Treaty 6

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Treaty 6
Treaty No. 6 between Her Majesty the Queen and the Plain and Wood Cree Indians and other Tribes of Indians at Fort Carlton, Fort Pitt and Battle River with Adhesions
The Numbered Treaties
Signed August 23 and 28 and September 9, 1876
Location Fort Carlton, Fort Pitt
Language English

Treaty 6 is an agreement between the Canadian Crown and the Plains and Woods Cree, Assiniboine, and other band governments of First Nations at Fort Carlton and Fort Pitt. The area agreed upon by the Plains and Woods Cree represents most of the central area of the current provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta. One Manitoba band also signed on to the treaty by adhesion in 1898. The treaty signings began in August 1876, with adhesions added later, the last being signed in 1898 in central Saskatchewan in the Montreal Lake area. Treaties 1 to 7 were signed between the government of Canada and the Indigenous peoples of Canada during the years 1871 and 1877. Due to the Indigenous demands, the treaties were concluded more swiftly than the Canadian government had anticipated.[1]


The Crown, recognizing the right of Natives as possessors of the land due to occupancy and possession, wanted access to the land to open it to European Settlers (farmers, businessman and missionaries). As well, the signing of the treaty was a product of the British Empire's long-continuing colonialism of British North America. There were several impetuses for this colonization: political, social (over-population in Britain and need to export people out of British slums) and economic (profit to be made from western Canada's rich lands and woodlands) at the time. Many of the persons involved in the process of imposing treaty on the Nations had had experience in imposing British rule on nations in Africa and central Asia.

At this time, the buffalo were disappearing at an alarming rate. They were being massively slaughtered by European settlers, metis and hunters, mostly for their hide. The chiefs, elders and many of the people themselves hoped that, if they signed a treaty with the Crown, they would not starve.

A second major reason for the signing of the treaty was that smallpox, recently introduced by settlers, had spread through the area, killing many of the Cree who had no immunity to this new disease. This weakened the spirit of the nations that might have otherwise opposed such an agreement.


According to the European version of history and terms of Treaty Making, the First Nations people gave up their customary title to the land under common law in exchange for provisions from the government. The First Nations understanding is radically different from the British version; due to the nature of oral histories, translations (for example there is no concept of "land ownership" or "cede", which follows from the concept of land ownership, in the Cree language), and British customs, there continues to be a controversy as to possible different understanding of the terms as they were used at the time of the Treaty signings, creating no consensus ad idem, and subsequently leading to an invalid contract.

The Plain and Wood Cree Tribes of Indians, and all other the Indians inhabiting the district hereinafter described and defined, do hereby cede, release, surrender and yield up to the Government of the Dominion of Canada, for Her Majesty the Queen and Her successors forever, all their rights, titles and privileges, whatsoever, to the lands included within the following limits...[2]

In exchange, certain areas were "reserved" (i.e. protected from encroachment by white settlers). These lands can be taken or sold by the government, but only with the consent of the natives peoples, or with compensation. In addition, the government promised to open schools for Indian children and restrict the sale of alcohol on reserves.

Each native family of five covered by Treaty 6 also received 4.45 square miles (11.5 km2) of land (128 acres (52 ha) per person), which they could sell back to the Government of Canada for compensation. Each person immediately received $12 (CA$) and an additional $5 a year. The chief and other band officer would receive a salary of $25 per year plus one horse, one harness, and one wagon or two carts. The people would, collectively, also receive $1500 per year for ammunition and fishing net twine. As well, each family was to be given an entire suite of agricultural tools including ploughs, axes, hoes, and several bags of seed, as well a payment, at the Indian agent's discretion, of up $1000 per year for the first three years after a reserve was surveyed.[citation needed]

Medicine Chest Clause

One of the selling points of the treaty was that a medicine chest would be kept at the home of the Indian agent for use by the people. Another of the selling points was the guarantee of assistance for famine or pestilence relief.

The "medicine chest clause" has been interpreted by native leaders to mean that the federal government has an obligation to provide all forms of healthcare to First Nations people on an ongoing basis. In particular, the Assembly of First Nations considers the funding of the Non-Insured Health Benefits program as one aspect of this responsibility.[3]

At the time Treaty 6 was signed, the famous medicine chest clause was inserted at Indian insistence that the Indian agent should keep a medicine chest at his house for use. Today Indian thinking is this means medical care, in general terms, the medicine chest may be all they had at that time and place but today we have a broader range of medical care and this is a symbol for that.

— historian John Taylor[4]

The interpretation of that clause is very different for the federal government employees or bureaucrats and the Indian leadership because to us and to our elders and leaders who negotiated and signed that treaty, it refers to health care and health benefits for our people. And because our traditional way of healing is still present and alive but we recognized that we would need that assistance


List of Treaty 6 First Nations


Date Event
23 August 1876 First signing at Fort Carlton
28 August 1876 Second signing at Fort Carlton
9 September 1876 Fort Pitt signing
9 August 1877 Fort Pitt adhesion signing by Cree bands
21 August 1877 Fort Edmonton signing
25 September 1877 Blackfoot Crossing at Bow River signing (at Siksika Nation reserve, Alberta)
19 August 1878 Additional signing
29 August 1878 Battleford signing
3 September 1878 Carlton signing
18 September 1878 Additional signing, Michel Calihoo Band, 25,600 acres near Edmonton, Alberta[5]
2 July 1879 Fort Walsh signing
8 December 1882 Further Fort Walsh signing
11 February 1889 Montreal Lake signing
10 August 1898 Colomb band signing in Manitoba
25 May 1944 Rocky Mountain House adhesion signing
13 May 1950 Further Rocky Mountain House adhesion signing
21 November 1950 Witchekan Lake signing
18 August 1954 Cochin signing
15 May 1956 Further Cochin signing
1958 Members of the Michel Band are "enfranchised" by the Department of Indian Affairs. They were made into British citizens and lost their Treaty status. And the reserve is dissolved.

This is the only case of an entire band (save a few individuals) being involuntarily enfranchised. [6]

Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations

The Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations was created in the spring of 1993 by 17 of Treaty Six band governments to be the "united political voice" of the Treaty Six First Nations.[7]

On 6 July 2012, the City of Edmonton, represented by Mayor Stephen Mandel signed a partnership agreement with the Confederacy. This believed to be the first such agreement between a city in Alberta and a group of First Nations governments. Edmonton is within Treaty 6 territory and has the second largest Aboriginal population of any municipality in Canada.[8]

See also


  1. ^ Leonard Taylor, John (1985). "Treaty Research Report Treaty Six" (PDF). Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-01-14. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ "NIHB". Program Areas. Assembly of First Nations. Retrieved 10 December 2014. 
  4. ^ a b "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 15 April 2012. Retrieved 15 April 2012. 
  5. ^ Dalheim, K (1955). Calahoo Trails. Calahoo Women's Institute. p. 14. 
  6. ^ Friends of the Michel Society 1958 Enfranchisement Claim[permanent dead link]
  7. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 31 August 2013. Retrieved 2 March 2013. 
  8. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 15 June 2013. Retrieved 2 March 2013. 

External links

  • The Making of Treaty 6 - Alberta Online Encyclopedia
  • Copy of Treaty No. 6 between Her Majesty the Queen and the Plain and Wood Cree Indians and other Tribes of Indians at Fort Carlton, Fort Pitt and Battle River with Adhesions
  • Confederacy of Treaty 6 First Nations
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