Some Inflated Thoughts About Treaty Payments

I sent away for my “treaty money” the other day.

Apparently, you can do that now. Growing up in Manitoba, treaty money was usually collected in person at “Treaty Days,” which commemorated the occasion of your First Nation signing its bilateral treaty with the Crown. Many treaty communities still host their own Days.

It was at these celebrations that treaty money — a whole $5 per person (don’t spend it all in one place now) — was distributed.  I remember a Mountie, complete with Red Serge, would shake your hand after you accepted your yearly treaty payment.  All very exciting for a wee kid on the rez.

Who gets treaty payments?  Well, according to Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC), who have been delegated the task of paying this money out,

Treaty annuity payments are paid annually on a national basis to registered Indians who [hold membership in] bands that have signed historic treaties with the Crown.

That would be me.

Living in a major city, I almost forgot about treaty money altogether. That is, until I came across this form on INAC’s website. So as I sit patiently waiting for what I can only assume will be a $5 cheque with Chuck Strahl‘s signature to come in the mail, I’m left wondering, “Y’know, after all these years, with inflation and whatnot, why haven’t they increased the amount of treaty money we get?”

That’s a question Jean Allard has thought long and hard about.  In his controversial article, “Big Bear’s Treaty: The Road to Freedom,” the now-retired Metis politician argued that treaty payments should be ‘modernized,’ that is, adjusted to reflect today’s dollar values. By calculating the amount of goods, services, land, etc. that one could buy with $5 back when most of the treaties were signed, you could generate an equivalent dollar figure for current payments.

By Allard’s math, that would work out to annual treaty payments of $3,600 a year for each and every First Nations man, woman and child. A family of four would thus receive a total treaty annuity of $14,400.

Here’s where the controversy comes in: Allard argues further that these adjusted-for-inflation treaty payments should be distributed directly to individuals — bypassing First Nations governments and even INAC altogether. Allard maintains it’s the only way to true self-sufficiency.

And as I budget out what I’m going to buy with my $5 (a candy bar, pop and maybe a newspaper come to mind), Allard’s suggestion doesn’t seem like such a bad idea.

[ Top image via INAC / Glenbow Archives ]

21 thoughts on “Some Inflated Thoughts About Treaty Payments

  1. What Jean Allard does not take into account is the various other payment available to everyone from variuos governments, city, provincial and federal, that did not exist back then. Social assistance, Employment Insurance, various payments from the federal government to First Nations (in the millions of dollars). These payments were not paid to First Nation people at that time. Also lets talk about vast population increases over the years in the First Nation population. When the treaties were signed it was $5 to about 100 people or so, now its $5 to thousands of people. Why is that never taken into account? Using the same logic, should not the government divide the treaty payments by a factor of 10 so everyone gets 50 cents to make ammends for the increased population? (That’s the same as saying they should increase the payment due to costs.) All in all, the treaties did not allow for inflation. Not to mention that the federal government is paying people living in urban areas, and mailing treaty payments (at great expense, sometimes more that the cheque is worth) to band members living off reserve / living out of province / sometimes living out of the country… something that is above and beyond what is mentioned in the treaties. Is the $5 not enough?

  2. tazbud33 your argument is weak and full of holes. I’m not even sure where to begin, lets simply say that you need to be more familiar with the topic you are discussing and maybe provide some real-world examples instead of fictitious data from your simple world. Furthermore, I’m not even sure what you are trying to infer…lets just say that you come off as a snotty nosed kid thats jealous of everyone in the park.

  3. Silversurfer, what examples would you like? What is not explained clearly? A topic is given for debate, and you resort to name calling.

  4. We are in poverty i guess you want the rich to get richer your mommy and daddy and the poor get poorer you spoiled brat. you forgot canada is way richer than before due to our resources canada benefits from. If canada can afford to help sending millions to developing countries why not help those in thier backyard also(natives)

  5. This is an article on treaty payments, not resources or anything else.
    Don’t change the subject. Both people who have replied to my comments
    have called me names. I have not done the same. Neither person has
    actually really countered any of my points. What about population
    growth? What about other means of getting money from the government? Are
    you scared to debate the actual points because you know I am correct?

