Murray Lytle is proposing that the 11 treaties the new Dominion of Canada entered into between 1871 and 1922 with the Ojibway, Cree, Blackfoot and other tribes living on the former Hudson’s Bay Company lands should be reviewed and revised.While there is no doubt that Mr. Lytle is truly committed to reconciliation and that his proposals are well-intended, they are without historical foundation and would open up a Pandora’s Box.If his arguments were followed, we could open up the 1763 Treaty of Paris and give much of Canada back to France.By reviewing the 1815 Treaty of Ghent, we could give the Americans large portions of Ontario they had taken during the War of 1812.The possibilities are endless.In his latest piece, Mr. Lytle mistakenly makes reference to “the instructions Queen Victoria gave to the Crown negotiators.”The Queen was not involved. She didn’t have so much as a clue about what was going on in the hinterlands of Canada.Mr. Lytle argues that there was no “meeting of the minds” during the negotiations and that the chiefs did not fully understand the future implications of the treaties.But, Ojibway Chief Mawendopenais, who played a lead role in the negotiations for Treaty No. 3, in 1873, said:“Now you see me stand before you all. What has been done here today has been done openly before the Great Spirit, and before the nation and I hope I may never hear anyone say that this treaty has been done secretly.“And so, in closing this Council, I take off my glove and in giving you (Lieutenant-Governor Alexander Morris) my hand, I deliver over my birthright and lands. And, in taking your hand, I hold fast all the promises you have made and I hope they will last as long as the sun goes round and the water flows, as you have said.”While it can be argued that the Government of Canada got the better end of the deal, it is important to note that all of the terms of the treaties were carefully explained to the chiefs in their own language and there is no evidence of any attempt to mislead or deceive.In his 1880 book on the treaty-making process, The Treaties of Canada with the Indians, Lieutenant-Governor Morris said certain verbal promises which had been made during the negotiations for Treaties No. 1 and No. 2 in Manitoba had not been included in the final text of the agreement — despite the fact they were outlined in a memorandum which had been attached to the document.“This, naturally, led to misunderstanding with the Indians,” he wrote, “and to widespread dissatisfaction among them.”On being advised of the discrepancies, the Canadian government instructed the Indian Commissioner to fulfill all of the promises that had been made and then sent Lieut.-Gov. Morris to meet again with the chiefs and have them to sign a revised treaty — including all of the terms that had been promised to them.“When the agreement was completed,” Lieut.-Gov. Morris wrote, “I asked Mr. Cummings, the Interpreter, to read it to them, which he did. Three Indians, who understood English and who had at an early period been selected by the Indians to check the interpretation of what was said, standing by….“The experience derived from this misunderstanding proved however, of benefit with regard to all of the treaties, subsequent to Treaties One and Two, as the greatest care was thereafter taken to have all promises fully set out in the treaties and to have the treaties thoroughly and fully explained to the Indians and understood by them to contain the whole agreement between them and the Crown.”The text of each of the numbered treaties records that the terms were explained to the chiefs in their own language.Given the presence of the interpreters and the careful manner in which the terms of the treaties were explained to the chiefs, there is no factual basis for Mr. Lytle’s claim that: “I argue that such a meeting (of the minds) was illusory and didn’t occur at the time of signing.”Mr. Lytle claims that there might have been “sharp-dealing” on the part of the government negotiators because they didn’t raise the issue of subsurface wealth.“Is it possible,” he asks, “that there existed a power/knowledge differential between the First Nations and Crown negotiators? My understanding is that the distribution of subsurface wealth did not come up in the discussions — and why would it?”The implication here is that the treaty commissioners were aware of the potential for sub-surface wealth and the chiefs were not.That is most definitely not the case. Many of the chiefs were fully aware of the potential for subsurface wealth.On November 3 1871, Indian Commissioner Wymess McKenzie Simpson wrote: “In the neighbourhood of Fort Edmonton, on the Saskatchewan, there is a rapidly increasing population of miners and other white people and it is the opinion of Mr. W. J. Christie, the (Hudson’s Bay Company) officer in charge of the Saskatchewan district, that a treaty with the Indians of that country or at least an assurance during this coming year that a treaty will shortly be made is essential to the peace, if not the actual retention, of the country.”Here’s what one of the main chiefs said to Lieut;-Gov. Morris at the start of the negotiations for Treaty No. 3. “My terms I am going to lay down before you. The decision of our Chiefs; ever since we came to a decision, you push it back. The sound of the rustling of the gold [emphasis added] is under my feet where I stand. We have a rich country. It is the Great Spirit who gave us this. Where we stand upon is the Indians’ property, and belongs to them. If you grant us our requests you will not go back without making a treaty.”I suggest that the interests of all Canadians would be better served if we adhere to what is in the written record rather than on what someone’s illiterate great-great-grandfather may, or may not, have said more than 150 years ago.Toronto author Robert MacBain wrote extensively about the numbered treaties in his book 'Their Home and Native Land'This concludes the discussion between Murray Lytle and Robert MacBain over the possible reopening of the numbered treaties. 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