We respectfully acknowledge that The Land Between is located within Williams Treaty 20 Mississauga Anishinaabeg territory and Treaty 61 Robinson-Huron treaty territory, in the traditional territory of the Anishinaabeg. The Land Between respectfully acknowledges that these First Nations are the stewards and caretakers of these lands and waters in perpetuity and that they continue to maintain this responsibility to ensure their health and integrity for generations to come.
A formal land acknowledgement shows recognition of and respect for Indigenous Peoples and their lands, in the context of the past, present, and future. Including an acknowledgement shows awareness that you’re on the land of a Nation that has had a relationship since time immemorial with that land. The exercise of doing the research to find out whose land a meeting or event is taking place, is an opportunity to open your heart and mind to developing respectful relationships between settlers and Indigenous peoples. Bob Joseph, a Gwawaenuk Nation member, and author of several guides to Indigenous/settler relations provides a guide to land acknowledgements, noting that the research behind land acknowledgements is part of the process of recognition.
The Land Between is one of the first charities in Canada to honour the original treaties, by defining reconciliation as equal governance and influence. As such The Land Between operates with 50% First Nation peoples on our Council, and with one seat on Council that is delegated and not elected, to represent the First Nation of the Territory in which we operate. The Land Between also strives to incorporate Traditional Knowledge systems in all decisions, beyond just consultation. Below you can learn more about Indigenous Settler history in Canada, and why developing and maintaining relationships with First Nations and the land is a priority for The Land Between charity.
The Royal Proclamation
The Royal Proclamation, often referred to as the “Indian Bill of Rights” was signed in 1763, following the Seven Years War, recognizing Indian title to land and resources. After fighting against Indians aligned with the French in the Seven Years War, having inherited 70,000 French-speaking people in what is now Quebec, and still being faced with a French possession in Louisiana, England realized that it was essential to recruit Indians to their cause. To do this, the Proclamation ‘reserved’ lands for ‘Indian use’. The Royal Proclamation of 1763 formed the basis of Treaties – which recognized Indigenous claims to lands and indicated that only the Crown could negotiate treaties. This legislation symbolized a relationship of trust between the Crown and Indigenous peoples by stating that only the Crown could ‘purchase’ land from the Indigenous nations. In addition, The Royal Proclamation, acknowledged traditional governance systems and facilitated the making of mainstream settler’s governance infrastructure. It also provided official protection of Indigenous territories through the establishment of hunting grounds. While the main purpose of this legislation was not to limit the growth of colonies, but to ensure peaceful relations between settlers and Indigenous peoples and the French in Louisiana, it was seen as an effort to block the 13 colonies from accessing the rich Ohio Valley, and was a major irritant that contributed to the American Revolution.
“As long as the sun shines, the grass grows and the river flows…”
What is a treaty?
If you are a citizen (Indigenous or non-Indigenous), immigrant or visitor of Canada you are a treaty person. Few Canadians know much about treaties despite their foundational importance to the Canadian nation. The treaty is a living agreement between First Nations and the Crown for the benefit of all people who live in treaty territory. Treaties are recognized and affirmed in Canada’s Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. Ontario is covered by a total of 46 treaties and other agreements, such as land purchases by the Crown. The treaty making process between Indigenous peoples and the Crown was formally established by the Royal Proclamation of 1763 following the Seven-Years War. As European settlement began to increase, agreements needed to be made in order to ensure peaceful relations, and resource sharing among Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. The treaties established are still as relevant today as the day(s) that they were signed. In this sense, it is imperative that Canadians understand the foundational importance of treaties to both the Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples inhabiting what we now call Canada.
The Government of Canada “recognizes” a total of 70 historic treaties in Canada signed between 1701 and 1923. These treaties include: Treaties of Peace and Neutrality (1701-1760), Peace and Friendship Treaties (1725-1779), Williams Treaties (1923), Robinson and Douglas Treaties (1850-1854) and The Numbered Treaties (1871-1921). When treaties were first being established, both parties were recognizing the importance of securing their futures and relations with the land. Many, if not all the treaties, established a basis for peaceful and respectful relations between the Crown, Indigenous peoples and the land. From an Indigenous perspective, Elders explain that the starting point of the treaties is their relationship to the Creator who gave them life. In this sense, there cannot be a respectful, peaceful relationships between Indigenous peoples and the Crown when one side is leaving their Treaty promises unfulfilled. The history of Canada reveals that in many ways the treaty agreements have been violated through discriminating policies and practices. The Land Between charity recognizes these original agreements and works to honour these agreements by providing First Nations with equal governance and voice within the Charity.
The Great Wampum
The Great Wampum represents the formation of peaceful governance and meaningful relationships. Wampum is created from the shell of a clam, cutting from the white and purple parts of the shell. The shell is thought of as a living record, giving the speaker the ability to put the words of an agreement into the wampum. Each speaker thereafter uses the wampum to remember the initial agreement and the history that has happened to date.
