The role of violence is never amiss in the discussion of colonialism and the making of Western Nations. Since the white settlers settled in North America, the territory between the civilization of the untamed world and the white man became a space of huge differences, and conflicts that led to attacks, raids, and fights among the indigenous communities and the white settlers. By the end of the 19th century, the number of indigenous communities had significantly fallen to thousands from millions when Columbus first arrived. This paper does not seek to pass judgments on the actions of the white settlers against the indigenous. In contrast, the paper aims to reflect on the violence that characterized the relationship of the white settlers and the indigenous community and question the role of treaties in preventing the abuse and grievances that were characteristic of this era.
The arrival of the early settlers brought along dramatic change for the indigenous communities. Different religions, views, and perceptions created hostile relationships between the two. The white settlers considered themselves superior in all significant accounts; as a result, their attitude towards the indigenous communities was, for the most part, aggressive and intolerant. Further, with time conflicts arose because of the growing number of white settlers greed for land. Nonetheless, the relationship with the indigenous community was mirrored with unnecessary disputes and violence, which begs us to question the place of humanity in the quest of capitalism.
From the time the white settlers settled in Canada, to the period that followed, the Canadian government was involved in a series of raids, and conflicts that saw displacements of thousands and also the massacre of children and women. The forceful evictions of the communities into reserve lands meant the creation of a new identity and the loss of the way of life and also the culture. Confinements into reserves meant that the men could not freely hunt as they used to, and domestication of women into domestic chores that were similar to those of the Europeans also interfered with social structures. There is also the forceful removal of the indigenous children from their families and the implementation of the Indian Act, which remains one of the most visible legacies of Canada’s colonial history. Originally passed in 1876, the act represents the then thinking of that time, which described Indians as being less version of Europeans, that needed to be civilized by all means possible.
From this background, fights and conflicts were inevitable. Nevertheless, not all choose to fight. Some tribes were forced into signing treaties that transferred the Aboriginal and titles into the Crown in exchange for reserve lands and other benefits. There were approximately 70 treaties (Treaties of Peace and Neutrality (1701-1760); Peace and Friendship Treaties (1725-1779); Upper Canada Land Surrenders and the Williams Treaties (1764-1862/1923); Robinson Treaties and Douglas Treaties (1850-1854); The Numbered Treaties (1871-1921)) signed between the Crown and the indigenous groups between 1701 and 1930. However, the treaties have not been uniform for all the tribes. Unfortunately, the Crown reneged some of the agreements, which has caused a constant battle for some tribes for the lands and rights.
Since historic treaties addressed only a portion of the rights of the indigenous communities, the federal government developed the embarked on a series of modern treaties that were supposed to be more comprehensive in handling issues of land claims. Unfortunately, to date, some provinces and the Federal government have continued to take up extinguishment policies towards the indigenous communities such that it has failed to offer long term solutions to the grievances of the people.
Some observers have blamed the Canadian government for taking up reiterated policies that litigate treaty-related issues, ultimately resulting in termination and suspension of the negotiation process. Ironically, the government purports to care for the First Nations, while at the same time also dwindling their efforts to negotiate in good faith in the Canadian courts. Efforts for most of the First Nations to resolve grievances through negotiations have failed consistently. Although it appears that there is nothing much we can do to help the indigenous community, active participation in civic activities, including voting for leaders who are conscious of the indigenous population, can help make significant contributions towards seeing that some of the grievances are solved.