Spirit of Treaty 6

Stolen Land: The Untold History of Edmonton


What does it mean to honour the Spirit of Treaty 140 years after Chief Papaschase and other local leaders signed Treaty 6 on the Indigenous lands—once known as Amiskwaciy—now called Edmonton?

Who we are:
-A Community Service Learning Indigenous Literature class at the University of Alberta.
-This project has been created in close collaboration with the Papaschase band and their Chief, Calvin Bruneau, in preparation for the upcoming anniversary of the adhesion.

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Kêyâpic wahwêpâstan kiskîwêhon - Spirit of Treaty 6 Event on August 19, 2017

Kêyâpic wahwêpâstan kiskîwêhon – Spirit of Treaty 6 Event on August 19, 2017

The purpose of this project is to spread knowledge of Papaschase history, a history which many inhabitants of Edmonton have never had the chance to learn, and to start conversations about what it means for persons of all ancestries to live as Treaty people in Edmonton. We also hope to help generate interest in the upcoming event that the Papaschase First Nation will be hosting on August 18, 2017, in acknowledgement of 140 years of living together under Treaty 6. This project, therefore, has been created in close collaboration with the current Papaschase leader, Chief Calvin Bruneau.

Chief Papastayo, of the Papaschase First Nation

Chief Papastayo, of the Papaschase First Nation

        In 1877, Chief Papaschase (also known as Pahs-pahs-chase, Passpasschase, Pahpastayo, Papastew) signed an adhesion to Treaty 6 on behalf of the Papaschase Cree First Nation, along with other Indigenous leaders in the Edmonton area (see the Treaty Adhesion here). The treaty was an agreement made in good faith between the British Crown and the Indigenous nations inhabiting the territory, to grant “Her Majesty’s subjects” access to the land “to make a livelihood” (Asch, On Being Here to Stay). From the perspective of Cree law, treaty allows the legal adoption of one nation by another. In the words of Cree lawyer Harold Johnson, “When your family came here and asked to live with us on this territory, we agreed. …We became relatives. My Elders advise that I should call you my cousin, Kiciwamanawak, and respect your right to be here” (Two Families: Treaties and Government). In return for permission to use the land, the Crown promised, in general terms, that settler presence on these lands would do no harm to Indigenous nations. It was explicitly specified that the Crown would provide compensation by way of annuities, tool chests, medicine chests, reserved land, agricultural equipment, seeds, and aid in times of famine or pestilence. This comprehensive agreement and responsibility was, and still is, binding in perpetuity. It does not contain any indication that the nature of the relationship between the signatories, as nation to nation, would change after its signing and it does not address settler access to resources that extend past the depth of a plow. The permission to use the land that was granted through Treaty 6 is just that: permission to use the land.


Screen Shot 2017-04-12 at 6.42.29 PM        In 1880, the Dominion of Canada began surveying 48 square miles of land south of Fort Edmonton, which was located on present-day Legislature grounds, that was to be allocated for Reserve No.136: Papaschase Reserve. The Papaschase Reserve originally extended from what is now University Avenue/Whyte Avenue to Ellerslie, stretching across a significant portion of the city. However, over the course of the next decade, the band was dispossessed from their land through deliberate efforts of the government. The Federal Government underhandedly transferred some Papaschase members from the band to the questionable “Edmonton Stragglers” list—effectively invalidating those members’ claims to reserve land—and coerced Papaschase members who were facing starvation to take scrip. Through this, they exchanged their status and land for one-time payments that temporarily pulled families back from the brink of death. Although Indian Affairs agents generated documentation that the last remaining Papaschase members willingly left the reserve and joined the nearby Enoch Band, the highly contested agreement used to invalidate the band bears the signatures of a mere three members, all of whom later stated they were misled as to what they were signing. According to the terms of the Indian Act, which requires band consensus for such actions, the Papaschase Reserve was never legally surrendered to the Crown, the Canadian Government, or the City. Meanwhile, groups of independently organized settlers, backed by RCMP officers, used outright violence to remove the last remaining band members from their reserve.

        The Papaschase Band has been severely disjointed culturally, socially, economically, and spiritually by these acts of colonial violence. In the words of the Statement of Claim that the Papaschase descendants first submitted to the Federal Government in 2001:

As a result of the Govt. of Canada’s actions … the Papaschase Descendants have suffered significant damages to their culture, language, and collective identity, including the loss of Indian status, band membership and their land. (www.papaschase.ca)


Despite deliberate attempts to fracture their community, Papaschase band members have not disappeared. Papaschase descendants continue to work tirelessly to defend and advance their Treaty rights, to teach Edmonton residents about the city’s deep and problematic history, and to demand justice for the unlawful dispossession of their land and status. As Harold Johnson tells us, it is possible to “live together as two families sharing the same territory. I will never suggest that you go back to where you came from, for I assure you, Kiciwamanawak, that you have a treaty right to be here” (Two Families: Treaties and Government), as do the Papaschase and other signatories of Treaty 6.



