Indigenous Canada – Week 4

It’s interesting how the first Europeans had no problem with recognizing and honouring the Indigenous ceremonies, laws, and practices. What happened to that friendship and respect? How did it turn from one of acceptance of each other’s cultures to what it became?

The British Crown in its Royal Proclamation of 1763 clearly, and legally, laid out the terms of the agreement between the Indigenous peoples and the British government, identifying the lands that the British Crown recognized as belonging to the Indigenous peoples and establishing what the settlers could and could not do.

Interestingly, the Royal Proclamation came almost 100 years after the British Crown had given the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) monopoly over a vast expanse of land that became known as Rupert’s Land. It was clearly outlined in the Royal Proclamation that only the King’s officers could negotiate land transfers. The HBC were not the King’s officers; they were merely wealthy British merchants.

This history is important to remember and note, because within 50 years of the Royal Proclamation, the HBC “sold” over 74 million acres of land in the Red River Valley to a majority shareholder in the company. How could the HBC, a group of wealthy merchants, sell land that was claimed by their own King as belonging to Indigenous peoples, and that was clearly outlined in the Royal Proclamation that “no one could just make an offer or take over land” (p.11, Week 4 Reading: New Rules, New Game Course Notes)?

After this bold move, it was the HBC officers who went on to establish land title policies. How did one company assume it had the right to exert so much control? The British Crown established rules, then broke them and turned a blind eye when the HBC ignored them – all in the name of exploiting the resources of the land to generate wealth. And where is that wealth now that we are left with the destruction and chaos as a result of the blatant refusal to acknowledge the legally binding Royal Proclamation? Is it right that a company – or a foreign government – can bleed a country and its people dry without any consequences or required restitution?

Week 5’s lesson: Killing the Indian in the Child

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