Treaty 6 was signed 141 years ago, but commemorating the moment and discussing its impacts remain current — the James Smith Cree Nation hosted a gathering over the last two days.
The Treaty 6 gathering is an annual event which provides education about the treaties and an opportunity for the Indigenous people who belong to the signatory bands to discuss issues impacting their communities.
James Smith Cree Nation (JSCN) Chief Wally Burns said he used his time speaking to address his community’s concerns regarding the recent Shore Gold developments as well as the Husky Oil Spill.
While the chief couldn't stay for the entire event — he had to attend to family matters — JSCN headsman Alvin Moostoos addressed the value of Treaty when it comes to dealing with industry in particular. The numbered Treaty documents were originally an agreement made to share the lands and resources between the people of the Crown, and the Indigenous people of Canada.
“We’re not [trying to] take the land back, to take the farmers’ fields away, to take the diamond companies away, the oil companies away,” Moostoos said. “Us as people, we’re living by our treaties by sharing this land.”
During the gathering, a list of recommendations made to the spokespeople of the numbered treaties were read by AJ Felix, the Fire Keeper of the Treaty gatherings. Among the list was a call for Treaty Offices to be set up in each community within the numbered Treaty signatories.
Felix said bands have welfare, child and family service offices as well as education offices, but he said Treaty is the most important element of Indigenous society which lacks representation on reserves.
He said the offices could include Treaty documents, as well as the original maps and list of chiefs over time or even the pipes used in ceremonies around the time of agreeing to Treaty.
Moostoos said his vision for the offices is a place where the treaties can be stored, and information about them can be gathered and shared between the bands and the public. Moostoos said it would also be an important place to pass information on to the younger generation of Indigenous people.
“A lot of our younger people don’t understand [Treaty] and we have to educate them to understand where they came from, and where they’re going,” he said.
Following the recommendations period, the first ever Treaty 10 gathering was announced by Felix. It is scheduled to be hosted in La Plonge at the end of August.
Once the event concluded, a flag song was played and the majority of attendees marched out of the JSCN powwow arbour.
On Twitter: @BryanEneas
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