Treaty making to permit settlement of Aboriginal lands by Euro-Canadians has a long history in what is now Ontario. In 1763, a Royal Proclamation defined protocols by which the British Crown could negotiate treaty agreements with Aboriginal Nations. Between 1763 and 1905, several agreements were negotiated for lands located increasingly north and west of what is now southern Ontario. These treaties reflected the general progression of Euro-Canadian settlement and development.
This map above shows the main treaty areas in Ontario. Before 1905, three main treaties were negotiated with Aboriginal Nations north of Lakes Huron and Superior (the Robinson Treaties of 1850), and west of Lake Superior to the Lake of the Woods (Treaty 3, in 1873).
After Confederation, a series of ‘numbered’ treaties came to feature standard sets of provisions. In exchange for lands, Aboriginal signatories received monetary compensation (a one time gratuity followed by perpetual annuities), reserve lands, and recognized hunting and fishing rights.
As the ninth Treaty in this series, the James Bay Treaty got its name from the fact that its original territory was defined by river systems draining into James Bay, up to and including the Albany River - at the time the northern boundary of Ontario.
The original Treaty No. 9 document. Some Aboriginal leaders signed by touching a pen as an ‘X’ mark was inscribed next to their names, while others signed in syllabic writing.
Treaty No.9 was made over two summers in 1905-1906. Three Commissioners represented the Crown: Duncan Campbell Scott, Samuel Stewart, and Daniel G. MacMartin. The Treaty No.9 Expedition also included two police constables and a doctor.
Between 1905 and 1906, the Commission travelled through the Treaty No.9 territory,
explaining the Treaty to Aboriginal leaders assembled at fourteen Hudson’s
Bay Company posts. The Company outfitted the Commission with canoes and supplies,
and provided experienced guides, many of whom were Aboriginal voyageurs who worked
fur brigades along particular river systems.
At the time, Ojibway and Cree societies were steeped in oral tradition. As few Aboriginal
leaders spoke fluent English, the Commissioners relied on fur trade post employees
fluent in Ojibway and Cree to interpret the purpose and terms of Treaty No.9.
After signing ceremonies at each post, Crown and Aboriginal representatives celebrated the agreement by holding a feast and making formal speeches pledging to uphold the terms and spirit of the Treaty.
In the photograph below a feast is being prepared after the first Treaty No.9 agreement is concluded at Osnaburgh House trade post, on Lake St. Joseph (Albany River).