The two row wampum is a strong example, representing the forming relationships of Europeans and First Nations, specifically Dutch settlers and Haudenosaunee Nations. The Haudenosaunee and Dutch, upon contact, made an agreement with how they would interact and build relationships with one another when the Dutch were beginning to settle and expand into Haudenosaunee territory (1613). The belts, made out of white and purple shells, represent their agreements. The belt has two purple rows running along side each other, representing two boats. A canoe, belonging to the Haudenosaunee, and a ship, representing the settlers. The boats travel along side one another, sharing the river, but never crossing or interfering with one another. In this sense, the agreement made emphasized that each nation will respect the ways of each other and not interfere with one another. Treaties, and wampum belts are the initial agreements between settlers and Indigenous nations. The Haudenosaunee see the Two Row Wampum as a living treaty; a way that they have established for their people to live together in peace; that each nation will respect the ways of the other as they meet to discuss solutions to the issues that come before them (Onondaga Nation, 2018). Other Wampum Belts such as the Western Great Lakes Covenant Chain Confederacy Wampum Belt and the Twenty Four Nations Wampum Belt were key to forming nation to nation relationships rooted in peace, friendship and respect.
It is important for all Canadians to be aware of, and understand the initial treaties and agreements between settlers and First Nations. These initial treaties and agreements were about coexistence and mutual obligation. If you own property or plan on owning property in Canada, you are exercising a right that goes back to the very first signed treaties. In addition to the once peaceful relationships developed, the failure to uphold these initial agreements have resulted in a history of discriminatory legislation and policies that worked to found the Canadian state. To The Land Between, reconciliation is about reminding Canadians of the relationships that once existed between settlers and First Nations. A relationship of being equal. A nation to nation relationship. Reconciliation is about returning to these relationships and remembering the past no matter how shameful.
The Indian Act (1876)
In Canada, efforts to assimilate Indigenous peoples centre within the 1876 Indian Act. Nearly ten years after confederation, in 1876, the Act was a very specific piece of legislation established that defined what it meant to be ‘Indian’ by Canadian standards. It determined land ownership and the establishment of reserves in Canada to house Indigenous peoples until they were assimilated into ‘civilized’ society, or eliminated. The establishment of the Act also coincided with the geological survey and mining of ore.
Sections of the Act made it easy for women and children to loose their Indian status. In addition, a Western electoral system was imposed on most bands, discarding traditional governance systems and excluding women from participating. The overall purpose of the Indian Act was to control, segregate, and assimilate Indigenous peoples into Euro-Canadian society. Since it’s original enactment the Indian Act has had many amendments and changes but still holds today. It is important to remember the original purpose and intent of this Act, and why it was created.
So why don’t we just get rid of the Indian Act?
As Harold Cardinal explained in 1969 as a response to the release of the White Paper,
“We do not want the Indian Act retained because it is a good piece of legislation. It isn’t. It is discriminatory from start to finish. But it is a lever in our hands and an embarrassment to the government, as it should be. No just society and no society with even pretensions to being just can long tolerate such a piece of legislation, but we would rather continue to live in bondage under the inequitable Indian Act than surrender our sacred rights. Any time the government wants to honour its obligations to us we are more than happy to help devise new Indian legislation.”
Despite the discriminatory context, the Indian Act legally differentiates Indigenous peoples and other Canadians, while acknowledging that the federal government has an obligation to Indigenous peoples. Historically, any changes to the Act that have been proposed or established, were entirely carried out by the government. Abolishing the Indian Act would require a fundamental shift in the way that Canada thinks. It would also require that the Canadian government works with Indigenous peoples beyond consultation, and gives Indigenous people co-governance and decision making abilities.
Canadas Dark Past
The British North American Act of 1867 brought forth many discriminating policies and legislation that attempted to assimilate Indigenous populations into settler society. Some of these practices included residential schools, permit systems and the Sixties Scoop:
Residential Schools or Industrial Schools were government run religious schools that permitted the kidnapping of Indigenous children from their families to assimilate them into Euro-Canadian society. In addition to the trauma of being taken away from their families, many Indigenous children endured sexual, verbal and physical abuse. Disease and poor sanitation resulted in the death of an estimated 3200-6000 children. Due to incomplete historical records, the number of school-related deaths varies and remains unknown. The last residential school closed in 1997, leaving a long legacy of trauma and destruction in many families. In 2008, Stephen Harper under the conservative government, released an apology on behalf of the Canadian state for residential schools and the attempted assimilation of Indigenous peoples. During the same apology, Stephen Harper stated that Canada was a country that had “no history of colonialism”, failing to recognize the lasting impact colonialism has had on development of Canada and the nations relationship with Indigenous peoples.
The Pass System was a permit system in place (1885-1940s) that denied Indigenous peoples the freedom to leave their reserves without a pass or permission slip signed by the local Indian Agent. The system kept First Nations parents from their children in residential schools, from visiting relatives, and even from hunting and fishing. Failure to adhere to the permit would often result in illegal incarceration or fines. It is important to note that enshrined in many of the treaties is hunting and fishing rights, as well as the right for Indigenous people to move freely across the landscape. The Pass System was very much an illegal practice, kept quiet by the Canadian government. A documentary by director and producer Alex Williams reveals some of Canada’s dark past through the history of “The Pass System”.
The Sixties Scoop refers to an era whereby the Canadian state abducted Indigenous children from families to be adopted by Euro-Canadians and assimilated into society. Despite the reference, the Sixties Scoop began in the 1950s and continued into the 1980s. In addition to loosing their families, children taken, lost their cultures, heritage and languages. The Sixties Scoop was another attempt by the Canadian state to assimilate Indigenous peoples into Canadian society. Currently in Canada, 52.2% of children in foster care are Indigenous, but account for only 7.7% of the child population according to Census 2016. This means 14,970 out of 28,665 foster children in private homes under the age of 15 are Indigenous (Statistics Canada, 2019). Results from the 2011 National Household Survey also show that 38% of Indigenous children in Canada live in poverty, compared to 7% for non-Indigenous children.