These next three lessons are designed to help students understand what a treaty is and why there are still negotiations about their implementation.
- Explain the difference between a promise and a treaty
- Demonstrate respect
- Explain an Indigenous ceremony that honours a treaty and agreement
- Demonstrate a non-verbal agreement
Remind students that they talked about promises in lesson D in the Who Are You? workbook. A promise is a pledge made between two people or groups. A treaty is like that only it takes the form of an agreement and is between nations. Treaty-making included making promises to share and cooperate. Today, it often looks like a contract and is signed legally.
A treaty is an agreement among nations. When it was signed, it became a document recognized by law.
Before European contact, Mi’kmaq, Passamaquoddy and Wolastoqewiyik created alliances and agreements with other Indigenous nations. The most important of these were recorded on wampum belts and were retold by Nutoniket Wapapiyil (wampum carrier and interpreter). Nutoniket Wapapiyil within the Grand Council, represented wisdom and were the keepers of the wampum and the people who remembered the treaties. In many instances the elements in one treaty were built upon in the next treaty, creating a “chain of treaties.” These treaties were built on mutual respect and cooperation and were sacred in nature.
The later treaties with Europeans, as far as the Indigenous people were concerned, were built on the same principles. For example, the Treaty of 1725 was re-introduced three times, in three places and over 27 years. First, the Treaty was signed in 1725 by Penobscot, Passamaquoddy and Wolastoqewiyik representing the Waponahki (Wabanaki) Confederacy in Boston. Then in 1726, it was ratified by Mi’kmaq in Annapolis Royal. Then in 1749, it was signed at Chebuctou (now Halifax) although Governor Cornwallis refused to comply. Finally, it was signed in 1752 between Grand Chief Jean Baptiste Cope and Governor Hobson for the renewal of peace. As a result, it was agreed to by more than one generation.
The Mi’kmaq Rights Initiative (www.mikmaqrights.com) explains treaties this way: “An Indian treaty is an exchange of promises between an Indian group (Nation) and the Crown, done with a certain level of formality. It usually takes the form of a written, signed document, but can include oral agreements.”
In Mi’kmaq, Wolastoqey (Maliseet) and Passamaquoddy treaties, both written documents and oral representations are included.