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Whose Land Frequently Asked Questions

How do you properly recognize Indigenous territory?There are numerous ways to recognize Indigenous territory in a respectful way - here are some suggestions. When making a land acknowledgement, we highly suggest contacting and working with the community or friendship center closest to the land you are recognizing so that you can make it as personable and meaningful as possible. It is important to work with the community and friendship center in order to honour the land with sincere intentions.
Why are we recognizing more than one Nation on this territory?Indigenous history stretches back thousands and thousands of years. Some Indigenous nations were nomadic, while many had permanent communities and seasonal communities. Often, boundaries between territories overlap because the Indigenous Nations were continuously sharing the land and negotiating agreements through their own diplomatic and legal systems.
What is a Treaty? Why were Treaties signed? What were the motivations behind them?A treaty is a unique agreement that has been used by Indigenous Nations as the mechanism to establish how Nations would co-exist on Turtle Island. This practice continued between Indigenous Nations and the Crown in the early 18th century to set out a commitment to peaceful relations. Over the course of time, however, treaties were signed to set out the rights and limitations of Indigenous Nations, so that the Crown could use and enjoy the lands that Indigenous Nations occupied. Often times Indigenous Nations entered into the treaty making process because they were aware that further encroachment of their lands by settlers would be detrimental to their way of life, as they would likely be killed, die of forced starvation, or be displaced from their territory. Conversely, the government was interested in signing treaties for the railway, European settlement and farming. Often times Indigenous people were forced onto smaller parcels of land, called reserves, in order to accommodate the increasing population of settlers moving West.
How were they negotiated?Treaties were often negotiated between Indigenous Nations and representatives of the Crown. The treaties were negotiated in English, a language not spoken by all parties involved in the treaties, which led to many different interpretations of the treaties. Indigenous nations were able to clearly state what they wanted, however, these desires were often not properly translated to the European authors. This has led to the government not recognizing many parts of the treaty.
Why are some areas not covered by Treaty?Lands not covered by treaties are called unceded territory, which includes lands that were not stolen through war, settler encroachment, or signed away through a treaty. In Canada, there is a vast amount of land that is unceded. Large parts of Quebec, Atlantic Canada, and most of British Columbia all remain unceded today.
Who is a Treaty beneficiary?Everyone in Canada benefits from the treaties, regardless of your age, ethnicity, background, or immigration status. In particular, non-Indigenous Canadians benefit from treaties because the treaties allow them to live on the land and use resources that were previously exclusively held and inhabited by Indigenous peoples. Many Nations receive treaty annuity payments, usually not in excess of five dollars per person. This payment has not been raised to reflect inflation since the treaties were signed.
What responsibilities do we carry as Treaty beneficiaries?Treaties allow Canadians to share the land, move freely about, conduct economic activity, govern themselves in the manner they choose, and maintain their cultural and spiritual beliefs without fear of persecution. We all play an important role in respecting the vast land covered by treaties. Being signatories of such a magnitude, all canadians - Indigenous and non-Indigenous - must understand that we are in an eternal relationship where we must know each other in order to properly share and respect our land and water.
Why do some areas have modern agreements instead of Treaties?Modern agreements, also called Comprehensive Land Claims Agreements, are usually created because some Indigenous Nations did not sign a treaty in the 19th or 20th centuries, and currently live on unceded land. These Comprehensive Land Claims Agreements are negotiated between the Nation, the Provincial Government, and the Federal Government. Since 1973, Canada has negotiated twenty-six comprehensive land claim agreements. Modern agreements have a range of names in different contexts; for example, British Columbia’s treaty negotiations are called ‘Final Agreements’ and are comprised of six stages (see British Columbia Final Agreement Stages below).
Who are the First Nations, Inuit and Métis? What is the distinction between the three main Indigenous groups in Canada?First Nations, Inuit and Métis are the three main groups of Indigenous peoples in Canada, meaning that they lived on the land of present-day Canada before confederation or contact was made with European settlers. Each group has its own distinct culture, collective consciousness, traditions, and way of life. First Nations people comprise the largest population of Indigenous people in Canada. Inuit peoples are Indigenous peoples living in the Inuit homelands in the arctic regions of Canada. First Nations and Inuit have occupied Turtle Island for thousands and thousands of years and are considered the original caretakers of Turtle Island. Métis people are defined by their collective history, not solely their mixed Indigenous and European ancestry; they include people who self-identify as Métis, are of historic Métis Nation Ancestry, are distinct from other Aboriginal Peoples and accepted by the Métis Nation.
What is a treaty map?Whose Land covers treaties from 1764 to present-day. The purpose of the map is not to define or limit territories, but is rather a recognition of what is currently in place. We recognize that communities and territories extend beyond the current legal boundaries and the true limits of Indigenous territories have yet to be recognized by the government. However, Indigenous Nations have never given up on their territory as all land on Turtle Island is Indigenous land.
What are the British Columbia final stage agreements?The British Columbia treaty process has six stages that involve the Federal government, Provincial government, and the First Nations communities. The 6 stages can be found on: British Columbia Final Stages
Where do the people displaced by the treaties live now?Many treaties lay aside a small portion of land, called a reserve, which was protected territory for which the communities had hunting, fishing and trapping rights. Today, nearly half of registered First Nations people live on these reserves.
