"Miyo-Wîcêhtowin" is a Cree word meaning 'the principle of getting along well with others, good relations, [and] expanding the circle.'(1) One teaching by Elder Danny Musqua is that First Nations people avoided conflict whenever possible, and instead entered into treaties with one another. For this reason, First Nations entered into treaties with the newcomers to get along well and to develop good relations rather than relations of conflict.
Throughout this module, you have been exposed to the historical disempowerment of Indigenous peoples in relation to land, to their cultural and spiritual connection to Mother Earth. And yet when the newcomers first arrived on this land, good relationships were established with First Nations peoples through trading and First Nations peoples shared their knowledge of the land and its resources. For First Nations peoples, treaties were meant to cement these relationships. For the newcomers, treaties were land transactions: a means of securing land for incoming settlers.
Furthermore, federal assimilationist policies like the Indian Act and the residential school policy had disastrous cultural, social, and spiritual consequences for First Nations peoples, which also hindered the relationship between First Nations peoples and the newcomers as aspects of the treaties were breached, broken or have failed to be observed from the beginning.
The Métis, despite multiple resistances and armed conflicts, were stripped of their land base through the Scrip system and failure to adhere to the Manitoba Act. Their children were also sent to Residential Schools and/or abducted and adopted out by provincial child welfare systems, effectively destroying the community structures.
Those Indigenous peoples whose land was not considered valuable or essential to the creation of Canada as a country, such as the Inuit, were totally left out of treaty negotiations as well as federal fiduciary responsibility.
In the present day, reparations are slowly being made. Comprehensive Land Claims are being settled as well as other types of land claims in relation to treaty such as Treaty Land Entitlement. Tripartite Memorandums of Understanding are being signed by First Nations peoples, federal and provincial/territorial governments to work together in areas of land management, child welfare and education. Indigenous peoples are gradually taking back that which is rightfully theirs as sovereign peoples: their education, government and justice systems.
Santayana said those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.(2) We cannot remember a past if we have never been exposed to it. This module is one attempt at broadening the knowledge and understanding of the Saskatchewan population in relation to Indigenous peoples and land agreements.