Records and Reconciliation: Treaty #8

Image: Facsimile Copy of Treaty 8, 1899 (SPRA 007.04.09)

In 2020, the South Peace Regional Archives launched a major project, titled “Renaming the Past, Reclaiming Their Stories: Indigenous Records,” with financial support from Library and Archives Canada. The purpose of the project was to increase awareness of and access to Indigenous-related records within the Archives’ collections: by re-appraising, describing or re-describing, and digitizing more than 300 records in 70 fonds. This project is vital step in the Archives’ ongoing work towards Reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. We are now able to share these records with the community.

The item we are highlighting today is a copy of Treaty # 8 from the Spirit of the Peace fonds (fonds 007). The original treaty is held by Library and Archives Canada.

In 1899 the final text of Treaty 8 was presented for signature by various chiefs and heads across the District by Commissioners from Ottawa, after consultation the preceding year.   A close reading of the final version of the Treaty reveals several divergences from the Report of the Commissioners of negotiations during the preceding year, leading to agreements made in face-to-face not being included in the actual Treaty. The conflicting versions of the Commissioner Report and the final text endorsed by the chiefs and headmen has led to claims of immunity to taxation, freedom from religious interference, as well as the unauthorized imposition of residential schools which have been the centre of subsequent court challenges from indigenous individuals and groups, all unsuccessful at this point.

Why would the Government of Canada not bring forward an exact record of the negotiations as the basis of the final text of the Treaty? Why not search and see if other Commissioner Reports for earlier treaties are not the same as the final text of those treaties?