Indian Act and Canadian Treaties

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Solving Conflicts through Agreements:
The Indian Act and Canadian Treaties

In modern society the question of why the aboriginal population receives benefits often arises. Much of today’s youth does not understand that the Native American people were often stripped of their rights in the past in order to gain these advantages. Two main incidents were established in the Aboriginal history, the first was the treaties that spread across Canada and the second incident was the Indian Act of 1876. The main difference between the Indian Act and treaties were the aboriginal’s role in the decision-making. Treaties allowed for a compromise between the Natives and the government that allowed for benefits on both ends whereas the Indian act was imposed on the Native culture by the Canadian government without any arrangement with the aboriginals. This paper will first describe the history of treaties and what they entail for both parties and also look at the formation of the Indian Act. Then, this paper will look at how each had affected the Aboriginal people in similar and different ways. Finally this paper will look at the relation in today’s society that the treaties have in Canada and what life would be like if the Indian Act was still a large part of how First Nations people would have been treated if the Act was not changed following World War II. After these points, a reader should have a better understanding of a topic that they may know little about. By looking at both the Indian Act and Canadian treaties, it is easy to distinguish that the treaties were more effective for establishing rights for Canada’s indigenous people. The first Treaty in Canada was know as the Great Law of Peace of the People of the Longhouse. It is one of the earliest recorded treaties negotiated between Aboriginal tribes. It predates the year 1450, and covered 117 articles governing customs and relationships between the Seneca, Mohawk and Cayuga tribes, among others. It was passed on orally from generation to generation, and was written down for the first time in 1880. This shows that Treaties have been around for five hundred and fifty years and have always contained agreements between two or more groups. Treaties between the Crown and aboriginal peoples are one of the paradoxes of Canadian history. Rather than enforcing rules upon the Native Americans, the government asked for consent from them first. The treaties have structured Canada’s Aboriginal culture and made it what it is today. A treaty by definition is a “formally concluded and ratified agreement between states, the document embodying such an agreement, an agreement between individuals or parties, esp. for the purchase of property.” But, in the words of J.R. Miller, “treaties are formalized records of negotiated agreements between parties, usually states, but sometimes people. The treaties between aboriginal people and the Crown made an alliance between the First Nations people and the Canadian State. Most of these agreements describe exchanges where aboriginal groups agree to share some of their ancestral lands in return for various kinds of payments and promises from the Crown officials. The Crown’s basic principles for treaty making with aboriginal peoples were articulated by King George III in the Royal Proclamation of 1763, which established the constitutional foundations of Canada after the government of France withdrew its territorial claim to North America following the Seven Year War. Treaties varied in purpose and scope depending upon the circumstances and objectives of the parties making them. The early treaties were made for peace, trade, alliance, neutrality and for military support. Later, after the settlement had grown, treaties were made to establish relations for peaceful coexistences, and to acquire Aboriginal lands and resources. Theses treaties helped asset a form of communication with the two parties. This is much unlike the Indian Act of 1876. The...
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