Explainer: Treaty No. 9

Treaties were made to provide a framework for living together on the land Indigenous people have occupied and cared for since time immemorial. They are agreements that laid the foundations for ongoing cooperation and partnership between settler government and Indigenous people. Although these laws are still valid, some treaties in Canada continue to be violated, which in turn affects Indigenous communities and their ways of life.

For example, Treaty No. 9 governs a vast area in Northern Ontario larger than the United Kingdom and Ireland combined. The Treaty is meant to protect Indigenous Peoples’ right to govern the life-giving lands they have stewarded since time immemorial. The written version of Treaty No. 9 says that First Nations under the Treaty must “cede, release, surrender, or yield up their rights to the land.” This interpretation contradicts what the Nations understood when signing the Treaty. Evidence of the reached oral agreement shows that Indigenous leaders agreed to share the land with settlers, so long as they preserved bimaadiziwin in Ojibwe or pimaatisiium in Cree — happiness, prosperity, and protection of their traditional way of life.

Check out these slides to learn more about Treaty No. 9.

Slideshow Text:

Slide 1: Treaty No. 9 — What does it mean? Where does it cover? Why was it created? How are Indigenous communities challenging it?

Slide 2: What is Treaty No. 9 — Treaty No. 9 (also known as the James Bay Treaty) is one of the 11 Numbered Treaties negotiated with Indigenous peoples in Canada between 1871 and 1921.

Slide 3: The numbered treaties expanded the Dominion of Canada by negotiating large tracts of land in exchange for promises made to the Indigenous people of the area. Specific terms differed with each treaty. However many Indigenous people felt that the signing of the numbered treaties were rushed, disorganized, and limiting which ultimately resulted in a legacy of unfulfilled promises.

Slide 4: Where is Treaty No. 9 Treaty No. 9 covers the James Bay and Hudson Bay watersheds in Ontario. It is over 330,000 sq km – larger than the United Kingdom and Ireland combined. There are approximately 49 Nations living within the territory.

Slide 5: Why was Treaty No. 9 created? — Like all treaties, Treaty No. 9 was created with the intention of striking up an agreement between the Crown and Indigenous communities in Northern Ontario. According to many, the Treaty protects Indigenous sovereignty while sharing the land with settlers.

Slide 6: Since many of the Indigenous leaders did not speak or read English, interpreters were used. Treaty negotiations involved Indigenous Nations verbally demanding that their way of life not be interfered with. Under the continued assurance of the Commissioners, Indigenous leaders believed they were signing onto an agreement which would ensure their existing rights, and that enshrined an understanding of shared use of land and resources between settlers and Indigenous Peoples.

Slide 7: At the time, the treaty was presented as a document of mutual understanding and cooperation, but the truth behind its signing reveals a tale of deceit, misinformation, and bad faith.

Slide 8: How are Indigenous communities challenging Treaty No. 9? — The Breathing Lands campaign — a powerful coalition of Treaty No. 9 Nations — aims to expose the lies and misrepresentations of settler governments around Treaty No. 9. This landmark court challenge ultimately seeks restitution for a legacy of broken trust and exploitation on behalf of the Federal and Provincial governments.

Slide 9: Treaty No. 9 stands as a stark example of how the Crown deceived Indigenous Nations. The bad-faith negotiation of the Treaty laid the foundation for the legacy of broken promises, ongoing struggles, and the erosion of Indigenous rights we continue to see today.

RAVEN is supporting a coalition of Treaty No. 9 Nations who have joined forces in one shared aim: to prove to the courts that Treaty interpretation must include the whole story.

Learn more at: raventrust.com/breathing-lands

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