Below is the complete text (minus adhesions, or amendments, which can be found here) of Treaty No. 5, an agreement between the Government of Canada and representatives of some of the First Nations peoples residing in what is now the province of Manitoba. The treaty was signed in 1875, but most of its provisions remain in effect to this day.

This treaty ceded over 100,000 square miles of territory to Canada, and provided for the establishment of a number of reserves for the inhabitants. The description of the territory ceded belies its true size, as it comprises over one-third of all the surface area of Manitoba, as well as some parts of northeastern Saskatchewan and northwestern Ontario. It is probably fair to say that the Indians were not aware of the scope of the treaty, as it uses European names for all of the landmarks, as well as several imaginary lines (borders of other treaty areas and a line of parallel). This area of land would be doubled with the several adhesions (amendments) to this treaty that were struck with other bands living in the region to the north of the original treaty boundaries.

I have highlighted a number of key passages, most of them annotated with footnotes. The footnotes contain some additional historical information that underscores the importance of these selections.

While under protective copyright of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC), this document is reproduced with their permission. This writeup should not be construed to be an "official" INAC document; the original can be accessed free of charge at the INAC Web site (

Treaty No. 5 between Her Majesty The Queen and the Saulteaux and Swampy Cree Tribes of Indians at Beren's River and Norway House

ARTICLES OF A TREATY made and concluded at Beren's River the 20th day of September, and at Norway House the 24th day of September, in the year of Our Lord one thousand eight hundred and seventy-five, between "Her Most Gracious Majesty the Queen" of Great Britain and Ireland, by Her Commissioners the Honourable Alexander Morris, Lieutenant-Governor of the Province of Manitoba and the North-west Territories, and the Honourable James McKay, of the one part, and the Saulteaux and Swampy Cree tribes of Indians, inhabitants of the country within the limits hereinafter defined and described, by their Chiefs, chosen and named as hereinafter mentioned, of the other part.

WHEREAS, the Indians inhabiting the said country have, pursuant to an appointment made by the said Commissioners, been convened at meetings at Beren's River and Norway House to deliberate upon certain matters of interest to Her Most Gracious Majesty, of the one part, and the said Indians of the other.

AND WHEREAS the said Indians have been notified and informed by Her Majesty's said Commissioners that it is the desire of Her Majesty to open up for settlement, immigration and such other purposes as to Her Majesty may seem meet, a tract of country bounded and described as hereinafter mentioned, and to obtain the consent thereto of Her Indian subjects inhabiting the said tract, and to make a treaty and arrange with them, so that there may be peace and good will between them and Her Majesty, and that they may know and be assured of what allowance they are to count upon and receive from Her Majesty's bounty and benevolence.

AND WHEREAS the Indians of said tract, duly convened in council as aforesaid, and being requested by Her Majesty's said Commissioners to name certain Chiefs and Headmen who should be authorized on their behalf to conduct such negotiations and sign any treaty to be founded thereon, and to become responsible to Her Majesty for the faithful performance by their respective bands of such obligations as shall be assumed by them the said Indians, have thereupon named the following persons for that purpose, that is to say:

For the Indians within the Beren's River region and their several bands: Nah-wee-kee-sick-quah-yash, Chief; Kah-nah-wah-kee-wee-nin and Nah-kee-quan-nay-yash, Councillors, and Pee-wah-roo-wee-nin, of Poplar River; Councillors for the Indians within the Norway House region and their several bands: David Rundle, Chief, James Cochrane, Harry Constatag and Charles Pisequinip, Councillors; and Ta-pas-ta-num, or Donald William Sinclair Ross, Chief, James Garrioch and Proud McKay, Councillors.

AND THEREUPON, in open council, the different bands having presented their Chiefs to the said Commissioners as the Chiefs and Headmen for the purposes aforesaid of the respective Bands of Indians inhabiting the said district hereinafter described. AND WHEREAS the said Commissioners then and there received and acknowledged the persons so presented as Chiefs and Headmen, for the purposes aforesaid, of the respective Bands of Indians inhabiting the said district hereinafter described.

