Historic Treaty 8 signing celebrated, 125 years on

Treaty 8 looking to ‘improve the treaty,’ says Grand Chief

Richard Froese
For the Lakeside Leader

Several thousand people gathered near Grouard from June 17 – 21 to commemorate the 125th anniversary of the signing of Treaty 8.

Events culminated June 21 at Willow Point, south of Grouard – the site where the treaty was signed on that same date in 1899.

Sucker Creek and Kapawe’no First Nations co-hosted the event, which was themed Oti Nekan – Celebrating the Pasts, Embracing the Future.

On June 21, 1899, negotiations concluded between representatives of the Cree, Dene (including Beaver, Chipewyan and Slavey) and Saulteaux people and representatives of the Queen of England.

Newly-elected Treaty 8 Grand Chief Trevor Mercredi says improving the treaty is a priority.

“As sovereign nations, we have consistently upheld our part of Treaty 8,” Mercredi said, in an information package provided to Big Lakes County. “Despite the milestone, there remain unresolved treaty issues that must be honoured and upheld. We continue engage with the Crown towards genuine treaty implementation.”

According to organizers, something between 1,500 and 2,000 people attended each day of the five-day event. It was open to people of all cultures – the idea being to help people better understand Treaty 8 people, lands and traditions.

Treaty 8 territory encompasses about 840,000 square kilometres – an area that includes parts of what are now Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan and the southwestern part of the Northwest Territories.

“As the sovereign nations of Treaty 8, we assert our inherent rights, holding the Crown accountable to its responsibilities and promises under the treaty, as we strive for reconciliation,” Mercredi said.

Speaking further about reconciliation, the Grand Chief said Treaty 8 Nations are “moving towards our own reconciliation, as we want to go back to our ways, based on our sovereignty.”

Treaty 8 has renewed and revived cultural practices, ceremonies and ‘land-based’ learning, says the information provided to the county.

“We are working towards our own curriculum,” Mercredi said, “based on the understanding of our elders and knowledge keepers.”

In honour of survivors

Treaty 8 Grand Chief Trevor Mercredi releases an eagle, at the 125-year commemoration of the signing of Treaty 8 celebration at Willow Point, near Grouard, on June 21. To his left are Sucker Creek First Nation Chief Roderick Willier and Kapawe’no First Nation Chief Sidney Halcrow. The eagle was released in honour of survivors of Indian residential schools.

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