treaties & change
Wars and Political Decisions that Changed North America
The Seven Years War & the British Conquest

The Seven Years War from 1756 to 1763 involved all of the major Euopean powers of the period.

In North America, it involved a struggle between Britain and France for supremacy over their colonial lands and regions of fur trade control. New France was a huge area extending through the St Lawrence River and Great Lakes and down the Mississippi River. (See blue section on map).

In 1759 Britain defeated France at Quebec in a famous battle on the Plains of Abraham. General Wolfe led the British, and General Montcalm led the French. Both generals were killed during th battle.

The Treaty of Paris in 1763 ended the Seven Years War. It was signed by Great Britain, France, Spain and Portugal settling claims over colonial lands in various parts of the world.

In North America, New France was turned over to British control.

map of new France

Blue shows territory controlled by France in 1750. Red is British. In the blue area, First Nations people were allies and trading partners of the French. In the red areas, they were allies and trading partners of the British.

death of Wolfe

A famous, if fanciful, painting of "The Death of Wolfe" by Benjamin West is in the National Gallery of Canada


The Battle at Quebec on the Plains of Abraham, 1759 . The British defeated the French. Both Generals Wolfe & Montcalm were killed.

The Royal Proclamation of 1763

Under the Royal Proclamation of 1763, King George III claimed all the former French lands for Britain. The British now claimed control over all of North America east of the Mississippi River.

Britain wanted to peacefully consolidate its gains from the Seven Year's War, without having to deal with angry First Nations. American settlers were trying to move west, and were harrassing the Indians and threatening their lands. Britain wanted to avoid Indian wars.

Therefore, the Royal Proclamation also reserved for the "Indian Nations" (the term used) as their "hunting grounds", those territories west of the lands drained by rivers flowing into the Atlantic Ocean.

The King referred to "the several Nations or Tribes of Indians with whom We are connected, and who live under Our Protection."

All the lands outside the settled colonies (the land west of the Appalachian Mountains) were reserved as Indian hunting grounds, and white settlement here was strictly forbidden.

The Proclamation forbade individual colonists from entering land negotiations with First Nations, because of "great Frauds and Abuses" in the past. It stipulated that only properly authorized officials acting exclusively on behalf of the British monarch could make purchases of Indian land.

Thus, the Crown became the only agency with the right to negotiate land transfers from First Nations to the government, and then to the colonists.

The Royal Proclamation of 1763 clearly recognized Aboriginal Peoples as Nations, and acknowledged Indian title to their lands. It recognized First Nations people as rightful occupiers of their hunting grounds until such times as these were ceded to a government authority through negotiation with the Crown.

All future treaties were to be officiated in the presence of British Crown representatives, and recorded in written treaties.

This set up the basis for future treaty making.


George III
King George III ruled Britain at the time
New France became part of British North America

Today, the Royal Proclamation of 1763 is regarded, in British and Canadian law, as the historical basis of the treaty process. Through that legal process, land was transferred from First Nations to the government in return for specified rights and benefits.

Under Canadian law, unceded land, i.e. land which has never been transferred to the federal government, does not legally belong to the Canadian government.

But in what is now the United States, settlers from the Thirteen Colonies (Britain's American colonies) were determined to move west into the Ohio Valley, and ignored the new British laws.

A few years later, the American Revolution broke out, and the British were chased out of what became the United States. Britain lost its power to protect Native people in the United States.

The new American government ignored the Royal Proclamation of 1763, and ended up making war on the Indians.

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Copyright Goldi Productions Ltd. 2007