Treaty Discussions in the West

Land of Red and White 1975The Manitoba Act of 1870 had granted Scottish and French halfbreeds a share of the Indian title to land - one million, four hundred thousand acres. It also confirmed the existing titles to river farm lots along the Red and Assini­boine Rivers. Half-breed heads of families were given one hundred and sixty dollars in land scrip toward the purchase of additional Dominion land. Children, in general, had not received scrip; but, some claims were so long being settled that certain children were old enough to be then classed as heads of families.

The Dominion Lands Act of 1872 was a homestead act. There was no free government land on even-numbered sections. Sections 11 and 29 in each township were set aside for school land. Sections 8 and three-quarters of sections 26 were Hudson Bay land (part of that 1869 agree­ment where the company acquired one-twentieth of the land in the "Fertile Belt").

In the 1869 survey of the West, the Winnipeg Meridian was taken as the base line. A section, of 640 acres, was to be the basic unit. After the act of 1872 a settler could lay claim to a quarter section by paying a small registration fee. He could acquire title in three years if settlement duties had been fulfilled. He could also obtain pre-emption rights to a neighbouring quarter-section. The purchase price for that would be two dollars and fifty cents an acre.

In the 1870's there were about 145,000 Indians in Canada. Seven treaties were negotiated between 1871 and 1896. Treaty Number One was signed at Fort Garry on July 25, 1871, and the next month Number Two was signed at Manitoba Post. Numbers Three, Four, and Five were signed at North-West Angle, Qu'Appelle, and Lake Winnipeg in 1873, 1874, and 1875, respectively. Number Six was signed at Fort Carlton in August, 1876 with the Plains and Woods Cree, Number Seven at Blackfoot Cros­sing in 1877 with the Blood, Piegan, Sarcee and Stoney tribes. Treaty No. 8 was not to be signed until 1899 in the North.

Payments were twelve dollars per head and five dollars yearly thereafter. Chiefs and councillors received twenty- five and fifteen dollars yearly. Land allotted to reserves amounted to approximately one section per family of five. Some agricultural implements were supplied. The govern­ment agreed to prohibit all liquor on reserves, and the Indians agreed to respect the Queen's peace.

The 1870's were critical times for the Indian and Metis. The Winchester repeater had depleted the buffalo. In 1876 the House of Commons was warned that danger would come from people needing food. 1878 to 1880, the starva­tion years, were probably the worst years in Indian history. Edward Dewdney had been Indian Commissioner of the Northwest Territories, and in December, 1881 became Lieutenant-Governor. The capital was re-established at Pile of Bones - later named Regina, after Queen Victoria Regina.

In 1873 the North West Mounted Police had been form­ed, and the next year the force arrived in the West. Their plans to establish authority and Canadian law was termed "a wildly impossible undertaking." That year of 1874 the American government officially recognized the 49th Paral­lel as the international border, but American traders were still in the southern parts of what is now Alberta and Sas­katchewan. Four years before the government had issued a proclamation against the selling of alcohol to Indians; it was being brought in along the Carlton Trail. The 1873 Act gave a Justice of the Peace power to destroy liquor in the North­west Territories without a warrant, but there was no en­forcement.