The first Europeans arrived in our territory sometime in the 1600s seeking to trade for furs. These people, called Wemistukuushuu in Cree, worked for the Hudson Bay Company and started the complex and difficult relationship between the Taykwa Tagamou people and Europeans and later, European settlers.
The fur trade became a prominent part of our society and trading for guns, steel traps, pots, pans, knives, and other trade goods became commonplace. Trading posts were set up in our lands, including one at what is now called New Post Creek. The trading was not only in goods, as the European traders needed food and guidance in order to survive the harsh winter and climate, and from the Europeans, we took food, including bannock, tea, and sugar, and traditions and culture, including music.
Sadly, this trade also introduced to our people the harsh illnesses to which we had no immunity, like measles and the influenza. Many of ours people died.
Eventually the increase in hunting and the increased settlement led to a decline in the large animal population, and people began to hunt smaller animals, such as rabbits, but others suffered greatly from hunger, and even starvation. This was when the Treaty making process started in our lands.
In the late 1800s, the Mushkegowuk peoples began to seek assistance from the governments of Canada and Ontario to protect their lands from the growing developments, including railroads, forestry, and prospecting. Eventually, the government of Canada sought to make a treaty with the Mushkegowuk communities so that “a way must be smoothed for exploration, location of railway lines and construction, by extinction of Indian Title” so said by Frank Pedley, the Deputy Superintendent of Indian Affairs in 1904 (John S. Long, Treaty No. 9: The Negotiations, 1901-1928. Cobalt, ON: Highway Book Shop, 1978.) Duncan Campbell Scott, the Commissioner of the Department of Indian Affairs was charged with making a treaty with these communities.
The treaty negotiation process occurred with an oral translation of the treaty’s content by missionaries or by Hudson Bay Company Staff who may not have accurately translated or interpreted the contents. The Chiefs who signed the treaty could not be certain that all that had been agreed to orally in their negotiations had been put in writing. The communities that signed this treaty, Treaty No. 9, believed that it would protect their land and their right to use their land forever.
While this treaty, and many others across Canada, have been criticized by First Nations people because of what was taken away, it must be realized that our ancestors worked to ensure our rights were protected and our people received medicine and education. While the period between 1905, when Treaty 9 was signed, and today has seen many of our rights impacted and our lives disrupted, we have now begun to assert our rights with newfound strength, and our future is perhaps brighter now than it has ever been, and this is, in part, due to the treaties our ancestors signed.