In the late 1800s, the federal government was concerned with establishing a Canadian presence in the west at a time when the United States was expanding westward. First Nations were concerned about the dramatic decrease in bison herds, about the effects of disease, and about the impact of agricultural settlement on their ability to continue their traditional lifestyle.
For the Crown, treaties would legitimize government control of the land. For First Nations, treaties would protect their lifestyle and provide assistance to meet the changing world.
In 1869, the Canadian government purchased Rupert's Land from the Hudson's Bay Company and began to survey the land to sell it to homesteaders. The government believed that First Nations people would soon disappear because of disease and starvation.
First Nations people did not understand how anyone could "own" land. They believed that resources were to be shared by all, and they were more than willing to assist incoming settlers. However, they also wanted to ensure the survival of their people and their cultures in the face of this changing world.
Treaty agreements were not always fulfilled. Some reserve lands were never allotted; in other cases, First Nations were pressured to surrender reserve land. Food and medical assistance were not always forthcoming. Agricultural training was not always supported with enough seed and equipment to make farming a success. Government controls were burdensome and often provided too little assistance too late.
In 1876, Treaty Indians came under the jurisdiction of the Indian Act. This made them wards of the Crown and "non-persons" before the law. All decisions were made by local Indian agents and by politicians and bureaucrats in Ottawa. In 1951, the Indian Act was revised to recognize First Nations as legal "persons" and to give them rights enjoyed by other Canadian citizens, such as the right to vote.
The RSM's Policy for the Care and Repatriation of the Sacred Objects
The RSM and Aboriginal peoples recognize that there are traditional and sacred connections between Aboriginal peoples and sacred objects of Aboriginal origin and that the sacred objects are extremely important to the cultures, values and traditions of Aboriginal peoples today.
Pursuant to The Royal Saskatchewan Museum Act, this policy is to address the concerns of Aboriginal peoples about the access to and the care, use and repatriation of sacred and culturally sensitive objects originating with their cultures and contained in the Ethnology Reserve Collection of the RSM.
To read and learn more about this policy please click here.