The Path to Reconciliation: Treaties

From the Tuesday Members’ Memo – Nov. 30, 2021

Our path to reconciliation includes listening, learning, and creating opportunities for education and participation within GSU. On the last Tuesday of each month we will be sharing a short piece of information in our Tuesday Members’ Memo that we hope will inspire you to learn more about the topic, and ultimately contribute to a shared future of reconciliation.


Before Canada existed as a country, what is now Eastern Canada had a two-fold attraction to the land to the west. Like their neighbours to the south, Eastern Canada was keen to expand into the resource and land-rich Prairie Region, and they risked losing it to a rapidly expanding and aggressive United States. Opting for a different path, Central Canada chose a more diplomatic approach, and began the process of signing Treaties. 

Between 1871 and 1921, Treaties one through eleven were signed in rapid succession, forming formal contracts between two sovereign nations.

Before these Treaties were signed, several First Nations lived in what is now modern-day Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Montana, North Dakota, and Alberta. Each of which had a rich history of using Treaties for inter-tribal affairs that were used for trade, safe passage, alliances, and access to resources and shared ancestral land. These relationships were based on reciprocity, respect, and coexistence, and were reaffirmed with ceremonies and protocol. They were to be renewed with regular dialogue, and the original spirit and intent of the agreement were to persist generation after generation. When French, American, and English interests began to collide, potential hostility began to grow. To secure tactical alliances, and to protect their inherited claim to their land, First Nation people used their expertise with Treaties and invited the then English Government to begin a fruitful relationship. 

Stretching from Eastern Ontario to the North-West Territories, the Treaties are often mistaken as symbolic, when they are in fact contracts between two sovereign nations. In return for access to the land (intended for agricultural settlements), the government was to respect their traditions of hunting, fishing, trapping, and to supply medicine, clothing, agricultural supplies, and education. This also kept the United States from encroaching on now newly acquired Canadian-First Nation territory without unnecessary war and violence. 

Learn more here:

There is so much more to learn!

GSU is building a truth and reconciliation lending library. If you have resources you would recommend for our library or are interested in borrowing a book, contact staff rep Mason Van Luven at