Land and Treaties

Askii Akawa Asotamaatowin

Land and Treaties Workshop

This one-day workshop introduces newcomers to Canada to the foundational history of Indigenous Nations and their historical and contemporary contributions to the development of Canada. This exploration is centered around First Nations’ and Métis Nation perspectives on land and Treaties.  

The activities are meant to fortify Immigration Partnership Winnipeg’s mandate, which include commitments to active participation and supporting the settlement and integration of immigrants.

The workshop encompasses a number of practical activities. Each activity includes an introduction, a list of outcomes, step-by-step process for delivery, and suggested essential questions meant to encourage collegial dialogue, promote active engagement, and foster a culture of collective responsibility.

The tasks offer information on historical Treaties in Canada, Indigenous people’s enduring relationships with land, modern Treaties, and land protection efforts. This knowledge is fortified with the development of skills that sharpen participants’ critical thinking and communication.

 

The activities encourage critical consideration of differing viewpoints, with an emphasis on Indigenous perspectives; they also provide openings to apply new learnings to participants’ life experiences.

The day is broken into several activities, ranging from 20 to 60-minutes each. Times allotted for each unit are approximate and may vary according to audience size, levels of interaction, English proficiency, and background knowledge.

Facilitators may build in time for collegial conversations; however, when time is limited, they are expected to guide the group so that all topics and activities are delivered.

Times are approximate — the facilitator will need to be flexible and intuitively know when groups need more or less time. The decision to add more time should be based on the richness or benefits of continuing the discussion.

While this page will offer information on the workshop activities the Land and Treaties Facilitator’s Guide provides a complete lesson plan with important details for each activity and information regarding supplementary materials.

Teacher’s Guide

Background/Foundational Information
Pre-contact Treaties
  •  First Nation people were making Treaties with each other, and with the plant and animal nations, long before the arrival of Europeans to North
  • Leanne Simpson shares the following story retold by Nishnaabeg scholar John Borrows in Recovering Canada: The Resurgence of Indigenous Law about Treaty Making with Animal Nations:

In a time long ago, all of the deer, moose, and caribou suddenly disappeared from the Nishnaabeg territory. When the people went looking for them, they discovered the animals had been captured by the crows. After some negotiation, the people learned that the crows were not holding the moose, deer, and caribou against their will. The animals had willingly left the territory because the Nishnaabeg were no longer respecting them. The Nishnaabeg had been wasting their meat and not treating their bodies with the proper reverence. The animals knew that the people could not live without them, and when the animal nations met in council, the chief deer outlined how the Nishnaabeg nation could make amends:

Honour and respect our lives and our beings, in life and in death. Cease doing what offends our spirits. Do not waste our flesh. Preserve fields and forests for our homes. To show your commitment to these things and as a remembrance of the anguish you have brought upon us, always leave tobacco leaf from where you take us. Gifts are important to rebuild our relationship once again.

The Nishnaabeg agreed and the animals returned to their territory. Contemporary Nishnaabeg hunters still go through the many rituals outlined that day when they kill a deer or moose, a process that honors the relationships our people have with these animals and the agreement our ancestors made with the Hoof Clan to maintain the good life (Simpson, 2008, p. 34).

Leanne explains:

According to Nishnaabeg traditions, it is my understanding that our relationship with the moose nation, the deer nation, and the caribou nation is a treaty relationship like any other, and all the parties involved have both rights and responsibilities in terms of maintaining the agreement and the relationship between our nations. The treaty outlines a relationship that when practiced continually and in perpetuity, maintains peaceful coexistence, respect, and mutual benefit (Simpson, 2008, p. 35).

Source: Simpson, L. (2008). Looking after Gdoo-naaganinaa: Precolonial Nishnaabeg Diplomatic and Treaty Relationships. Wicazo Sa Review, 23: 2, pp. 29-42.

