On Sept. 22, the Office of Indigenous Engagement (OIE) at the University of Calgary is creating space to honour the lived experiences of Indigenous Peoples impacted by the creation of Treaty 7.
Treaty 7 Day marks the anniversary of the agreement between The Crown and the First Nations people of southern Alberta in 1877. To recognize the importance of the day, OIE will be hosting a webinar with an Elder to discuss the oral history of Treaty 7 and shine a light on this often-obfuscated historical event.
“I think [Treaty 7 Day] does not have enough material and information for the general public, both across Canada and in Alberta — part of the designated area that comprises Treaty 7,” says guest speaker Dr. Mike Bruised Head, PhD, an Elder from Kainai Nation of the Siksikaitsitapi (Blackfoot Confederacy).
He believes there is a fundamental discrepancy between how colonial forces portrayed Treaty 7 and how First Nations Peoples understood and continue to be impacted by the nation-to-nation agreement.
Treaty 7 was presented to the Siksika, Kainai, Piikani, Stoney Nakoda and Tsuut’ina people by the non-Indigenous settlers in Canada as a peace treaty intended to unite all nations. The Blackfoot people were told all parties were to share the land and its resources equally, with no disruption to each community’s way of life.
The events of the treaty were documented by non-Indigenous officials in written records which superseded the oratory transformation of knowledge of First Nations communities. The result, Bruised Head says, is an incomplete account of the events that omits the perspectives of First Nations participants who were misled regarding the treaty’s true purpose.
“Treaty 7 was only ever a peace treaty in our eyes, yet [settlers] occupied the land which we ‘supposedly’ gave up,” says Bruised Head, who is a direct descendant of Chief Red Crow, one of the many Blackfoot leaders who were not supportive of making Treaty 7. He believes Indigenous oral histories are important in filling the knowledge gaps left by colonial historians of the time.
“We were supposed to have benefits as treaty people, yet it’s the other side that truly benefits from being given the land that we never gave up,” says Bruised Head.
He says the events that followed the making of Treaty 7 were stacked against the First Nations communities in Canada. Portions of land provided to the First Nations people in southern Alberta continued to shrink and time went on and new legislation like the Indian Act continued to encroach on First Nations ways of life. Despite it all, Bruised Head says the resiliency of Indigenous communities cannot be underestimated.
“Nothing was ever in our favour, yet we were able to stay alive against the government, residential schools, legislations and police,” he says. “We are still here — I am still here.”
Bruised Head will share his presentation, Blackfoot Treaty as Interpreted by the Direct Descendant of Redcrow, during UCalgary’s Treaty 7 Day webinar. The webinar will take place Sept. 22 and will be moderated by Allyson Dennehy, BSW’15, a member of Samson Cree Nation in Maskwacis, and UCalgary’s cultural protocols co-ordinator with Indigenous Engagement.
Treaty 7 Day webinar
Date: Sept. 22, 2023
Time: 12 - 1:30 p.m. MT
Location: online (Zoom webinar)