Treaty No 8

TREATY No 8 was an agreement between the federal government and the FIRST NATIONS people of northeastern BC and the adjoining parts of Alberta and the NWT. Originally negotiated in 1899, it took several years to collect signatures from all the DUNNE-ZA (Beaver), SEKANI, DENE-THAH (Slavey), Chipewyan and Cree who eventually signed the treaty. Until the initialling of the NISGA'A TREATY in 1998, Treaty No 8 was the only treaty between aboriginal people and the federal government that included any part of BC. The treaty was precipitated by the Klondike GOLD RUSH and the sudden appearance of European prospectors in the north. The local people complained that these intruders stole their horses and drove away fur-bearing animals, and they asked the government for a treaty to protect their rights. For its part the government wished to extinguish any aboriginal claim to the territory in preparation for the peaceful exploitation of northern resources. Under the terms of the treaty the First Nations surrendered their claim to 841,500 sq km of land. In BC that includes 270,400 sq km east of the ROCKY MTS. In return they received RESERVES, cash, farming equipment and ammunition, teachers, hunting and FISHING rights, and annual payments of $25 for each chief, $15 for each headman and $5 each for everyone else. A parallel Half-breed Commission offered 240 acres (97 ha) of land or $240 cash to METIS within the treaty area. In retrospect it has become clear that the government and the First Nations had different expectations of the treaty. The government believed it was clearing away any aboriginal claim to the territory. The First Nations thought they were getting a guarantee that their traditional way of life and use of the land would not be harmed by the expected influx of outsiders.