History of Specific Claims in Canada

Historical Treaties in Canada
Historical Treaties in Canada

The story of specific claims dates back to the days of first contact with British colonists. Indigenous nations welcomed the newcomers in a spirit of friendship, to share the land and resources of Turtle Island (North America). Matters of mutual importance were discussed and resolved around a council fire and solemnized by smoking the pipe, a tradition that existed for many years, creating a spirit of coexistence.

Then the British sought to gain more control over the resources like timber, precious metals, and agriculture, which required more land. The Crown stopped accepting council fire agreements and the word of the Indigenous people and began to demand agreements be put into treaties. Since the Crown was the sole recorder and interpreter of these documents, there is no way to confirm if the conversations were recorded accurately as few of the indigenous people could read, write or speak English fluently.

The friendship and peace once shared turned to resentment and frustration as First Nation people were forced off their land and compressed into small areas that held a fraction of the resources need to support their way of life. The treaties were never meant to be enduring documents as the belief was that Indians were literally going to die out or be assimilated.

The land expropriated by the Crown was sold off to private interests with the money to be held in trust for the First Nations by the Crown. The majority of these profits disappeared; pilfered by Crown appointed trustees who were supposed to be protecting the First Nations’ interests.

Any First Nation who filed a grievance faced a one-sided process. Instead of communication and negotiation, First Nations were forced to prove they were the ones who were wronged; an impossible situation when the documents and agreements were recorded and held by the Crown.

This lopsided situation still exists today, while the Crown has made trillions of dollars in resource development off of these disputed lands.