Wednesday, July 22, 2015
The True Spirit and Original Intent of Treaty 7 (Review)
Review of The True Spirit and Original Intent of Treaty 7
McGill-Queen's University Press
There are several historical accounts of the Treaty 7 agreement between the government and prairie First Nations but none from the perspective of the aboriginal people involved. In spite of their perceived silence, however, the elders of each nation involved have maintained an oral history of events, passing on from generation to generation many stories about the circumstances surrounding Treaty 7 and the subsequent administration of the agreement. The True Spirit and Original Intent of Treaty 7 gathers the "collective memory" of the elders about Treaty 7 to provide unique insights into a crucial historical event and the complex ways of the aboriginal people.
The True Spirit and Original Intent of Treaty 7 is based on the testimony of over 80 elders from the five First Nations involved in Treaty 7 - the Bloods, Peigans, Siksika, Stoney, and Tsuu T'ina. Their recollections highlight the grave misconceptions and misrepresentations between the two sides, due in part to inadequate interpretation and/or deliberate attempts to mislead. The elders consistently report that the treaty as they understood it was a peace treaty, not a surrender of land, and that they had agreed to "share" the land with the white newcomers in exchange for resources to establish new economies - education, medical assistance, and annuity payments.
The book provides both a historical overview of Treaty 7 and an analysis of the literature on treaties generally and Treaty 7 specifically. It makes clear that different agendas, different languages, and different world views affected each side's interpretation of events.
This review of the events and interpretations surrounding Treaty 7 takes place at a time when aboriginal and indigenous peoples all over the world are re-evaluating their relationships with imperial powers. It was undertaken in good faith in hopes that it will begin a dialogue that can alter the dominant discourse of Euro-Canadian society, which has been so damaging to aboriginal people.