Mi'kmaq and BritishTreaties: 1760s

With contempt for their dignity, the English soon forced the Mi'kmaq to enter into treaties that were demeaning and blind to their needs. The Treaty of 1752, at least, had left the Mi'kmaq with a small measure of dignity, but such was not the case for the Mi'kmaq Districts after 1760.

The standard format for the 1760s treaties is found in the March 10, 1760, treaty made by the British with the La Have Mi'kmaq:

Treaty of peace and Friendship, concluded by his Excellency Charles Lawrence,
Esquire, Governor and Commander in Chief, in and over His Majesty's Province of
Nova Scotia, or Accadia, with Paul Laurent, Chief of the La Have Tribe of Indians,
at Halifax in the Province of Nova Scotia, or Accadia.

I, Paul Laurent, do for myself, and the Tribe of La Have Indians, of which I am Chief,
acknowledge the jurisdiction and dominion of His Majesty, George the Second,
over the territories of Nova Scotia, or Accadia, and we do make submission to His
Majesty in the most perfect, ample and solemn manner.

And I do promise, for myself and for my Tribe, that I nor they shall not molest any of
His Majesty's Subjects, or their dependents, in their Settlements already made, or to
be hereafter made, or in carrying out their Commerce, or in anything whatever within
the Province of His said Majesty, or elsewhere, and if any insult, robbery or outrage
shall happen to be committed by any of my Tribe, satisfaction and restitution shall be
made to the person, or persons, injured.

That neither I, nor any of my Tribe, shall in any manner entice any of His Majesty's
Troops, or soldiers, to desert, nor in any manner assist in conveying them away, but
on the contrary will do our utmost endeavours to bring them back to the Company,
Regiment, Fort or Garrison to which they shall belong.

That if any quarrel or misunderstanding shall happen, between myself and the
English, or between them and any of my Tribe, neither I, nor they, shall take any
private satisfaction, or revenge, but we will apply for redress according to the
laws established in His said Majesty's Dominions.

That all English prisoners made by myself, or my Tribe, shall be set at liberty, and
that we will use our utmost endeavours to prevail on the other Tribes to do the same,
if any prisoners shall happen to be in their hands.

And I do further promise, for myself and my Tribe, that we will not either directly nor
indirectly assist any of the enemies of His most Sacred Majesty, King George the
Second, His Heirs, or Successors, nor hold any manner of Commerce, Traffic, nor
Intercourse with them, but on the contrary, will as much as may be in our power
discover and make known to His Majesty's Governor, any ill designs which may be
formed, or contrived against His Majesty's Subjects.

And I do further engage, that we will not traffic, barter, or exchange, any commodities
in any manner, but with such persons, or managers of such truck houses as shall be
appointed, or established, by His Majesty's Governor at Lunenburg, or elsewhere in
Nova Scotia, or Accadia.

And for the more effectual security of the due performance of this Treaty, and every
part thereof, I do promise and engage that a certain number of persons of my Tribe,
which shall not be less in number than two prisoners, shall, on or before
September next, reside as hostages at Lunenburg, or at such other place or places
in this Province of Nova Scotia, or Acadia, as shall be appointed for that purpose by
His Majesty's Governor of said Province, which Hostages shall be exchanged for
a like number of my Tribe when requested.

And all these foregoing Articles, and every one of them made with His Excellency
Charles Lawrence, His Majesty's Governor, I do promise for myself, and on said part,
behalf of my Tribe, that we will most strictly keep and observe in the most solemn
manner. [Signed with a mark, Paul Laurent.]

In what may be considered poetic justice, the Supreme Court of Canada on September 17, 1999, saw more than colonial officials had anticipated in the 1760s treaties and handed down a 5-2 decision that the Mi'kmaq had a right to fish without a licence to earn a living. Justice Ian Binnie stated in the decision: "In my view, the 1760 treaty does affirm the right of the Mi'kmaq people to continue to provide for their own sustenance by taking the products of their hunting, fishing and other gathering activities, and trading for what in 1760 was termed necessaries."

The court's decision limited Native fishing activities to those that would generate for a family or individual a moderate livelihood. It later clarified its decision by stating that the Native fishery was subject to regulation by the federal government. However, the long-term monetary value of the decision for the Mi'kmaq is questionable, as was well expressed in a letter from Linwood Rice to the editor of the Halifax Chronicle-Herald entitled, "Does this make sense," published on April 30, 2000:

“The government told the fishermen to get out of the fishery; no fish. Paid TAGS [money] to plant workers and fishermen [to encourage them to get out of the fishery]. Now they want to pay millions to the natives for [them to enjoy] the privilege of fishing, and there are no fish! Then [to get the Natives started] they buy them gear, boats, licences, and train them as well! Go figure!”

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