FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — The Alberta government has this week signed a framework deal with its Treaty 8 First Nations to take a more hands-on approach to solving problems on a range of issues.
The deal creates working groups to address issues in areas such as health, education, and infrastructure.
At the signing ceremony, Premier Rachel Notley said the framework is designed to chase problems early, rather than react to them, and to ensure that First Nations people have the resources and opportunities necessary to chart their own future.
Treaty 8 was signed in June 1899 by Queen Victoria and is one of 11 numbered treaties between the Government of Canada and First Nations.
840,000 square kilometers of land are covered by the treaty in northern Alberta, northeastern B.C., northwestern Saskatchewan and a southern-most portion of the Northwest Territories — making it larger than France.
The Fort Nelson, Doig River, Halfway River, Prophet River, Saulteau, and West Moberly First Nations together form the Treaty Eight Tribal Association. Along with the Blueberry River First Nations and the McLeod Lake Indian Band, they are B.C. Treaty 8 signatories.
The latter ratified an agreement in principle with the federal and B.C. governments in 2000, which brought the nation under Treaty 8. It is now negotiating a self-government agreement independently in the B.C. treaty process.
While the treaty still governs the region today, much has changed in terms of its landscape and use. Tribal Chief Liz Logan of the Treaty 8 Tribal Association says ongoing government sanctioned industrialization and resource extraction have broken the treaty promise that her people could practice their way of life, adding that ‘they’ve acted as if there was no treaty.’
Negotiation of the 11 Number Treaties took place over a 50 year period beginning in 1871. No two treaties are alike, as they are dependent upon specific geographic and social conditions within the territory being addressed.