Treaty 6 Signing- What is Treaty 6? Who signed and why? What does it entail?

August 21, 1877, Chief Papaschase (aka Passpasschase, Papastew, Pahpastayo, and John Gladieu-Quinn), with his headsman and brother Tahkoots, signed the adhesion to Treaty 6 for the Papaschase band at Fort Edmonton. (www.papaschase.ca)

Who is Papaschase? Who is Chief Papastayo? 

Chief Papaschase, along with his family and their family, moved to the Edmonton area in the late 1850’s from the Lesser Slave Lake area. They hunted and travelled throughout the Fort Edmonton, Fort Assiniboia and Lesser Slave Lake areas for some time before making their home in Edmonton.

How many members?

1879, 249 members of the Papaschase Band were paid annuities and were promised 48 square miles of land to be set aside for reserve land in what is now the South Edmonton area. (www.papaschase.ca)

Papaschase original reserve and then after it was moved (why? Look at Bruneau powerpoint about the fertile land)

1877, the Hon. David Laird, Lieutenant Governor and Indian Superintendent for the North-West Territories, recommended to the Department of Indian Affairs that surveyors be sent to lay out Indian reserves for the Edmonton Bands, however, no action was taken until three years later.

August 2, 1880, George A. Simpson, Dominion Land Surveyor, was sent to survey the boundaries of Passpasschase Indian Reserve No. 136 for the Papaschase Band.

Chief Papaschase was promised that 48 square miles of reserve land would be set apart for the Band.

Due to the fact that 249 members of the Papaschase Band were paid annuities in 1879, the Band was entitled to at least 49.9 square miles of reserve land. Chief Papaschase selected a reserve approximately four miles south of Fort Edmonton and Simpson began to survey the reserve located south of University Ave.

When Chief Papaschase realized he was not getting enough land for his people, a dispute arose between him and the Inspector T.P. Wadsworth (Inspector of Indian Farms and Agencies for the Dept. of Indian Affairs).

August 3, 1880, after this argument Wadsworth cruelly removed 84 members of the Papaschase Band and added them to a new Treaty pay list he created for the “Edmonton Stragglers”. The Inspector then instructed Simpson to survey no more than 40 square miles of reserve land from the Papaschase Band, excluding any land for the Edmonton Stragglers.

August 4, 1880, annuities were paid to only 188 members of the Papaschase Band.

Overlapping with this from 1879 to 1886, the Federal Government of Canada did not provide necessary rations or relief to members of the Papaschase Band who were on the brink of starvation.

June 3, 1885, the Half Breed Scrip Commission came to Fort Edmonton, offering scrip to people of mixed Indian and white ancestry, including any Treaty status Indians who could show they were of Metis ancestry. In their suffering, 12 Papaschase members took scrip and were discharged from Treaty 6 resulting in the loss of Treaty Status for them and their descendants. (www.papaschase.ca)

This land was taken illegally based on the Indian Act.

November 19, 1888, under dubious circumstance, Wadsworth apparently obtained a surrender of 39.9 square miles of land within IR 136 from only three adult male members of the Papaschase Band living on the Enoch Reserve.(www.papaschase.ca)





Further Reading

Asch, Michael. On Being Here to Stay: Treaties and Aboriginal Rights in Canada. University of Toronto Press, 2014.

Niemi-Bohun, M. “Colonial Categories and Familial Responses to Treaty and Metis Scrip Policy: The ‘Edmonton and District Stragglers,’ 1870-88.” Canadian Historical Review, vol. 90, no. 1, 2009, pp. 71-98. Arts & Humanities Citation Index. Accessed 27 Jan. 2017.

Johnson, Harold. Two Families: Treaties and Government. Saskatoon: Purich Publishing, 2007

Donald, Dwayne T. “Edmonton Pentimento Re-Reading History in the Case of the Papaschase Cree.” Journal of the Canadian Association for Curriculum Studies, vol. 2, no. 1, 2004, ProQuest, login.ezproxy.library.ualberta.ca/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.login.ezproxy.library.ualberta.ca/docview/1367081053?accountid=14474.

Maurice, R. S. (2001). Statement of claim: The Papaschase Indian Band No. 136. Pimohtewin: A Native Studies E-Journal, 2001, www.ualberta.ca/NATIVESTUDIES/Legal PDF/papaschase.pdf

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