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The Indian Act

The Indian Act is the principal law through which the federal government administers Indian status, local First Nations governments and the management of reserve land and communal monies. The Indian Act does not include Métis or Inuit peoples. The Act came into power on 12 April 1876. It consolidated a number of earlier colonial laws that sought to control and assimilate Indigenous peoples into Euro-Canadian culture. The Indian Act has been amended many times over the years to do away with restrictive and oppressive laws. However, the Act has had historic and ongoing impacts on First Nations cultures, economies, politics and communities. It has also caused inter-generational trauma, particularly with regards to residential schools.

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Native People's Caravan

The Native People’s Caravan was a cross-country mobile protest that took place in 1974. Its main purpose was to raise awareness about the poor living conditions and discrimination experienced by Indigenous peoples in Canada. It travelled from Vancouver to Ottawa, where the subsequent occupation of a vacant warehouse on Victoria Island, near Parliament Hill, extended into 1975. The caravan brought various Indigenous groups together in protest of broken treaties, as well as a lack of government-supported education, housing and health care. As a result, meetings between Cabinet ministers and Indigenous leaders became more frequent. The protest is remembered as an important turning point in Indigenous activism in Canada.

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Treaty 9

Treaty 9 (also known as the James Bay Treaty) is one of the 11 post-Confederation Numbered Treaties negotiated with Indigenous peoples in Canada between 1871 and 1921. (See also Treaties with Indigenous Peoples in Canada.) Signed in 1905-6, Treaty 9 covers most of present-day Ontario north of the height of land dividing the Great Lakes watershed from the Hudson and James Bay drainage basins. The purpose of Treaty 9 was to purchase the interests of the resident Cree and Ojibwe peoples to lands and resources to make way for white settlement and resource development. Treaty 9, like other Numbered Treaties, contained provisions for cash treaty payments, the creation of reserves, education and hunting, fishing and trapping rights.

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Comprehensive Land Claims: Modern Treaties

Comprehensive land claims are modern-day treaties made between Indigenous peoples and the federal government. They are based on the traditional use and occupancy of land by Indigenous peoples who did not sign treaties and were not displaced from their lands by war or other means. These claims, which are settled by negotiation, follow a process established by the federal government to enable First Nations, Inuit and Métis to obtain full recognition as the original inhabitants of what is now Canada. Settlement of these claims comprises a variety of terms including money, land, forms of local government, rights to wildlife, rights protecting language and culture, and joint management of lands and resources. Treaties are constitutionally protected, mutually binding agreements. Those signed by Indigenous peoples between 1701 and 1923 are commonly referred to as historic treaties, and modern treaties refer to those agreements negotiated since then.

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Treaty 4

Treaty 4 — also known as the Qu'Appelle Treaty — was signed on 15 September 1874 at Fort Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan. The Indigenous signatories include the Cree, Saulteaux bands of the Ojibwa peoples and the Assiniboine. In exchange for payments, provisions and rights to reserve lands, Treaty 4 ceded Indigenous territory to the federal government. The majority of Treaty 4 lands are in present-day southern Saskatchewan. Small portions are in western Manitoba and southern Alberta.

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Treaty 6

​Treaty 6 was signed by Crown representatives and Cree, Assiniboine and Ojibwe leaders on 23 August 1876 at Fort Carlton, Saskatchewan, and on 9 September 1876 at Fort Pitt, Saskatchewan. The treaty boundaries extend across central portions of present-day Alberta and Saskatchewan.

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Treaty 5

Treaty 5 — also known as the Winnipeg Treaty — was signed in 1875–76 by the federal government, Ojibwa peoples and the Swampy Cree of Lake Winnipeg. Treaty 5 covers much of present-day central and northern Manitoba, as well as portions of Saskatchewan and Ontario. The terms of Treaty 5 have had ongoing legal and socioeconomic impacts on Indigenous communities.

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Numbered Treaties

The Numbered Treaties were a series of 11 treaties made between the Crown and First Nations from 1871 to 1921. The Numbered Treaties cover the area between the Lake of the Woods (northern Ontario, southern Manitoba) to the Rocky Mountains (northeastern British Columbia and interior Plains of Alberta) to the Beaufort Sea (north of Yukon and the Northwest Territories).

The treaties provided the Crown with land for industrial development and white settlement. In exchange for their traditional territory, government negotiators made various promises to First Nations, both orally and in the written texts of the treaties. These include special rights to treaty lands and the distribution of cash payments, hunting and fishing tools, farming supplies, and the like. These terms of agreement are controversial and contested. To this day, the Numbered Treaties have ongoing legal and socio-economic impacts on Indigenous communities. (See also Treaties with Indigenous Peoples in Canada.)

(This is a full-length entry about the Numbered Treaties. For a plain-language summary, please see Numbered Treaties (Plain-Language Summary.)

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Treaty 11

Treaty 11 is the last of the Numbered Treaties signed on 22 August 1921 between First Nations and the Canadian government following Confederation, as Canada expanded its borders north and west. It covers more than 950,000 km2 of present-day YukonNorthwest Territories and Nunavut. The First Nations involved were predominately Dene, and include the Gwich’inTlicho (Dogrib) and Sahtu. As with other Numbered Treaties, the government did not want to enter into treaty until its interests would be served by doing so; accordingly, Treaty 11 was only created in 1921, after oil and gas prospects in the Mackenzie region sparked its interests. However, hasty negotiations combined with weak implementation of the terms — particularly with regard to reserves and land claims — have led to considerable disagreement between the parties on what was meant by the treaty and which promises have not been fulfilled. As a result, many of the signatories to Treaty 11 have also been involved in the modern treaties process ( see Indigenous Peoples: Treaties).


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Treaties 1 and 2

Treaties 1 and 2 were the first of 11 Numbered Treaties negotiated between 1871 and 1921. Treaty 1 was signed 3 August 1871 between Canada and the Anishinabek and Swampy Cree of southern Manitoba. Treaty 2 was signed 21 August 1871 between Canada and the Anishinaabe of southern Manitoba (see Eastern Woodlands Indigenous Peoples). From the perspective of Canadian officials, treaty making was a means to facilitate settlement of the West and the assimilation of Indigenous peoples into Euro-Canadian society (see Treaties with Indigenous Peoples in Canada). Indigenous peoples sought to protect their traditional lands and livelihoods while securing assistance in transitioning to a new way of life. Treaties 1 and 2 encapsulate these divergent aims, leaving a legacy of unresolved issues due to the different understandings of their Indigenous and Euro-Canadian participants.

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Treaty 3

On 3 October 1873, some Saulteaux peoples (an Ojibwe people) and the Government of Canada signed Treaty 3, also known as the North-West Angle Treaty. This agreement provided the federal government access to Saulteaux lands in present-day northwestern Ontario and eastern  Manitoba in exchange for various goods and Indigenous rights to hunting, fishing and natural resources on reserve lands. The terms and text of Treaty 3 set precedents for the eight Numbered Treaties that followed. (See also Treaties with Indigenous Peoples in Canada.)