 

Historic Treaties
  • In North America, the earliest post-contact Treaties were developed to ensure good relations, strengthen alliances, and gain access to land.
  • After Canada was established by the British North America Act of 1867, the Crown entered into Treaties with First Nations (referred to as the Numbered Treaties).
  • Treaties apply in perpetuity: First Nations offered aid to the British (under King George) and were given promise that they would be looked after (“If you ever need me, I will be there”).
  • First Nations and settlers (the Crown) negotiated Treaties on behalf of those who were not yet born. As such, settlers and newcomers to Canada are also beneficiaries of Treaties.
  • Negotiations were sophisticated and forward thinking, despite serious language barriers (early Treaties were endorsed with Chiefs’ marks (an “X”) rather than a signature). They signed the documents under the assumption of the honour of the Crown.
  • Treaties resulted in a number of commitments on the part of the Crown, in exchange for sharing the land, including annuities (annual payments of $5, not subject to inflation), education, health care, and more.
  • There is still some debate about what was agreed to and promised. The Treaty Venn Diagram identifies where First Nations understandings (based on the oral record) and the Crown’s understandings (based on the written document) of the Treaties and the Treatymaking process differ and intersect. See Facilitator Resource: Treaty Venn Diagram.
  • The Crown maintains that First Nations ceded land through the Treaty-making process, but First Nation peoples saw themselves as stewards – rather than owners – of land and water, and thus would not have ceded the land to the Crown representatives.
  • The Métis Nation was excluded from the numbered Treaty-making process. The government implemented the scrip system for Red River Métis people after the 1869/70 Red River Resistance in order to extinguish their Aboriginal Title to the Métis lands they were promised in the Manitoba Act. The process of implementing scrip (160 acres or $160 to the children of half-breed heads of families) was dishonorable; a position the Crown repeated with the Numbered Treaties.
  • The “Dakota were also denied entry into Treaty negotiations, in spite of their requests to be included” (Chief Darcy Bear). They have Indian Status, but have not signed Treaties with the Crown.
  • Broken promises: Treaties are legally enforceable agreements. When commitments are not honoured, there is a legal framework for adjudication. The Supreme Court ruled that interpretations of Treaties shall be made in favour of the intended beneficiaries: First Nations peoples.

See the Facilitator Resource: Historic Treaties infographic for the numbers.

 

Sources:

Chief Darcy Bear. (n.d.). The Dakota/Crown Relationship: A Legacy of Alliance. 
Treaty Relations Commission of Manitoba
Office of the Treaty Commissioner. (2008). Treaty Essential Learnings: We Are All Treaty People. Saskatoon: Office of the Treaty Commissioner.

Workshop Supply List, Checklist and Agenda
Supplies and Materials

 

Protocol
  • Tobacco and gifts for Elder and/or guest speaker
Printed Materials
  • 1 laminated copy of Agenda and Learning Outcomes
  • 1 copy of Map of Manitoba Numbered Treaties
  • 1 copy of Pre-1975 Treaties
  • 1 laminated copy of Treaty Venn Diagram
  • 1 copy of Map of Modern Treaties
  • 1 copy of Treaty infographic
  • 1 laminated copy of Thomas King quote
  • 4-6 laminated copies of Treaty No.1
  • Facilitator’s Guide
Handouts
  • Evaluation Forms (one per participant)
Activity Supplies
  • 4-6 copies of Treaty Medal (plastic reproduction)
  • 1 Talking Stick or stone
  • Flip charts and markers
  • Dry erase markers (for laminated posters)
  • Adhesive putty
  • Blank index cards (one per participant)
  • Play-Doh (1 tub per participant)
  • Scrap paper
  • *Blanket Exercise scripts, props and blankets
Facilitator Checklist
Task
Print participant handouts.
Arrange classroom for student discussions.
Set up screen and computer with projector. Check audio.
Prepare/assemble activity supplies (Treaty medal, maps, blank notecards)
Prepare table supplies (sticky nptes, highlighters)
Obtain flip chart, easel, set of markers for each group.
Prepare traditional territory and Treaty land acknowledgement statement.
Assemble gifts/tobacco for guests/Elders.
Do necessary pre-reading for facilitaion.
Agenda

Use this blank agenda to plan your workshop. See page 6 Facilitator’s Guide or download here.

Activities

1. Opening and Introductions
Purpose

The purpose of the opening and introductions is to provide participants with an overview of the day, including the learning outcomes and essential questions.

