Historic signing celebrated

An eagle was released at the Treaty 8 Gathering 125-Year Commemoration and Cultural Celebration on June 21 at Willow Point near Grouard to mark the 125th anniversary of the signing of Treaty No. 8. Left-right are new Grand Chief Trevor Mercredi, Sucker Creek Chief Roderick Willier and Kapawe’no Hereditary Chief Sydney L. Halcrow. The eagle was released in honour of survivors of Indian residential schools. The release was held on the final day of five of the six-day event. Willow Point was the site of the historic signing.

Richard Froese
South Peace News

Several thousand people gathered near Grouard from June 17-21 for the Treaty 8 125-Year Commemoration and Cultural Celebration.

Events culminated June 21 at Willow Point south of Grouard at the site where the treaty was signed June 21, 1899.

Sucker Creek First Nation and Kapawe’no First Nations co-hosted the event on the lands of both First Nations.

Oti Nekan – Celebrating the Past, Embracing the Future – was the theme of the event.

On June 21, 1899, the initial negotiations for Treaty No. 8 concluded between the First Nations of the Cree, Dene (including Beaver, Chipewyan and Slavey) and Saulteaux people and the Queen of England.

Improving the Treaty is a priority, says new Grand Chief Trevor Mercredi, who was elected June 20 for a three-year term.

“As Sovereign Nations of Treaty No. 8, we have consistently upheld our part of the Treaty,” says Mercredi, who succeeds Arthur Noskey.

“Despite the milestone, there remain unresolved Treaty issues that must be honoured and upheld.

“We continue to engage with the Crown towards genuine Treaty implementation.”

About 1,500 to 2,000 people attended each day of the six-day event that was opened to people of all cultures so they could better understand the Treaty 8 people, lands and traditions.

“We want to inform them that we have upheld our part of the Treaty and yet we wait for the Crown to uphold their honour and fully implement Treaty No. 8 based on the True Spirit and intent and as understood by our Elders,” Mercredi says.

“We want to establish better working relationships with government and industry so that we also benefit in the bounty and benevolence our our territory.”

Treaty No. 8 territory encompasses a land mass of about 840,000 square kilometres that covers areas now known as northern Alberta, northwestern Saskatchewan, northeastern British Columbia and the southwestern part of the Northwest Territories. It represents the largest land-based Treaty is what is now Canada.

“As the Sovereign Nations of Treaty No. 8, we assert our sovereignty and inherent rights, holding the Crown accountable to its responsibilities and promises under the Treaty as we strive for reconciliation,” says Mercredi.

“The event was held to engage Treaty 8 members in the work of the leadership on the protection of our inherent and Treaty Rights, to highlight Treaty No. 8, the promises and rights and the many outstanding issues that we are still dealing with today.”

Treaty 8 leaders continue to work on the impacts of Indian residential school since reports June 1, 2021 that the remains of 215 children were found buried on the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.

“We are moving towards our own reconciliation as we want to go back to our ways . . . based on our Sovereignty,” Mercredi says.

“Since ‘Kamloops 215’, our Elders and members were significantly impacted and retriggered by Indian residential schools.

Alberta had the highest number of residential school any province or territory in Canada. Within the Alberta boundaries, Treaty 8 had 11 residential schools and 40 days schools.

Treaty 8 has renewed and revived cultural practices, ceremonies and land-based learning.

“We are working towards developing our own curriculum based on the understanding of our Elders and Knowledge Keepers,” Mercredi says

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