    Ok,
    I’ll bite… let’s say the treaty payments are increased to $5000 a
    year (well above the rate of inflation) but then no more social
    assistance for First Nation people, because that is not guarenteed in
    the treaties. Does that help those who are suffering? No, only the
    middle and upperclass who can afford to use the money on something else
    other than what’s needed to survive.

    You make no arguments…
    only to call me a child. My mommy and daddy were born here. I was too.
    We all worked hard to get to where we are and nobody paid for my
    tutition. My family lived at, or below, the poverty line. My mother
    and her young family (me and my sisters) were on welfare before she took
    some more training and got a decent job.

    And what the heck does
    this have to do with helping other poor people no matter where they
    live? That is Canada’s responsiblity in the world and we do help First
    Nations… but First Nations need to learn to help themselves too. We
    may give millions in disaster relief to some other country, but that’s
    usually a one time deal or ongoing in cases of extreme famine. Not
    somebody who can’t afford a new truck (because the chief and his whole
    family are driving all new vehicles.) Canada has been paying First
    Nations for over a hundred years. Real change starts from within and
    there needs to be changes at the top.

    Should treaty payments be
    increased… what will you give Canada in return? Nothing about the
    past… we are not talking about the past if you want to rewrite the
    treaties… what are you prepared to give up today?

  6. This is an article on treaty payments, not resources or anything else.
    Don’t change the subject. Both people who have replied to my comments have called me names. I have not done the same. Neither person has actually really countered any of my points. What about population growth? What about other means of getting money from the government? Are you scared to debate the actual points because you know I am correct?

    Ok, I’ll bite… let’s say the treaty payments are increased to $5000 a
    year (well above the rate of inflation) but then no more social
    assistance for First Nation people, because that is not guarenteed in
    the treaties. Does that help those who are suffering? No, only the
    middle and upperclass who can afford to use the money on something else other than what’s needed to survive.

    You make no arguments… only to call me a child. My mommy and daddy were born here. I was too. We all worked hard to get to where we are and nobody paid for my tutition. My family lived at, or below, the poverty line. My mother and her young family (me and my sisters) were on welfare before she took some more training and got a decent job.

    And what the heck does this have to do with helping other poor people no matter where they live? That is Canada’s responsiblity in the world and we do help First Nations… but First Nations need to learn to help themselves too. We may give millions in disaster relief to some other country, but that’s usually a one time deal or ongoing in cases of extreme famine. Not somebody who can’t afford a truck (because the chief and his whole family are driving all new vehicles.) Canada has been paying First Nations for over a hundred years. Real change starts from within and there needs to be changes at the top.

    Should treaty payments be
    increased… what will you give Canada in return? Nothing about the
    past… we are not talking about the past if you want to rewrite the
    treaties… what are you prepared to give up today?

  7. Your just mad your ancestors didn’t expect natives to survive and grow fast population wise…well guess what it backfired and a deal is a deal regardless.

  8. So now you say a deal is a deal? Your last comment was about increasing treaty payments. I’m confused. The deal was $5. And my ancestors signed treaties to live along side the “natives” here in Canada. Why do you confuse Canada with the U.S.? The Americian Indian wars were south of where you live. Canada did nothing to try to get rid of “natives”. Yes there were attempts at assimilation but not eratication. Get your facts straight.

  9. I think Treaty Payments should be honored, Canada’a Aboriginal population is the only group of people controlled by a ministry. Historically, treaty payments are an obligation of the crown. However i think we got hood winked when they did not adjust for inflation (I guess we where to know ablout the time value of money!) All treay commitments that do not have a monatary value, have been adjusted for inflation and are distributed each year.

