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Rob Gilliezeau (University of Victoria) "The Determinants and Impacts of Historical Treaty-Making in Canada" (co-authored by Donna Feir and Maggie Jones)

Wed, September 8, 2021, 12:30pm – 1:30pm via ZOOM

Sep 07, 2021

Host: Mike Veall

For more information, email

Abstract:  For nearly three centuries, Indigenous peoples within the borders of present-day Canada engaged in treaty-making with the British Crown and other European powers. These treaties regularly formed the colonial legal basis for access to Indigenous lands for European settlement and use. However, the cession of land through treaties did not occur everywhere, including in regions subsequently settled by Europeans. As a consequence, there is substantial regional variation in the legal status of settled lands, jurisdiction over natural resources, and state commitments to Indigenous nations. We combine spatial, archival, anthropological and census data to understand the determinants of when and where treaties were signed, their provisions, and how they have shaped the long-run path of Indigenous communities. We find that treaties were most likely to be signed by nations that experienced deterioration in their bargaining power through resource depletion, had larger ancestral territories, and had less defensible terrain.  While treaty sentiment is relatively stable, it is lowest in instances where coercion was most likely applied. Using restricted access census data, we show that historical treaties are associated with substantially lower income in Indigenous communities today. This difference is not driven by differences in employment, non-Indigenous presence, occupational composition, education, remoteness, or the timing of European settlement. Rather, we argue that this is the result of differences in the value of property rights relative to the treaty commitments delivered upon by the Crown, which have widened in recent years with the formal recognition of Aboriginal title.