AND WHEREAS the said Commissioners have proceeded to negotiate a treaty with the said Indians, and the same has been finally agreed upon and concluded as follows, that is to say:

The Saulteaux and Swampy Cree Tribes of Indians and all other the Indians inhabiting the district hereinafter described and defined, do hereby cede, release, surrender and yield up to the Government of the Dominion of Canada, for Her Majesty the Queen and Her successors for ever, all their rights, titles and privileges whatsoever to the lands included within the following limits1, that is to say:

Commencing at the north corner or junction of Treaties Nos. 1 and 3; then easterly along the boundary of Treaty No. 3 to the "Height of Land," at the northeast corner of the said treaty limits, a point dividing the waters of the Albany and Winnipeg Rivers; thence due north along the said "Height of Land " to a point intersected by the 53° of north latitude; and thence north-westerly to "Favourable Lake"; thence following the east shore of said lake to its northern limit; thence north-westerly to the north end of Lake Winnipegoosis; then westerly to the "Height of Land" called "Robinson's Portage"; thence north-westerly to the east end of "Cross Lake"; thence north-westerly crossing "Foxes Lake"; thence north-westerly to the north end of "Split Lake"; thence south-westerly to "Pipestone Lake," on "Burntwood River "; thence south-westerly to the western point of "John Scott's Lake"; thence south-westerly to the north shore of "Beaver Lake"; thence south-westerly to the west end of "Cumberland Lake"; thence due south to the "Saskatchewan River"; thence due south to the north-west corner of the northern limits of Treaty No. 4, including all territory within the said limits, and all islands on all lakes within the said limits, as above described; and it being also understood that in all cases where lakes form the treaty limits, ten miles from the shore of the lake should be included in the treaty.

And also all their rights, titles and privileges whatsoever to all other lands wherever situated in the North-west Territories or in any other Province or portion of Her Majesty's dominions situated and being within the Dominion of Canada;

The tract comprised within the lines above described, embracing an area of one hundred thousand square miles, be the same more or less;

To have and to hold the same to Her Majesty the Queen, and Her successors forever;

And Her Majesty the Queen hereby agrees and undertakes to lay aside reserves for farming lands, due respect being had to lands at present cultivated by the said Indians, and other reserves for the benefit of the said Indians, to be administered and dealt with for them by Her Majesty's Government of the Dominion of Canada, provided all such reserves shall not exceed in all one hundred and sixty acres for each family of five2, or in that proportion for larger or smaller families—in manner following, that is to say: For the Band of "Saulteaux, in the Beren's River" region, now settled or who may within two years settle therein, a reserve commencing at the outlet of Beren's River into Lake Winnipeg, and extending along the shores of said lake, and up said river and into the interior behind said lake and river, so as to comprehend one hundred and sixty acres for each family of five, a reasonable addition being, however, to be made by Her Majesty to the extent of the said reserve for the inclusion in the tract so reserved of swamp, but reserving the free navigation of the said lake and river, and free access to the shores and waters thereof, for Her Majesty and all Her subjects, and expecting thereout such land as may have been granted to or stipulated to be held by the "Hudson Bay Company," and also such land as Her Majesty or Her successors, may in Her good pleasure, see fit to grant to the Mission established at or near Beren's River by the Methodist Church of Canada, for a church, school-house, parsonage, burial ground and farm, or other mission purposes3; and to the Indians residing at Poplar River, falling into Lake Winnipeg north of Beren's River, a reserve not exceeding one hundred and sixty acres to each family of five, respecting, as much as possible, their present improvements:

And inasmuch as a number of the Indians now residing in and about Norway House of the band of whom David Rundle is Chief are desirous of removing to a locality where they can cultivate the soil, Her Majesty the Queen hereby agrees to lay aside a reserve on the west side of Lake Winnipeg, in the vicinity of Fisher River, so as to give one hundred acres to each family of five, or in that proportion for larger or smaller families, who shall remove to the said locality within "three years," it being estimated that ninety families or thereabout will remove within the said period, and that a reserve will be laid aside sufficient for that or the actual number; and it is further agreed that those of the band who remain in the vicinity of "Norway House" shall retain for their own use their present gardens, buildings and improvements, until the same be departed with by the Queen's Government, with their consent first had and obtained, for their individual benefit, if any value can be realized therefore:

And with regard to the Band of Wood Indians, of whom Ta-pas-ta-num, or Donald William Sinclair Ross, is Chief, a reserve at Otter Island, on the west side of Cross Lake, of one hundred and sixty acres for each family of five or in that proportion for smaller families—reserving, however, to Her Majesty, Her successors and Her subjects the free navigation of all lakes and rivers and free access to the shores thereof; Provided, however, that Her Majesty reserves the right to deal with any settlers within the bounds of any lands reserved for any band as She shall deem fit, and also that the aforesaid reserves of land or any interest therein may be sold or otherwise disposed of by Her Majesty's Government for the use and benefit of the said Indians entitled thereto, with their consent first had and obtained.

And with a view to show the satisfaction of Her Majesty with the behaviour and good conduct of Her Indians, She hereby, through Her Commissioners, makes them a present of five dollars for each man, woman and child belonging to the bands here represented, in extinguishment of all claims heretofore preferred.

And further, Her Majesty agrees to maintain schools for instruction in such reserves hereby made as to Her Government of the Dominion of Canada may seem advisable, whenever the Indians of the reserve shall desire it.

Her Majesty further agrees with Her said Indians, that within the boundary of Indian reserves, until otherwise determined by Her Government of the Dominion of Canada, no intoxicating liquor shall be allowed to be introduced or sold4, and all laws now in force, or hereafter to be enacted, to preserve Her Indian subjects inhabiting the reserves, or living elsewhere within Her North-west Territories, from the evil influence of the use of intoxicating liquors, shall be strictly enforced.

Her Majesty further agrees with Her said Indians, that they, the said Indians, shall have right to pursue their avocations of hunting and fishing throughout the tract surrendered as hereinbefore described5, subject to such regulations as may from time to time be made by Her Government of Her Dominion of Canada, and saving and excepting such tracts as may from time to time be required or taken up for settlement, mining, lumbering or other purposes, by Her said Government of the Dominion of Canada, or by any of the subjects thereof duly authorized therefor by the said Government.

It is further agreed between Her Majesty and Her said Indians that such sections of the reserves above indicated as may at any time be required for public works or buildings, of what nature soever, may be appropriated for that purpose by Her Majesty's Government of the Dominion of Canada, due compensation being made for the value of any improvements thereon6.

And further, that Her Majesty's Commissioners shall, as soon as possible after the execution of this treaty, cause to be taken an accurate census of all the Indians inhabiting the tract above described, distributing them in families, and shall in every year ensuing the date hereof, at some period in each year to be duly notified to the Indians, and at a place or places to be appointed for that purpose within the territory ceded, pay to each Indian person the sum of five dollars per head yearly7.

It is further agreed between Her Majesty and the said Indians that the sum of five hundred dollars per annum shall be yearly and every year expended by Her Majesty in the purchase of ammunition, and twine for nets, for the use of the said Indians7, in manner following, that is to say: in the reasonable discretion as regards the distribution thereof among the Indians inhabiting the several reserves or otherwise included therein of Her Majesty's Indian Agent have the supervision of this treaty.

It is further agreed between Her Majesty and the said Indians that the following articles shall be supplied to any band of the said Indians who are now cultivating the soil, or who shall hereafter commence to cultivate the land, that is to say: Two hoes for every family actually cultivating; also one spade per family as aforesaid; one plough for every ten families as aforesaid; five harrows for every twenty families as aforesaid; one scythe for every family as aforesaid, and also one axe; and also one cross-cut saw, one hand-saw, one pit-saw, the necessary files, one grindstone, and one auger for each band; and also for each Chief, for the use of his band, one chest of ordinary carpenter's tools; also for each band enough of wheat, barley, potatoes and oats to plant the land actually broken up for cultivation by such band; also for each band one yoke of oxen, one bull and four cows all the aforesaid articles to be given once for all for the encouragement of the practice of agriculture among the Indians2.

