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  • Writer's pictureSheila Willis

The 125th Anniversary of Treaty 8 - Food for Thought.

The 125th anniversary of the signing of Treaty 8 occurs on June 21st of this year (2024). The first group of Indigenous leaders to sign Treaty 8, did so at Lesser Slave Lake settlement. In today’s land division the region includes Kapawe'no First Nation, the hamlet of Grouard and Sucker Creek First Nation, where the pin point location of the signing was.

For several years I have been watching for activities that are being organized to recognize the anniversary - and I have been looking solely to the First Nations around the lake. Last night when I asked myself why I was only looking at these governing bodies, it was one of those uncomfortable, self awareness moments. The treaty’s intent was not to be one-sided. It says “to make a treaty, and arrange with [the Indigenous people], so that there may be peace and good will between them and Her Majesty's other subjects.”

Treaty 8, as well as the other numbered treaties were not just signed by the Indigenous leaders, but also by the representatives of the crown or government of the time. This means, as Canadians, we are all treaty people. . .  and we should all be recognizing this important date in northern history.

Below is a quote from the treaty. as presented by the government of Canada.

AND WHEREAS, the said Indians have been notified and informed by Her Majesty's said Commission that it is Her desire to open for settlement, immigration, trade, travel, mining, lumbering and such other purposes as to Her Majesty may seem meet, a tract of country bounded and described as hereinafter mentioned, and to obtain the consent thereto of Her Indian subjects inhabiting the said tract, and to make a treaty, and arrange with them, so that there may be peace and good will between them and Her Majesty's other subjects, and that Her Indian people may know and be assured of what allowances they are to count upon and receive from Her Majesty's bounty and benevolence.

There are certain rights that the Indigenous people received in the signing, but by signing they consented to allowing us to live here and share the land, in peace and goodwill. What is the opposite of that? I sometimes ask myself where we would be today if they refused to sign? With this in mind, as an non-Indigenous person, I am rather thankful for the treaty. I am still unaware of an official event recognizing the anniversary of the signing, but I will do my best to recognize the treaty and its ramifications ,and to attempt to live as the treaty person I am. 

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