June 21, 2021
Treaty 7 and Land Acknowledgements for Settlers: Part 1
This blog will be posted in two parts. Today, we post Part 1, which focuses on Treaty 7. On June 25th, we will post Part 2, which focuses on land acknowledgements.
In the past several years, many of us at the University of Calgary have heard or said a land acknowledgement at the beginning of our events. In these acknowledgements, we have hopefully taken care to acknowledge that we reside on Treaty Seven territory, and that Calgary is home to the Métis Nation of Alberta Region III. But how many times have we just read off the ‘standard’ statement, without putting much thought into what we are saying? While land acknowledgements are important ways for settlers to recognize the Indigenous territory we continue to live on and colonize, to be meaningful, it is critical that these acknowledgements are personal and acknowledge our individual role in advancing reconciliation on the land which we reside. As White settlers, in this two-part blog post, we will explore what living on Treaty Seven territory means to us (Part 1), and how to incorporate this into land acknowledgements (Part 2).
Treaty Seven from a Settler Perspective
Calgary and area is on Treaty Seven territory. Treaty Seven was signed on September 22nd, 1877 at Blackfoot Crossing. Those involved in the treaty included Canadian government representatives and the Siksika (Blackfoot), Kainai (Blood), Piikani (Peigan), Tsuut’ina (Sarcee), and Stoney-Nakoda including the Chiniki, Bearspaw, and Wesley First Nations. In creating this treaty, the Canadian government had expected the Indigenous peoples of this region to surrender their land to the government in exchange for various resources and agricultural support. However, the First Nations understood this to be a peace treaty that would lead to Indigenous peoples and White settlers sharing the land and using resources harmoniously. Without accurate linguistic interpretation and cultural competence, the Canadian government codified a misunderstood arrangement. As a result, First Nations communities, though not agreeing to surrender their land, were subsequently confined to reserves. Thus, from its inception, Treaty Seven has been exploited by the Canadian government to further colonial interests and devastate First Nations communities.
Today, the promises made to Indigenous peoples at Blackfoot Crossing continue to be violated. This legacy of broken promises, injustice, and colonial violence runs deep. For example, Indigenous children and youth are overrepresented in the foster care system, Indigenous women and girls represent 10% of all women reported missing in Canada, and many Indigenous peoples—especially on reserves—live in inadequate housing. Overall, the land has not been peacefully shared, and continues to be weaponized to control the lives of Indigenous peoples.
Honouring Treaty 7 as a Settler
With a long legacy of violation and misrepresentation, how are we as settlers to honour this treaty today? As settlers who have benefitted from the unethical agreements enshrined in this document, we must actively read about, understand and recenter Indigenous perspectives of Treaty Seven: without accounting for Indigenous perspectives, this treaty will remain a colonial document. This means that continual Indigenous consultation on all treaty-related issues (e.g., land) is a critical step in honouring these relationships. We also must recognize that this land has not been signed over to settlers and remains the territory of Siksika (Blackfoot), Piikani (Peigan), Kainai (Blood), Tsuut’ina (Sarcee), and Stoney-Nakoda First Nations. The severe violations of this treaty need to be acknowledged and reparations on the part of settlers and government bodies must be made if we are to truly live up to the promises made at Blackfoot Crossing.
Disclaimer: The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Calgary nor do they reflect official University of Calgary policy. This blog post was written from a settler perspective and does not speak for Indigenous voices. For more information on Indigenous perspectives of Treaty 7, please see the Calgary Public Library’s discussion of the Making of Treaty 7 with First Nations representatives.