The PLEA: Treaties and the Law

The PLEA: Treaties and the Law

What’s in a Name

In many ways, the original peoples of what the Europeans called the “new world” were far more culturally diverse than the Europeans. For example, there were approximately 300 different First Nations languages spoken in what is now known as North America. Despite this diversity, Europeans in many ways saw the Indigenous peoples as one group and for this reason used general terms to describe them.

One word created by the newcomers to describe the original inhabitants of many different First Nations was Indian. One theory is that the term resulted from a case of mistaken identity: When Christopher Columbus arrived at the islands around Cuba he mistakenly thought he was just south of China, and thus the people were from India. The term was then later applied to the surrounding islands and eventually the continent.

The term Indian is sometimes still used today to describe all descendants of the original inhabitants who are not Inuit or Métis. It is, however, considered by many to be outdated and offensive. The Government of Canada now uses the term First Nations, but Indian is still used if it is a direct quote, a discussion of history, or a legally-defined term.

True or False – Treaty Trivia

How Much Do You Know?

  1. “Aboriginal” is the appropriate term to use when discussing Treaties.
  2. All First Nations in the prairies entered into Treaties with the British Crown.
  3. The First Nations had their own laws and social order and were sovereign nations when the Treaties were signed.
  4. First Nations leaders were formidable negotiators and understood Treaty rights and benefits.
  5. Treaties are simple land transactions.
  6. Ten Treaties were signed in what is now Saskatchewan.
  7. The British and First Nations had similar worldviews regarding land ownership.
  8. Language and communication barriers were encountered during the Treaty negotiation process.
  9. First Nations women did not participate in Treaty negotiations.
  10. The written text of Treaty is all that a person needs to understand Treaties.
  11. Flags, Treaty medals and suits were symbols used at the time of Treaty making.
  12. Treaties benefit all Canadians.
  13. The Indian Act of 1876 was not part of the Treaties.
  14. Treaties have no relevance today; they are part of the past.
  15. All Saskatchewan citizens are Treaty people.