 

Outcomes
  • Welcome participants
  • Establish expectations for the day (review agenda, and identify learning outcomes and essential questions)
  1. Welcome participants and introduce facilitators.

  2. Introduce special guests and Elders, if present.

  3. Explain housekeeping items, such as break times, restroom locations, etc.

  4. Review the agenda and comment on any flexibility in timing or content, if applicable. 

  5. Share the day’s intended learning outcomes.

  6. Provide an overview of essential questions.
    1. Essential questions are intended to encourage dialogue, promote active engagement, and foster a culture of collective responsibility among participants.

  7. Encourage participants to be a learning community. One way to do this is through a shared lexicon of hand symbols.
    1. Show participants the hand symbols for ‘repeat,’ ‘slow down/stop,’ and ‘got it!’
    2. Remind students that they are a learning community and invite them to parrot other participants to ensure that the facilitators get the message.

  8. Establish group protocols for how we want to work together. These might include listening attentively, participating actively, turning cell phones off/on silent, respecting each other, etc. If time allows, write these on a whiteboard or flip chart paper, and have participants initial the agreement.
    1. If the participant group is quite small, you can create a “Treaty” for how the day should proceed. Participants can negotiate break times, group protocols, and even the agenda (reordering or prioritizing some aspects of the agenda).
    2. Write the agreement in another language, and later break some agreements.
Activity 1 Additional Resources
2. Unpacking Treaty Acknowledgements
Purpose

The purpose of this activity is to unpack a typical Treaty land acknowledgement and craft a personalized land acknowledgement. In this section, participants will gain basic background knowledge about Treaties, and insight into the Treaty-making process.


Outcomes
  • Acknowledge traditional territory, Treaty territory and land
  • Understand the spirit and intent of Treaties
  • Identify benefits and beneficiaries of Treaties
  1. Deliver a simple Treaty acknowledgement, focusing on the Treaty territory where the workshop is taking place:
    We’d like to acknowledge that we’re on Treaty #___.

  2. Introduce Treaties in Canada, including the historic Treaties and the numbered Treaties.
    1. Review Facilitator Backgrounder 2.4: Treaties
    2. Fill in the Treaty Venn Diagram with First Nations understandings (based on the oral record) and the Crown’s understandings (based on the written document) of the Treaties and Treaty-making process. Draw attention to where these understandings differ and intersect (the shared circle in the center).

  3. Ask participants to identify themselves on the map, locate their resources, and consider other benefits they gain from Treaties.
    1. Where do you live and work?
    2. Where does your water come from? Your electricity? Food?
    3. How do you benefit from Treaties ? Education, health services, other.
      1. Review Facilitator Resource: Treaty Benefits.
    4. What is your relationship to this place/land? Really think about this.
    5. Who lived here, historically and contemporarily? Who travelled through these lands? Harvested here? Ceremonied here?

  4. Individually or as a group, develop a meaningful, personal acknowledgement to land. See Facilitator Resource: Treaty Land Acknowledgement.
    1. Consider the Crown’s broken promises.
    2. Consider how being dispossessed from land has impacted First Nation people.
Essential Questions
  • What is a Treaty land acknowledgement, and why bother?
  • Why is it important to acknowledge the land that we are on?
  • What is your relationship to land, on your home territory and here in Canada?
  • What role does land play in your identity construction and culture?
Activity 2 Additional Resources

Time: 45 minutes

 

Resources
  • Online map of traditional territories: https://native-land.ca/
  • Treaty Land Acknowledgement (considerations and samples)
  • Maps of Manitoba Numbered Treaties, Historic Treaties, and Pre-1975 Treaties
  • Treaty Relations Commission of Manitoba: http://www.trcm.ca/Treaties/
Facilitator’s Guide Resources
Supplies
  • Dry erase markers
3. Building Personal Connections
Purpose

The purpose of this exercise is to help participants recognize that they may have similar experiences and can relate to Indigenous peoples experience with Treaties and land dispossession in Canada.


Outcomes
  • Establish a personal connection to Treaties
  • Relate to First Nation experiences with Treaties and the Treaty-making process
  1. Explain that Treaties are like a marriage; they involve a contract and a ceremony. Ask, ‘Are there other things about marriage that relate to Treaties ? E.g., agreements, promises, relationships, etc.’

