Idealism or EthnocideA Clash o
Native history forms an important and distinct part of Canadian society. The history of relations between First Nations peoples of Canada and the European settlers that arrived on this country’s shores extends over five centuries. Between 1725 and 1923 treaties were signed between the crown and several of the Indian tribes and nations living in what was to become Canada. Today these treaties are known as historic Indian treaties. From the beginning, treaties have been an important aspect of the relationship between the Crown and Aboriginal people. It is a myth that is perpetuated by many historians that the Canadian government was paternalistic and farsighted when dealing with the Plains Indians between 1870-1885 , at least in the sense of looking out for their best interests. On the contrary, the lavish promises entailed in the treaties made by the white man to induce Natives to surrender their land actually contributed to the demise of Native culture. A false and blind sense of idealism motivated the Canadian government when it dealt with treaty negotiations. It is also a misconception that the treaties made were fair. This is most evident in the treaties concerning the Plains Cree. Before these treaties were made the Cree were a self-sustaining nation with their own forms of government as well as cultural and social realms. Afterward, the Treaties and the reservation system that they spawned would create a great divide in future relations between First Nations peoples and Canadian society.
The Canadian government did not see treaties as a means for Natives to become civilized and assimilated into white society through the implementation of reserves. The Cree are said to be a primitive people that followed an inflexible system of tradition and custom, seeking to protect themselves against the advance of civilization. This traditional interpretation is extremely distorted for the Cree were both flexible and active in promoting their own interests and willing to accommodate themselves to achieve a new
way of life. The Canadian Government on the other hand was not just and their principle concern in their relationship with the Cree was to establish control over them. The future goal of the Canadian Government was to open Native land as part of an overall plan to open agricultural potential of the West, procure land for the railway and bind the prairies commercially and economically to Canada. As long as the plains Indians remained strong and capable of defending their rights and their land , they would be of concern to the imperialistic ideals of Ottawa and London . However the reality of the situation in 1871 was that Canada did not have a plan to deal with Indians and the negotiations of treaties was not at the initiative of the Canadian Government but of Indian chiefs in the period between 1872 and 1875. The Cree were disposed to show the Canadian government that they were seriously intent on protecting their territory. To show their intent the Cree interfered with geological surveys and prevented the construction of telegraph lines that were to be built on their territory. The Cree hoped that this would send a message to the Canadian government, making it clear that in order to deal with Cree lands Canada had to deal with the Cree first . The Cree also made it clear that part of any agreement made with the Cree must involve the assistance to the Cree in developing a new agricultural way of life .
The brutal reality of the situation in which confronted the Plains Indians was that by the 1870’s over hunting had reduced the buffalo , the foundation of the plains economy . The strength of the Indians depended on the abundant supply of food on the prairies , and it was the buffalo that provided most of peoples needs . The skins were used for clothing , teepees, food ( it was a great source of protein ) , fuel , harness , rope ,
thread , bedding , cooking utensils , and sleds were made from the bones . Very little of the animal was wasted . Native life revolved around the shaggy buffalo . It was the same all over