The Signing of Treaty No. 8

You have all probably seen them – large blue heritage markers located at highway rest areas or points of interest throughout Alberta. These interpretive signs tell of Alberta’s rich heritage. Come, travel Alberta and read a featured heritage marker:

Driving towards High Prairie on Highway 2, I encountered this roadside sign a few kilometres past the western tip of Lesser Slave Lake. Stopping to read it, I didn’t realise how close I was to the place where one of the numbered treaties was signed.

The Signing of Treaty No. 8

Treaty No. 8 was first signed on 21 June 1899 north of here at the western end of Lesser Slave Lake. Spurred by the discovery of gold in the Yukon in 1896, and growing agricultural settlement in the region, Treaty No. 8 was one of a series of treaties the federal government made with the First Nations of Canada.

The signatories for the First Nations of the Lesser Slave Lake area were: Chief Keenooshayoo, Moostoos (Sucker Creek), Felix Giroux (Swan River), Weecheewaysis (Driftpile), Charles Neesuetasis (Sawridge), and The Captain (Sturgeon Lake). Treaty Commissioners David Laird, J.A.J. McKenna, and J.H. Ross represented Her Majesty, Queen Victoria. There were also representatives from the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches and the North West Mounted Police present at the signing.

The First Nations who signed were promised reserves, education, medicines, annual payments, farm equipment, stock, seed, and ammunition, along with the freedom to hunt, fish and trap and other rights. After careful consideration and negotiation, the First Nations agreed to sign the Treaty. Adhesions to Treaty No. 8 were signed between July 1899 and 1914.

The Treaty Commission also traveled with a Scrip Commission which issued certificates called scrip to area Métis. These certificates entitled the bearer to either 240 acres of land or $240 towards the purchase of land.

Heritage Marker Location

North side of Highway 2, about 15 kilometres east of the town of High Prairie.

St. Bernard Mission (Church and Cemetery) is a Provincial Historic Resource located nearby in the hamlet of Grouard. Bishop Grouard was a famous Roman Catholic oblate missionary. Bishop Grouard encouraged many tribes to sign Treaty No. 8.

Prepared by: Michael Thome, Municipal Heritage Services Officer

2 comments

  1. Very good, Brenda, to see features on First Nations History! Thank you. Sometime you will want to visit Dried Meat Hill our here in Battle River Country. For the 100th year commemoration of treaty signing here in this area more than 5000 people joined on the natural amphitheatre of the hill for a pageant written by Elsie Park Gowan and performed by local people, including members of the four nations at what is now known as “Hobbema”. It was a wonderful, all-day event.

    If you haven’t already done so, you will also want to visit the “ochres” of the painted earth near Castor. We were there last week (along with some 300 other people) for a celebration of the 50th anniversary of Paintearth County. The area is magnificent. We asked if it is an historical site; apparently it is not.

    I am passing this edition of RETROactive along to my First Nations friends and colleages. Thanks again,

    Jane Ross

    1. Thank you for sharing your information about these First Nations sites and events, and for passing along our blog post! We appreciate your support.

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