  2. Divide participants into small groups.
  3. Ask small groups to discuss land and Treaties. Their personal experiences may help participants understand and relate to the First Nation experience.

  4. Invite participants to consider:
    1. Their relationship to land
    2. A history of displacement/land dispossession
    3. Personal experiences with Treaties (peace or land Treaties)
    4. Other connecting points, such as language barriers, western and non-western perspectives and understandings of family, relationships, promises
    5. Invite volunteers to share back with the large group.
    6. Highlight similar experiences between participants’ and First Nation people.
Essential Questions
  • What is a Treaty land acknowledgement, and why bother?
  • Why is it important to acknowledge the land that we are on?
  • What is your relationship to land, on your home territory and here in Canada?
  • What role does land play in your identity construction and culture?
Activity 3 Additional Resources

Time: 40 minutes

Resources
4. Contextualizing Treaty
Purpose

The purpose of this activity to explore the Numbered Treaties focusing on spirit and intent.

Outcomes
  • Explore the concept of ‘spirit and intent’
  • Recognize that Treaties are a tripartite agreement
  • Identify the Numbered Treaties in Manitoba on a map
  • Value the importance of First Nations’ language


  1. Distribute copies of Facilitator Resource: Treaty No.1 to table groups. Ask: what is the document?

  2. Explain that this is part of the written text of Treaty No.1.

  3. Circulate the Treaty medal. Instruct participants to focus on the images. Ask: Describe what you see? Who are the figures? What doe medal tell us about the Treaty relationship?
  4. Develop a list of the symbols and their meaning, for example:
    • The handshake between the First Nations chief and the Crown representative signifies a relationship, an agreement.
    • The hatchet buried in the ground between them symbolizes peace and friendship.
    • The sun, grass and the water symbolize that the treaty will last “as long as the sun shines, the grass grows and the rivers flow.”
  5. Introduce the concept of spirit and intent. Clarify that the Treaty relationship is centred on both the printed word and the spoken words and the sacred ceremony at the time of Treaty.

  6. Share the translation of the word ‘Treaty’ in Cree and in Anishinaabeg.

  7. Draw students’ attention to the large wall map, Map of the Numbered Treaties. Invite them to explore. Facilitate questions and observations.
  8. Invite the students to sit. Ask three students to return to the map and tape/affix (1) Treaty medal, (2) Treaty No. 1 text, and (3) Cree/ Anishinaabeg terms to the perimeter of the map.
  9. Summarize that Treaties were sacred “tripartite” (involving three parties) agreements between First Nations, the Crown/government and the Creator, that were sealed with pipe ceremonies.

  10. Reinforce that Treaties consist of written agreements and oral promises; refer back to the Venn Diagram, as needed.

 

Essential Questions
  • In what way are the Numbered Treaties a tripartite agreement?
  • What is meant by ‘spirit and intent’?
  • How does First Nations’ language help us to understand the Treaty relationship?
Activity 4 Additional Resources

Time: 30 minutes

Resources
Facilitator’s Guide Resources
5. Exploring Worldviews: Land
Purpose

The purpose of this activity is to explore the different worldviews and perspective concerning land held by Indigenous peoples and the Crown (Canadian government) at the time of Treatymaking.

 

Outcomes
  • Define the term worldview
  • Understand the term settler colonialism
  • Distinguish between Indigenous and non-Indigenous perspectives pertaining to land
  • Recognize the differing perspectives regarding land at the time of Treaty-making
  • Acknowledge that land is central to Indigenous culture
  1. Ask: What is settler colonialism? Explain that settler colonialism is a particular form of colonization where settlers are driven by the desire for land, where Indigenous land becomes property, and where settlers never leave.

  2. Read aloud Facilitator Backgrounder: Reaching the Summit of Mount Everest

  3. Ask: How did Norgay and Hillary experience reaching the summit of Mount Everest differently? What were their different worldviews?