  10. From my research treaty payments were also to include yearly gardening tools and shotgun shells if you take into account today’s day and age, what would be classified as gardening tools? And why is that part of the treaty not being upheld?

  11. A lot of farming tools and animals mentioned were one time gifts at the signing of the treaty. They were given once and for all. As for ammunition and twine, often it is not given in actual provisions anymore, but rather a cheque is cut directly to band office.

  12. You are just a government pawn replying to all these comments like you are getting paid for it. Bottom line is that it should of seen even a little growth with inflation, but it has not. I’m not saying we should get 4,000$ per person, but some type of assessment should be done!

  13. You may believe what you like. I’ve made my points. You may counter my points with some facts of your own. Why should an assessment be made?
    I believe what I believe. To this day I still get notices when people reply, and I will reply. Tell me why my thinking is incorrect.

  14. Your speed to reply with my post is amazing. You are getting paid for these comments? Aren’t you…lol

  15. Nope. I’m not. I get a notification by email. I reply when someone replies. Pretty simple. You still haven’t countered any of my points.

  16. Lol I don’t need to feed my ego. and try sound justified to a complete stranger on disqus. You pretend you know what you are talking about, but in actuality you are just another racist spouting nonsense on a public forum, and adding more mud to the water. Good for you! I truly hope you feel special. You are a special kind of stupid that’s for sure. This will be my last response, sooooo go fuck your self as well. Good day to you!

  17. So you got nothing? No come back? No answers. Thanks for not posting anymore if all you are going to do is name call. I’m not racist by the way. Not that I have to justify to you either. I simply disagree with inflation on treaty payments as the argument is presented. I’d be happy to have someone try to change my mind if they could counter my points in a logical way. You can’t so you spew foul language. Nice. Like I said I get an email when people reply. I’m sure you probably do too and know how this works. Just a quick reply from me. Nope. Not getting paid for it either. Good day to you too.

  18. Oh where to begin, I read this article and then the comments – my gosh!

    First off, I will say that our people were apart of one of the largest genocides to ever take place on this earth. Assimilation and eradication were definitely prevalent in Canada, but in a much more low key under the radar sort of way unlike the wars that took place south of the border – but don’t be mistaken it definitely happened.

    Secondly I am in agreement that a new assessment needs to be done. Inflation doesn’t get to single certain things out, inflation affects everything.

    Thirdly – As for these ” other services” you try and pass as “first nation services” that people can access ( social assistance, employment isurance) that costs the federal and provincial government money is a PUBLIC service and has nothing to do with the treaties that were signed, there for any monies allocated to those services can not and should not be apart of this narrative.

    Lastly- I think resources unmistakably need to be in this dialog – Land – which harbors all known resources are apart, A BIG part of the treaties that were signed (and not been honored) so yes, our ancestors land, our land, is the reason you are sitting where you are sitting, along side the white privilage you inhereited askin for clarification on why WE believe, treaty money should be upped from 1837.

  19. As moderator of this site, I have deleted two comments in this thread, essentially because they crossed lines of tone and/or for their use of profanity.

  20. I came here to learn something about my Aboriginal neighbours and what benefits they receive from being “status”. I am interested to know how we came to this current situation. I am pretty sure we can’t “fix” it while we maintain the reservations but, never the less, I would like to be better informed.

    The discussion so far may be our biggest obstacle to any resolution. I just can’t believe how one-sided it is! One side is making arguments and soliciting discussion while the other is simply pouring on insult. I am almost waiting for someone to start shooting!!!

    The only thing I have learned so far is that YOU ARE THE PROBLEM!

    I came here from the UK in the 60’s. I came from a single mom and a poor background. I know what it is like for a family to live on $1 a week. So before you start in on me, look inward. Why am I different to you?

    AND, that is an interesting question, really, isn’t it? What is the difference? Maybe if we could answer that, we would be closer to solving our differences.

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