Friday, July 21, 2017 was a significant day for Peguis First Nation as Thomas Douglas, 5th Earl of Selkirk visited the community. The event was celebrated with a reenactment of the Selkirk – Peguis Treaty signing and feast for guests and spectators.
Address on the Peguis – Selkirk Treaty, 1817-2017
Anin, Tansi, Honored guests, Chief (s), ladies and gentlemen:
I stand before you today to address the Bicentenary of the Peguis – Selkirk Treaty that was signed 200 years ago here at Fort Douglas. My people have been here on these lands for a long tie now that has provided all our needs and promised that we would flourish as a nation. This territory has been here for thousands of years where our people lived along this great Red River that gives life to many. Our relatives had settlements that were part of a great trading network that stretched from the great river to the south, great lakes to the east and the Great Plains to the west. We interacted and traded with these nations to meet each other’s needs and share and trade our resources given to us by our Creator. This relationship with our nations existed for hundreds of years before the arrival of the European.
When the settlers begun to arrive in 1812, we welcomed them and offered our help and food. We took them on our great buffalo hunts, shared in the fishing, and offered our Indian corn given to us by the Creator. We also offered them protection from the enemy. This relationship with the early settlers and Lord Selkirk who came would lead to a Treaty that offered Peace and Goodwill for all living in our territory.
This Treaty signed with Lord Selkirk was an offer of Peace and Goodwill where we saw our Settler friends coming to this land with very little and needing a place to live. It was decided by Peguis as a way of sharing our lands and to live side by side in peace and harmony with all. These lands were to be from the borders of our community to the forks of where the two great rivers meet. The land would run from the riverbank to as far as you could see under a horse’s belly (2 miles). Here, the settlers could build their homes and live safely in peace.
The promises that were given to our people would be tobacco and goods needed for our use under the Selkirk Treaty of 1817. These promises were to be made yearly and forever. This treaty was made with respect and within the sacredness of our Creator who guides us through life. It is our way. The lands given were to be shared and continue to be part of my people’s domain where we would live and prosper together. Today, my heart is both heavy and glad; heavy in that my people ceased to be part of the land we welcomed the settlers. In time, we became strangers in our homeland. It’s heavy because of those promised made were not carried out. It is glad that the lands have prospered and brought many people to live and make this country great. Today, we must recognize that we must reconcile and rebuild our relationship that will bring back hope and prosperity to all. Let us put our heads together and make a life for our children. It is our way and gives thanks to our Creator.
Meegwetch, Councillor Glennis Sutherland
*Courtesy of Peguis First Nation