  4. Guide and facilitate a discussion centred on worldview with a focus on Indigenous perspectives on land.

  5. Summarize the different perspectives held by Indigenous peoples and the Crown at the
    time of Treaty-making in Manitoba; refer back to the Venn Diagram, as needed.

  6. Reinforce the role of land from an Indigenous perspective: Land is sacred. Land is sustenance. Land is culture.

  7. Show TRCM/CTV Vignette: Share the Land (0:36)

  8. Explore this idea (‘Share the Land’) in contrast to the Crown’s view of Treaty as a land purchase.

  9. Conclude the session with questions and discussion.
Essential Questions
  • What is meant by the term worldview?
  • How were Indigenous and Crown (the Canadian government) views different regarding land at the time of Treaty-making in Manitoba?
  • In what ways is land central to Indigenous culture?
  • In what ways is land central to your own culture?
Activity 5 Additional Resources

Time: 30 minutes

 

Resources
Facilitator’s Guide Resources
Supplies
  • Access to internet, projector, audio
  • Treaty Venn Diagram
6. Blanket Exercise
Purpose

The purpose of the Blanket Exercise is to engage learners in a participatory history lesson that fosters truth, understanding, respect and reconciliation among Indigenous and non-indigenous peoples. This activity is a concise version of the Blanket Exercise that is focused on Treaties and land.


Outcomes
  • Understand Indigenous peoples’ relationships with land, and how settler colonialism has impacted this

 

Essential Questions
  • How does the Blanket Exercise help us understand Indigenous people’s relationship with land?
  • What impact has settler colonialism had on Indigenous peoples’ relationship with land?
  • What impact has land dispossession and displacement had on Indigenous peoples?
Activity 6 Additional Resources
Time: 60 minutes

 

Resources
Supplies
  • Blanket exercise scripts and props
  • Blankets
7. Blanket Exercise Debrief
Purpose

The purpose of this circle discussion is to debrief the Blanket Exercise. This exercise provides space for participants to unpack and air their thoughts, and to identify key learnings from the exercise.


Outcomes
  • Unpack and reflect on the Blanket Exercise
  1. Invite participants to sit in a circle.
  2. Facilitate a brief question and answer period.

  3. Ask participants to consider and share:
    1. How does this exercise relate to you as a newcomer or person who works with newcomers?


  4. Close the circle by acknowledging Indigenous peoples’ enduring relationship with land, and their gradual and ongoing dispossession from the land. Today, First Nations control less than 0.2% of land in Canada.
Essential Questions
  • How does the Blanket Exercise help you relate to or understand Indigenous peoples’ experiences?
Activity 7 Additional Resources

Time: 30 minutes

 

Supplies
  • Talking stick or stone
8. Indigenous Resurgence
Purpose

The purpose of this section is to introduce modern Treaties, present instances of land
repatriation, including urban reserves and major land claims, and raise awareness about land protection movements to help build solidarity with land defenders.


Outcomes
  • Showcase important work taking place today and in the future
  • Create understanding and solidarity with land protection movements
  1. Explain that there are many (41%) First Nation and Inuit communities that are not part of any Treaty (generally, because the communities were too far north, or otherwise seen as undesirable property).
  2. Share that there are negotiations underway for modern Treaties and land claim agreements for territory that was not included in the historic Treaties (the historic Treaties cover about 50% of Canada). The largest land claim to date is the Nunavut land claims agreement, which repatriated nearly one quarter of Canada’s land mass to the Inuit.
    1. Refer to Facilitator Resource: Map of Modern Treaties

  3. Share that in 2013, the Supreme Court acknowledged the dishonour of the crown in Métis scrip disbursement and laid the groundwork for a modern-day Treaty with the Métis.

