treaties & change
Treaties & Alliances Before European Contact

The First Peoples had many treaties between nations, recorded orally.

These treaties enforced peace, land agreements and friendships among the first peoples, and were sacred pacts that solidified the relationship between nations.

First Peoples believed that no individual owned the land, but they were caretakers of the land. The land provided for them and in turn they had to respect it.

A calumet, or peace pipe, was smoked at the beginning of treaty talks to mark friendship between the peoples.

A wampum belt was used to record the decisions of a treaty. It was made of white and purple Atlantic coast seashells that were beaded onto a belt or sash in a certain way that symbolized particular events.

For the Iroquois, a two-row wampum belt represented mutual peace and respect One of the earliest recorded treaty-making session was called the Great Law of Peace of the People of the Longhouse, and took place before 1450. It concerned the Mohawk, Seneca and Cayuga tribes, and all 117 articles were passed down orally, until it was recorded in 1880.

The Wampum Belt, a form of recording treaties for First Nations
peace pipes
Peace Pipes, or Calumets, were smoked at the beginning of a treaty session
wampum belt
The Wampum belt from the Great Law of Peace; the fifty strings represented the fifty chiefs of the treaty
Early Military Alliances Between Europeans and First Peoples
1600s The French and Hurons 1600s The British & the Iroquois
Soon after Champlain formed New France, French colonists became allies of the Huron Indians. Many Hurons converted to Catholicism.

They were the primary group to trade with the French and controlled much of the trade between the French and other First Nations groups. The new European weapons gave the Hurons power to defeat the Iroquois, and push them off their agricultural lands.

The Iroquois became allies of the Dutch who introduced guns into the different Iroquois tribes.

Wanting their old land back, the Iroquois underwent guerilla warfare, spying on the nations south of Lake Ontario, and becoming a threat to the Huron Indians.

The French, loyal to their alliances with the Hurons and also aware of the impact of Iroquois takeover of New France territory, fought the Iroquois until about 1703.
The British settled their first colony in Virginia and as their colonies grew, they became allies of the Iroquois who lived in the surrounding areas.

The Iroquois became trading partners of the British, as well as their military allies and supported them in their rivalry with the French over fur trading territory.

The weapons that the Iroquois purchased from the British with furs allowed them to make war on the French and the Hurons.

The Iroquois eventually almost wiped out the Hurons in what is now Ontario.

Thus, the military alliances and trading partnerships of First Nations people and Europeans had a tremendous impact on political and economic life of both the First Nations groups, and the European newcomers to North America.
1600s The Covenant Chain

At the end of the 1600s, American colonies and the Haudonosaunee entered into a series of treaties concerning the colony of New York and Iroquois confederacy land.

For the Iroquois, this solidified mutual respect and peace between peoples, represented by a chain that metaphorically needed to be polished or else it would rust and break.

Gestures made by each party, thereby 'polished the chain' and prevented breakage.

In June 1753, the Mohawk were upset with Anglo-American settlers who started occupying confederacy lands without permission, and they decided to break the chain.

A year later, in Albany, colonial leaders made affirmative peace efforts, offered gifts, and peace was restored.

Covenant Chain Treaty
Parties gather in Albany, to forge the Covenant Chain Treaty
The Great Peace of 1701
    Montreal 1701
    Native leaders gather in 1701 in Montreal

In August, 1701, representative from more than 20 Anishnaabe nations assembled in Montreal for Peace negotiations sponsored by the French Governor Calliere. The Hurons & Iroquois promised to live in peace. The chiefs signed with totemic marks -images of animals and birds. The totem denotes the family or clan.

It was the first series of negotiations between New France and First Nations; allowing the province to expand both South and West and determining the neutrality of the Iroquois in relation to French and English conflict.

In return, the settlers readily supplied First Nations peoples with trade goods like blankets, guns, and pots.

1700s The Peace and Friendship Treaties
These were treaties between the British Crown and the Eastern nations the Micmac and the Maliseet, promising peace and friendship in the foundation of their relations.

The first was signed in 1725, and was called the Boston Treaty, while the second, signed in 1752, was referred to as the Halifax treaty.

The Halifax treaty guaranteed first nations rights to trade, fish and hunt, while receiving additional supplies from the Crown in the form of food, ammunition and provisions.

From a European standpoint, the treaties assured that the tribes, who had a closer relationship to the French, had solidified their friendship with the English just as much (if not more) as the French.

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Copyright Goldi Productions Ltd. 2007