionaries, journalists, settlers and government representatives have been ignored by historians. This thesis argues against cultural misunderstandings and shows that Euro-Canadian negotiators and eyewitnesses clearly understood the roles and responsibilities in the treaty relationship. Violations of treaty did occur as new settlers moved into treaty territory and government representatives became more concerned about financial restrictions than the promises made during the negotiations. However, during the treaty-making period, Euro-Canadians understood their obligations under the treaty relationship. This thesis analyzes previously underutilized primary documents and re-evaluates standard sources on the numbered treaties to show that during the treaty-making period, Euro-Canadians understood the expectations of Indigenous peoples in the treaty relationship.