It is further agreed between Her Majesty and the said Indians that each Chief duly recognized as such shall receive an annual salary of twenty-five dollars per annum, and each subordinate officer, not exceeding three for each band, shall receive fifteen dollars per annum; and each such Chief and subordinate officer as aforesaid shall also receive, once every three years, a suitable suit of clothing; and each Chief shall receive, in recognition of the closing of the treaty, a suitable flag and medal7.

And the undersigned Chiefs, on their own behalf and on behalf of all other Indians inhabiting the tract within ceded, do hereby solemnly promise and engage to strictly observe this treaty, and also to conduct and behave themselves as good and loyal subjects of Her Majesty the Queen. They promise and engage that they will, in all respects, obey and abide by the law, and they will maintain peace and good order between each other, and also between themselves and other Tribes of Indians, and between themselves and others of Her Majesty's subjects, whether Indians or whites, now inhabiting or hereafter to inhabit any part of the said ceded tracts, and that they will not molest the person or property of any inhabitant of such ceded tracts8, or the property of Her Majesty the Queen, or interfere with or trouble any person passing or travelling through the said tracts, or any part thereof; and that they will aid and assist the officers of Her Majesty in bringing to justice and punishment any Indian offending against the stipulations of this treaty, or infringing the laws in force in the country so ceded.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, Her Majesty's said Commissioners and the said Indian Chiefs have hereunto subscribed and set their hands at "Beren's River" this twentieth day of September, A.D. 1875, and at Norway House on the twenty-fourth day of the month and year herein first above named.

Signed by the Chiefs within named in presence of the following witnesses, the same having been first read and explained by the Honourable James McKay:

otherwise, JACOB BERENS, Chief,
(his x mark)
otherwise, ANTOINE GOUIN,
(his x mark)
(his x mark)
(his x mark)

Signed at Norway House by the Chiefs and Councillors hereunto his subscribing in the presence of the undersigned witnesses, the same having been first read and explained by the Honourable James McKay:
JOHN H. RUTTAN, Methodist Minister,
O. GRINDER, Methodist Min.,

(his x mark)
(his x mark)
(his x mark)
CHARLES PISEQUINIP,Councillors. his x mark
(his x mark)
(his x mark)
(his x mark)
PROUD McKAY, Councillors.
(his x mark)

We, the Band of the Saulteaux Tribe of Indians residing at the mouth of the Saskatchewan River, on both sides thereof, having had communication of the foregoing treaty, hereby, and in consideration of the provisions of the said treaty being extended to us, transfer, surrender and relinquish to Her Majesty the Queen, Her heirs and successors, to and for the use of the Government of Canada, all our right, title and privileges whatsoever, which we have or enjoy in the territory described in the said treaty, and every part thereof, to have and to hold to the use of Her Majesty the Queen and Her heirs and successors for ever. And Her Majesty agrees, through the said Commissioners, to assign a reserve of sufficient area to allow one hundred and sixty acres to each family of five, or in that proportion for larger or smaller families—such reserve to be laid off and surveyed next year on the south side of the River Saskatchewan.

And having regard to the importance of the land where the said Indians are now settled in respect of the purposes of the navigation of the said river and transport in connection therewith, and otherwise, and in view of the fact that many of the said Indians have now houses and gardens on the other side of the river and elsewhere which they will abandon, Her Majesty agrees, through Her said Commissioners, to grant a sum of five hundred dollars to the said Band to be paid in equitable proportions to such of them as have houses, to assist them in removing their houses to the said reserve or building others.

And the said Indians, represented herein by their Chiefs and Councillors, presented as such by the Band, do hereby agree to accept the several provisions, payments and other benefits as stated in the said treaty, and solemnly promise and engage to abide by, carry out and fulfil all the stipulations, obligations and conditions therein contained, on the part of the said Chiefs and Indians therein named, to be observed and performed, and in all things to conform to the articles of the said treaty as if we ourselves had been originally contracting parties thereto.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, Her Majesty's said Commissioners and the said Indian Chief and Councillors have hereunto subscribed and set their hands, at the Grand Rapids, this twenty-seventh day of September, in the year of Our Lord one thousand eight hundred and seventy-five.

