- Create my own treaty
- Examine the intentions of treaties
- Give examples of how some treaties were unfair
- Design a fair classroom treaty
Mi’kmaq, Passamaquoddy and Wolastoqey treaties were initially about creating alliances that were valuable to all members. These alliances created peaceful relationships that included trade, passage, peace and friendship, and other duties and responsibilities. This is what the First Nations expected with Europeans.
One of the most common and critical misunderstandings about the Mi’kmaw, Passamaquoddy and Wolastoqey treaties with the British is that they address issues of land and territory, which is not the case. These 18th century treaties between the Mi’kmaq, Wolastoqewiyik, Passamoquoddy (Pesktotomuhkati) and the British were treaties of “Peace and Friendship”. They are essentially diplomatic agreements in which Mi’kmaq, Passamaquoddy and Wolastoqewiyik promised their neutrality during conflicts between the English and French in return for protection of their inherent rights to the land they used and also the rights to fish, hunt, trap and gather.
During the treaty-making period, translating among Mi’kmaq, Wolastoqewiyik, Passamaquoddy, and English was challenging. Mi’kmaq, Passamaquoddy and Wolastoqewiyik respected oral agreements amongst each other yet they bonded agreements by making wampum belts to confirm the treaty.
This has become a major issue for the courts since the time of the first treaties. Currently, the Supreme Court of Canada has stated that the written word cannot be taken literally. Instead, a broader interpretation is required when implementing the treaties, where governments consider the intent of the signatories and honour the original purpose of the agreements.
One of the most important ideas in contemporary issues related to treaties is the concept of Mi’kmaq, Passamaquoddy and Wolastoqey Title. For many people this concept is difficult to understand because it does not equate easily to non-Indigenous concepts of property rights and land use. The easiest way to understand it is as “the legal right to unceded territory.” Because Mi’kmaq, Passamaquoddy and Wolastoqey treaties are about peace and friendship, they never addressed the surrender of land, territory or resources.
Treaties require not just benefits on both sides, but also obligations on both sides. Point this out when doing the next activity. There are several other components of a treaty:
- that it is only between nations;
- that it must have obligations and benefits on both sides;
- that it should have dispute resolution terms;
- that it needs to be ratified to be valid;
- that once ratified it becomes law, and;
- that it cannot be changed or terminated by one side alone.