As long as the rivers flow.

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Treaty No. 1 signed 145 years ago today.

The vision of a thriving community is not a new one.

At United Way Winnipeg, we recognize that our work and the work of our partners take place on the traditional territory of Treaty No. 1, as well as on the homeland of the Métis Nation. The name “Winnipeg” itself is derived from the Cree word that describes our cloudy water.

What does it mean to be a part of Treaty No. 1?

Around the time of Confederation, Canada recognized that western Indigenous groups were Nations unto themselves and their title to the land had to be addressed before opening the land up to settlement.

Treaty No. 1 was signed 145 years ago on August 3, 1871, between Canada and the Anishinabek and Swampy Cree of southern Manitoba. Negotiations began on July 27, 1871 when representatives from Canada and a thousand Indigenous attendees camped at the Stone Fort that we now call Lower Fort Garry.

Conference with First Nations Chiefs during Manitoba-First Nations Treaty, 1871. Source: Glenbow Archives

Conference with First Nations Chiefs during Manitoba-First Nations Treaty, 1871. Source: Glenbow Archives

Treaties are mutual agreements between nations and they cover land use, governance and resources. The Treaties made in this land were reaffirmed and upheld in Canada’s Constitution in the early 1980s.

These contracts gave rights and obligations to both parties. Original benefits to settlers were to advance settlement across the prairie region. Today, every Winnipegger possesses treaty rights that determine their relationship to this territory. They allow Canadians the right to sell and purchase property, to farm, or to otherwise benefit from the natural resources of this land.

“to last as long as the sun shines, the grass grows, and yonder river flows.” – Alexander Morris, the first Treaty Commissioner

“to last as long as the sun shines, the grass grows, and yonder river flows.” – Alexander Morris, the first Treaty Commissioner.

Because there are treaties still in place, everyone who lives here is a treaty person.

Treaty 1 also tells us about the kind of vision each party had for their future generations. The agreements and the ceremonies surrounding their creation were intended to foster an atmosphere of understanding, dignity and mutual respect, factors that will also be part of reconciliation so our country can become stronger and more inclusive.

145 years later, what some consider seven generations, Treaty 1 is being commemorated at Lower Fort Garry. You can learn more about the numbered treaties from the Treaty Relations Commission of Manitoba.

Jeffrey M. Thomas, The Delegate, Portage and Main, Winnipeg, Manitoba, 2005. C-print on paper. Collection of the Winnipeg Art Gallery, 2008-116. Photo: Ernest Mayer

Jeffrey M. Thomas, The Delegate, Portage and Main, Winnipeg, Manitoba, 2005. C-print on paper. Collection of the Winnipeg Art Gallery, 2008-116. Photo: Ernest Mayer