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Treaties Made in Good Faith

Canadian Review of Comparative Literature/ Revue Canadienne de Littérature Comparée


TREATIES MADE IN GOOD FAITH Sharon H. Venne Introduction THIS PRESENTATION is ABOUT the oral understanding of Treaty Six and the treaty-making in 1876 at Fort Carlton and Fort Pitt, located in present-day Saskatchewan. There are no written notes for this talk, only my memory of those words spoken by the Elders and Chiefs to express the rich and vibrant life of our Peoples. I remember the Elders stating that the Treaty will last "as long as the sun shines, the waters flow, and the grass grows." 1 The words "the waters flow" refer, not to a body of water like the North Saskatchewan River, but to the water that breaks when a woman gives birth. Because the Treaty is supposed to last for as long as water flows when women give birth, these words tie Cree women like me to the Treaty process. How that expression came about is an interesting story, but here I want to talk about the oral understanding of treaty-making as I have learned it from my Elders. Treaty-Making First, it is important to acknowledge that the University of Alberta is situated on land ancestral to the Papaschase Cree Peoples. I cannot say that it belonged to the Cree because, actually, all the land belongs to the Creation. 2 Under Treaty Six, Cree Peoples agreed to share some of their lands with the Queen's subjects, but certain lands were not to be shared, called "reserved lands." In an abuse of history as well as of the Cree Peoples, the settlers called the areas of land that would not be shared "reserves" and wrote that "Indians" were placed on "reserves." 3 That is a lie. After the treaty-making in 1876 at Fort Pitt, in Cree territory, Chief Papaschase selected the lands that would not be shared for his Peoples and for the future generations. 4 Those reserved lands were to the south, across the North Saskatchewan River from Fort Edmonton t

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