It was our honour to have been invited to join our friends in the Woodland Cree First Nation as they celebrated their 27th annual treaty days. Held in the Cadotte Lake Community, the sun was shining as we walked in and were warmly greeted by a friendly young band member. She went over a few of the many day’s events, and after a few laughs about what time everything started, we wandered forward.
Impressive in size and meaning, nations in Zone 8 were represented by flags on wooden poles; and in a circle of friendship, the wind opened up each banner to showcase the strength approximately 840,000 km, and home to 39 FN communities and peoples.
Treaty Days are a time of celebration, of coming together, and a mixing of the past and the present. There were traditional handgames with the men in a circle as each team took turns hiding a pair of ‘bones’ and the other team ‘guessing’ who has them. The teams sing and drum in order to distract the ‘guessing’ team. Each of the two bones are marked differently and the ‘guessing’ continues until one team holds all the bones. Great fun and very challenging.
The annual meeting at which treaty annuities were distributed by representatives of what is now Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada to members of particular bands under the Numbered Treaties. These meetings were often attended by hundreds of people. Along with the distribution of treaty monies, food, ammunition and hunting or fishing equipment were also given out. Government officials were often accompanied by doctors and officers of the law to help Aboriginal people in any way they could.
Treaty money is now paid directly, however, treaty day meetings continue to be celebrated at different times throughout the country. 1 October 1986 was proclaimed as Treaty Day in Nova Scotia and since that time has been celebrated annually to recognize the connection between the government and the Mi’kmaq Aboriginal people and to commemorate the Peace and Friendship Treaties signed in the 1700s. On June 6 in Saskatchewan and May 12 in Manitoba, Treaty Day commemorates the treaties between the provincial governments and the Aboriginal people, recognizing their integral relationship as part of each province’s history. (Source: http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/treaty-day/)