1871 - The first five numbered treaties establish advancing settlement across the Prairies, and the

The first five of the eleven numbered treaties (also known as the Post-Confederation Treaties) deal with Native lands in northwestern Ontario and what is now southern Manitoba, southern Saskatchewan, and southern Alberta. These early treaties were key in advancing European settlement across the Prairie regions as well as the development of the Canadian Pacific Railway. They were signed between the Aboriginal peoples of Canada, and the reigning monarch: Victoria, Edward VII and then George V. - INAC

The rapid expansion of the United States across the West alarmed many Canadian politicians who feared that the United States would annex Rupert's Land (previously owned by the Hudson Bay Company). The fears of American expansionism were real as several different groups throughout the American territories openly called for the annexation of the Hudson Bay Company lands. In addition, Canada feared that without treaties establishing a relationship for Aboriginal peoples in Canada, they might switch sides, and join the United States in their expansion. - INAC

This process of drawing up treaties greatly influences the shape of Canada even today. "The concept of mapping has had a tremendous impact upon indigenous peoples for centuries. Since it was first developed, the indigenous ways of orienting themselves on their lands were redefined. As soon as lines were drawn on maps by European hands, indigenous place names, which are intricately connected with indigenous history, stories, and teachings, were replaced with English names, erasing indigenous presence from the lands. Traditional homelands were divided and classified into different geographic features, properties and imperial nations states, dividing and separating indigenous families. Languages and cultural teachings were lost as children were forced to attend residential schools and learn western ways of knowing." - King, Thomas (2012) The Inconvenient Indian: A curious Account of Native People in North America. Toronto: Random House Publishing.

Digging Deeper

Books worth a look:

King, Thomas (2012) The Inconvenient Indian: A curious Account of Native People in North America. Toronto: Random House Publishing.

Miller, Robert J., Jacinta Ruru, Larissa Behrendt, and Tracey Lindberg (2010). Discovering Indigenous Lands: The Doctrine of Discovery in the English Colonies. Oxford: University of Oxford Press.

High School Resources

Detailed timeline of treaties in Canada - Canadianhistory.ca

Today, these numbered treaties are still important. Many First Nations people use them often when referencing their territory, during traditional land acknowledgements, and as a means to remind people that these treaties are still important, and active. You can learn what treaties effect different land in Canada by visiting this website: Native-land.ca

Discussion ideas:

  • What are the difficulties when it comes to mapping Indigenous territories?

  • How does the modern idea of a 'nation-state' relate to Indigenous nations?

  • Who defines national boundaries, and who defines a nation?

  • What sources are being used, and what biases are in those sources?

  • How have colonial maps attempted to dispossess Indigenous people of their land?

Get feedback:

  • Are these maps useful, or do they contribute to colonial ways of thinking about Indigenous people?

  • Will your students use this map to learn more about their own history?

  • Should these maps be expanded?

Teacher's Guide for teaching about treaties: Native Land

Junior High School Resources

Elementary School Resources

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