History of the Treaty Relationship


Original Sin: The Doctrine of Discovery

The Doctrine of Discovery established a spiritual, political, and legal justification for colonization and seizure of land not inhabited by Christians. Foundational elements of the Doctrine of Discovery can be found in a series of papal bulls, or decrees, beginning in the 1100s, which included sanctions, enforcements, authorizations, expulsions, admonishments, excommunications, denunciations, and expressions of territorial sovereignty for Christian monarchs supported by the Catholic Church. Two papal bulls, in particular, stand out: (1) Pope Nicholas V issued “Romanus Pontifex” in 1455, granting the Portuguese a monopoly of trade with Africa and authorizing the enslavement of local people; (2) Pope Alexander VI issued the Papal Bull “Inter Caetera” in 1493 to justify Christian European explorers’ claims on land and waterways they allegedly discovered, and promote Christian domination and superiority, and has been applied in Africa, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, and the Americas.The 1493 Papal decree aimed to justify Christian European explorers’ claims on land and waterways they allegedly discovered, and promote Christian domination and superiority, and has been applied in Africa, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, and the Americas. If an explorer proclaims to have discovered the land in the name of a Christian European monarch, plants a flag in its soil, and reports his “discovery” to the European rulers and returns to occupy it, the land is now his, even if someone else was there first. Should the original occupants insist on claiming that the land is theirs, the “discoverer” can label the occupants’ way of being on the land inadequate according to European standards. This ideology supported the dehumanization of those living on the land and their dispossession, murder, and forced assimilation. The Doctrine fueled white supremacy insofar as white European settlers claimed they were instruments of divine design and possessed cultural superiority.


After the program, participants put together a reading list


“You say that you are our Father and I am your Son. We say ‘We will not be like Father and Son, but like Brothers.’ This wampum belt confirms our words. […] Neither of us will make compulsory laws or interfere in the internal affairs of the other. Neither of us will try to steer the other’s vessel.”

Two Row Wampum

“1) that the trade between them and our people will be tolerated as long and as far as both parties agree, etc. 2) that we as contracting parties, will have the right to keep our own traded goods as long as there is no definite buying contract, etc. 3) that part of the land can be bought from the Indian contracting parties who see this as their own country. For this both parties have to negotiate and a mutually agreed upon contract has to be written up, etc. 4) That we, as contracting parties, will support each other and in case there is a shortage of food, we will give each other the necessary food supplies et. 5) and that we, as contracting parties, promised that in case of dispute regarding real or imagined injustices and these types of matters, (awaiting better times) will take these matters whatever they may be, and put them forward to a meeting of representatives who will consider everything.

We, the contracting parties, promise each other that all of the above will be carried out in affection and friendship and to carry out this promise as long as the grass is green. As a sign of respect and affection, we exchange with each other a silver chain in return for a special piece of rope from a sea vessel {sea shell} And as realizing the truth of the above, the contract holders have signed today, on 21 April, 1613.”

Two Row Wampum (1613)


Presentation of Wampum

” Although the written proceedings of the meetings have not survived, colonial records and oral history show that the Peace and Neutrality Treaty terms were four-fold: members of the Seven Nations would have free movement throughout their traditional territories without fear of molestation by British troops; they would also maintain their same privileges as they enjoyed during the French regime; the Seven Nations alliance with France would be forgotten and that they would be treated as friends of the British without fear of reprisals; and, the Seven Nations would continue to hold their lands, both villages and hunting territories.”

Treaties of Peace and Neutrality (1701-1760)



“The Peace and Friendship Treaties concluded in this period all followed a similar pattern. Their terms simply re-established peace and commercial relations. In these treaties, Aboriginal peoples DID NOT SURRENDER RIGHTS TO LAND AND RESOURCES. Two of the treaties have a specific trade related clause not found in the others, known as the “Truck House” clause. In the 1752 and 1760-1761 Peace and Friendship treaties the British promised to establish a truck house, or trading post, for the exclusive use of the Aboriginal signatories. As one of the primary purposes of the treati

es was to re-establish trade within the colony, these “truck houses” would serve to encourage a commercial relationship between the Mi’kmaq, the Maliseet, and British settlers. While the actual trading posts were short lived, the Truck house clause became the central focus of two different court cases in the 1980s and 1990s. In both the Simon and Marshall cases, Aboriginal claimants argued that the Truck House clause guaranteed Aboriginal rights to hunt and fish throughout the region and to maintain a moderate livelihood there.”

Peace and Friendship Treaties (1725-1779)

|Royal Proclamation

“Since its issuance in 1763, the Royal Proclamation has served as the basis of the treaty-making process throughout Canada. The protocols and procedures it established led to the orderly opening of the lands for settlement and the establishment of an ongoing Treaty Relationship between First Nations and the Crown. It also led to the establishment of the Indian Department’s primary role as intermediary between First Nation people and the Crown. After Confederation in 1867, the principles established by the Proclamation continued to guide the treaties of Western Canada and the establishment of treaty rights and obligations for all parties.”

Royal Proclamation of 1763


As settlers under the British Crown began to move into the Great Lakes Region – and after the failure of Pontiac’s resistance – 24 Nations from the Haudenosaunee, Seneca, Wyandot of Detroit, Menominee, Algonquin, Nipissing, Ojibwa, Mississaugas, and others who were part of the Seven Nations of Canada and the Western Lakes Confederacy all agreed with the Crown to extend the agreements represented by the Two Rows Wampum and the Silver Covenant Chain of Friendship to the whole of the Great Lakes Basin.  In 2010, Queen Elizabeth II explicitly renewed this agreement by presenting 8 silver hand bells each to Band Chiefs from Tyendinaga and Six Nations of the Grand River in commemoration of 300 years of the Covenant Chain.

Treaty of Niagara (1764)


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