  4. Explain that urban land is also being repatriated through urban reserves. Kapyong Barracks is an example of one such settlement agreement between Canada and Treaty 1 communities. However, Métis people have also been excluded from these negotiations, despite a claim to this traditional territory. Remember that traditional territories are often overlapping.
  5. Highlight that Indigenous peoples are also reconnecting to land after a century of dispossession and reclaiming their languages and ceremonies. There is a lot of important work being done in the areas of land defense, water protection and climate action, including the Oka land dispute (1990), Idle No More to protect land and water in light of Bill C-45, which reduced environmental protections (2012-present), and, recently, the Unist’ot’en Campaign to stop the pipeline through their territory (since 2007, with the International Solidarity with Wet’suwet’en in 2019).
  6. Ask: “Has anyone heard of other Indigenous-led movements focused on land defence, water protection and climate action? E.g., NODAPL (Standing Rock), and the Global Climate Strike”?
  7. Ask: What land defence movements have recently taken place in Winnipeg? What stories have you heard about these movements?
  8. Activity: Solid-ARiT-y

  9. Distribute a small tub of Play-Doh to each participant. Have scrap paper and markers on hand for participants who would prefer to draw.
  10. Invite participants to create a Play-Doh sculpture/art piece that illustrates what solidarity or working together looks like to them.
  11. Invite participants to share their art-based reflections with the group.

  12. Remark on overall similarities as well as disparate pieces. Encourage participants to share feedback too.
Essential Questions
  • What purpose do urban reserves serve?
  • Is urban land Indigenous land?
  • How can you support Indigenous resurgence?
  • What does it mean to stand in solidarity with Indigenous people?
Activity 8 Additional Resources

Time: 30 minutes

 

Resources
Facilitator’s Guide Resources
Supplies
  • Play-Doh – 1 tub for each participant
  • Scrap paper and markers
9. Personal Action: What Now?
Purpose

The purpose of this activity is for students to reflect the day’s teachings, share their learnings, and make a personal pledge of action based on this new knowledge.


Outcomes
  • Provide a framework for critical reflection and informed action
  • Offer opportunities to share new perspectives and understandings
  • Promote self-confidence and a philosophy of growth and improvement
  1. Refer to the Thomas King quote from The Truth about Stories. Remind participants that stories – what we’ve heard and learned today – carry responsibilities.
  2. Instruct students to divide a sheet of paper into three columns with the following headings: WHAT? SO WHAT? NOW WHAT?
  3. Explain that each heading is an entry for critical reflection on today’s learnings.
  4. Expand on the first two:
    What? What did you learn? What did you expect? What was unexpected? What was your reaction?
    So what? Why does it matter? What are the consequences and meanings of your experiences? How do your experiences link to your academic, professional and/or personal development and or experiences?
  5. Give students several minutes to complete the first two questions. Invite students to share with the whole group.
  6. Expand on the final question:
    Now What? What are you going to do as a result of your experiences? What will you do differently? How will you apply what you have learned?
  7. Give students several minutes to complete. Invite students to share with the whole group.

  8. Distribute the small blank notecards, one per students. Ask them to write themselves an action that they can undertake based on what they have learned. For example: “Tonight at the dinner table I will tell my family that we live in Treaty No. 1 territory.”
Activity 9 Additional Resources

Time: 30 minutes

 

Resources
Facilitator’s Guide Resources
Supplies
  • Facilitator Resources 2.1 Map of
  • Manitoba Numbered Treaties (laminated)
  • Facilitator Resources 2.2: Pre-1975 Treaties (laminated)
  • Facilitator Resource 2.3: Treaty Venn Diagram (laminated)
  • Facilitator Backgrounder 2.4: Treaties
  • Dry erase markers
10. Closing and Evaluations
Purpose

The purpose of this activity is for students to reflect the day’s teachings, share their learnings, and make a personal pledge of action based on this new knowledge.

 

Outcomes
  • Identify key learnings for participants and close the day in a good way
    1. Lead participants in a closing circle
    2. Share the circle protocols and teachings. Model expectations for the circle
      1. Be brief and to the point; say “thank you” and pass the talking stick or stone to the next person (always to the left).


    3. Introduce the reflection question or topic for discussion. Below are some examples: 
          One thing I learned from the workshop…
           One thing I’ll share with family and friends…
           One way I’ll use (new skill/new knowledge) that I learned during the workshop…
           How I would update my personal land acknowledgement…

    4. Once everyone has shared, thank participants for sharing as a way of closing the circle.

    5. Encourage participants to complete an evaluation before leaving.
Activity 10 Additional Resources

Time: 25 minutes

Resources
Supplies
  • Talking stick or stone