What are geographic and social boundaries?Geographic boundaries are based on physical delineation like natural geographic features. Historically, geographic boundaries were not solid walls. The boundaries were porous and there was overlapping of shared lands and resources for different Indigenous Nations. Geographic boundaries can also shift based on population growth and access to resources. Social boundaries are a non physical and non political boundary that encompass the whole idea of a people lives in the identity, aspirations and imaginations of its members. In one sense it can be referred to as an imagined boundary, meaning that it can be the essential idea of an Indigenous person. The social boundary is the space within which members of the people operate. This social space is where you find culture, language, customs, religion, traditions, and the day to day interactions of the people. An important aspect of social boundaries is that it attaches features and cultural values to an inside, which creates an 'outside' for non-members.
What does scrip mean?Scrip was a certificate that indicated the right of the holder to receive a payment later in the form of land, goods, or cash. There were two types of scrip - land scrip and money scrip. Scrip was issued following the Dominion Lands Act, and was issued to some Metis under the Manitoba Act of 1870. The Scrip process was designed to extinguish Metis title to land like the treaty process did for First Nations. Claimants, individual heads of household, rather than First Nation as a whole, had to fill out an application, sign an affidavit, and sometimes would receive their scrip coupon on site if they qualified. Scrip was meant to distribute 1.4 million acres of land to Metis inhabitants. Upon approval, they would need to travel to the Dominion Lands office. Which during the busy summer months, meant taking time off work. Economic hardship also prevented Metis from reaching the commissions and applying. The process of applying was also problematic as it was in an unfamiliar language and the process itself was confusing and foreign to many Metis people. The scrip policy did not facilitate economic or lifestyle transition, it did not guarantee land rights, and it completely ignored Metis ways of life. Scrip policy spanned five decades and did nothing to secure Metis rights to land.
What is a Metis community?Community can be defined in a number of ways. There can be local, regional, provincial or national communities. Simply defined, community can be a group of people who live in the same area. Community can also be defined as people with some shared element, which can vary widely. In the Powley decision, the Supreme Court of Canada defined a Metis community “as a group of Metis with a distinctive collective identity, living together in the same geographic area and sharing a common way of life”. The Metis Homeland includes the three Prairie provinces (Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta), as well as, parts of Ontario, British Columbia, the Northwest Territories and the Northern United States. Within the Metis homeland there are many contemporary and historical Metis communities, additionally, as Metis people and families continued to migrate and move into other areas they formed new communities on the territories of other Indigenous Nations. Today Metis communities (typically referred to as locals or chartered communities by Metis provincial organizations) exist across Turtle Island within and outside the Metis homeland.
What was the Powley decision?The Powley decision was a case in Sault Ste Marie where two Metis men killed a moose and were charged unlawfully hunting moose and knowingly possessing game hunted in contravention of the Game and Fish Act, R.S.O. 1990. The two Metis men argued that Section 35 of the Constitution Act protects their right as Metis people to hunt for food. The case was appealed up to the Supreme Court of Canada which ruled in favour of the Metis men in 2003. The Supreme Court found that the Metis community around Sault Ste. Marie has an Aboriginal right to hunt for food. Although it was upheld in Sault Ste. Marie, the decision does not grant that right to other Metis people across Canada. Instead, they must demonstrate that under the Powley decision they have Aboriginal rights.
What was the Daniels decision?The Daniels decision asked the Supreme Court to make three declarations; that the Metis and non-status Indians are ‘Indians’ under s. 91(24) of the Constitution, that the federal government owes a fiduciary duty to the Metis and non-status Indians, and that the Metis and non-status Indians have a right to be consulted and negotiated with in good faith by the federal government on a collective basis through representatives of their choice, respecting all rights, interests and needs as Aboriginal peoples. The court concluded that Metis and non-status Indians were to be included under s. 91(24) of the Constitution. The court did not make a decision on the second and third declarations stating that it would be a significant change in the law as there is already a duty to consult in place. However, the Court did not order the Federal government to take action on any of these declarations. The decision did not make Metis and non-status Indians ‘Indians’ under the Indian Act. The Court did state that the federal and provincial governments disagreement over legislative authority over Metis and non-status Indians has resulted in both being deprived of much needed services and programs.
How did we get our information?We used a combination of community, treaty commission, friendship centers, and government resources in order to create our database. Each treaty, territory and community have links to our sources that you can check out for more information, as well as websites for most Indigenous communities!
What is Turtle Island? Why is Canada removed from the map? Why are geo-political borders removed from the map?Turtle Island is the Indigenous name for North America. The name Canada and geo-political boundaries are removed from the map in order to reflect the land before colonization. In fact, the concept of boundaries and borders is borrowed from European settlers. Many Indigenous Nations had boundaries, but they were overlapping, fluid territories where they would hunt, fish, and trap. When borders were imposed by European settlers, the borders ran through the territories of Indigenous Nations and forcibly prevented the movement of families within that territory.
What’s next?This project, like the very nature of treaties and territories, is ever-changing. We welcome your comments, corrections, and thoughts! Email us at turtleisland@takingitglobal.org