Signed by the parties in the presence of the undersigned witnesses, the same having been first explained to the Indians by the Honourable James McKay.

(his x mark)
(his x mark)
(his x mark)


1 - The treaty makes no effort to hide its purpose. Ottawa certainly wanted to secure this land, but it also wanted to gain the favor of the inhabitants. By this time the fur trade (the only real reason that Europeans ventured into the area) had ceased being economically important. The Canadian government had recently faced the Red River Rebellion in southern Manitoba, and didn't want further trouble with the natives in the region. The Trans-Continental Railroad was nearing completion, and settlers had already begun pouring westward. Thus, keeping the Indians happy and contained became a priority for the new government.

2 - These passages highlight the prevailing sentiment of the day: the desire of white Canadians to "civilize the savages". The government believed that if it could convince the Woodlands Indians to give up their semi-nomadic lifestyle in favor of an agrarian (and more European) society, then the Indians could make the transition into the larger Canadian culture. This strategy was flawed for two main reasons. Firstly, most of the reserves are remote even today, requiring at least a five-hour drive to reach the closest large city, Winnipeg. In fact, some of the more distant reserves in the Treaty No. 5 lands are accessible only by floatplane at present. Moving surplus crops to market under these conditions is nearly impossible. The other major problem is that the land in question is completely unsuitable for agriculture. Most of the land lies on the Precambrian Shield, which is dominated by granitic outcrops and very little topsoil. The growing season is limited, especially at higher latitudes. (These are the reasons that the bands living in the area never adopted wide-scale agriculture. It wasn't feasible, otherwise they would have figured out how to do it in the 15,000 years they lived in the region.)

3 - Another tactic used to civilize the Indians was to involve church missions. In this region of Canada, most missions were run by the Anglican Church of Canada or the United Church of Canada (the Methodist Church amalgamated with the Brethren and Presbyterian Churches since the treaty was signed). Up until 30 years ago, children were removed from the reserves (sometimes forcibly) and sent to residential schools. Here, the clergy would give the students a basic education, but at a price. Students were prohibited from using their native language or obeying their customs, often under harsh physical penalties. Many former students of residential schools have also filed lawsuits against the Anglican and United Churches alleging physical and sexual abuse.

4 - Politicians, clergymen and many white Canadians in general assumed they were to provide the Natives with some forms of stewardship. Alcoholism, as it does today, plagued First Nations peoples 125 years ago. The prohibition of alcohol was written into the treaty ostensibly to protect the Indians from themselves. Most Manitoban reserves remain dry to this day, but rumrunners often smuggle liquor onto the reserves, complete with grossly marked-up prices.

5 - Thankfully, this provision has been largely ignored. Natives across Canada enjoy nearly unfettered hunting, fishing, whaling and sealing rights today, and effectively police themselves with regard to species hunted and hunting limits. Some battles still flare, most recently between white and Native fishermen near Burnt Church, New Brunswick.

6 - Much of the land ceded in Treaty No. 5 is criss-crossed by major river systems: most inportantly the Saskatchewan, Winnipeg and Nelson Rivers. All of these rivers have been developed with hydroelectric generating stations to provide power to the southern communities in Manitoba and for export to the United States. Building these dams flooded some land used by the local bands and disrupted the habitats of many fish species. Lawmakers in Quebec, Newfoundland and Ontario recently have come to loggerheads with Native groups regarding proposed hydroelectric generators. (See Genocide of the James Bay Cree for one account of the effect on hydroelectric dams on First Nations peoples.)

7 - Although it seems quaint, the Government of Canada still honors these provisions. Each chief still gets his annual suit, and each resident of the reserves still receives their five dollar cheque.

8 - This passage also speaks to the concept of stewardship. Its point is largely moot, considering the remoteness of most of the reserves.

Treaty No. 5 -
The Atlas of Canada -

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.