Treaty Money

Treaty Money

Tansi nîtôtemak (my friends), 

Today is the day that many of my community members will line up to receive our annual annuity payment of $5.00. When I was a kid we would either give up our treaty money to my kokum in exchange for all the good food they made for us. Sometimes we would spend it at the store on pop and chips or at the pow wow back when Indian tacos used to be $5. Nonetheless, we lined up with our parents knowing that it was part of our Treaty responsibility. You see the meaning of these payments goes much deeper.

These payments signify our complicated relationship with the crown, and are symbolic of agreements that were made by Indigenous Peoples in good faith. Agreements that were meant to be bilateral and benefitting to both sides, but in this case, with one party benefiting more than the other.

In August and September of 1876 Treaty 6 was signed for “as long as the sun shines, the grass grows and the rivers flow.”

“This promise indicates the everlasting nature of the Treaty between the Indigenous and the Crown, as depicted the spiritual aspects of the sun, grass and the river. When promises are made that invoke such spirits, it is believed that the maker of the promise and all his descendants are bound by that promise. A promise made to these spirits cannot be broken.”

These promises are the foundation for resource extraction from which Canada’s great wealth originates. 

As Indigenous broadcaster turned politician Wab Kinew said, “140 years later, we’re still waiting for the things that were promised in those agreements to share the land”.

In this video:

“We Aboriginal people thought we were getting a seat at the big table. But it turns out we had a reservation at a much smaller table…out the back, near the garbage can.”

And this video:

When Treaty 6 was signed in 1876, it included many promises such as the storage of a medicine chest at the house of every Indian agent (the Canadian government’s representatives on First Nations reserves from the 1830s to the 1960s),  additional agricultural implements other than those provided for in earlier treaties and a “famine and pestilence” clause, which promised to protect the Indigenous peoples from such problems. 

Amongst these promises and in exchange for Indigenous title to the land Treaty 6 provided: an annual cash payment of $25 per chief; $15 per headman and $5 for all other band members; a one-time cash payment of what was once $12 and now is $5 for each band member; and reserve lands in the amount of one square mile per family of five. 

Schools were to be established on reserves, Indians were entitled to sharing of the land to the depth of a plow (and no deeper), and were restricted to assigned reserve lands through the pass system where Indians required written permission to travel outside the reserve  to hunt or sell goods.

These payments remind us of the responsibility that the Government of Canada, The Crown and, by proxy, all of the newcomers to this land had and still have to our people. They are meant to be a symbol of peace and friendship. A bond far greater than contractual obligations holds us together as Treaty people.

You see, we are all Treaty People.


 By Mallory and Kham Yawnghwe


Additional resource:


Written in 1886, the Indian Act was implemented in 1876 between Indians and person (“person means any individual other than an Indian,”).

The term Indian is used as indicated in the treaty.



I love it when you folks send out or post these pieces. They are always super informative and their value is immeasurable. This is what kids should be learning in school.
Sidenote: BC has implemented a requirement for graduation, starting next year, called “First Peoples Studies” (I think). My daughter will begin gr 12 in September, so I’m very hopeful there will be meaningful and authentic content, not just fluffy rhetoric.
Anyhow, thank you for sharing…it is appreciated.


I welcome more if these educational messages in my inbox. Thank you

Alicia Ponciano

Thank you for your teaching and sharing true information. As a grandmother it’s nice to see my grandchildren having opportunities to learn true history. I hope our older generation also takes opportunities to learn and gain some understanding of the truth and work towards reconciliation.


Thank you very much for that explanation.


Thankyou for educating us on this as it was not properly taught in our (white) school
This is important for us to learn from the past to ensure we all grow together for a better future
full of understanding and healing


Thank you. Learning indigenous history from indigenous teachers is not widely available.

Tammy Wildemann

Thank you. Learning indigenous history from indigenous teachers is not widely available.

Tammy Wildemann

Leave a comment

Our Seasonal Subscription

Seasonal Discovery Subscription Box (free shipping sale *ends Sunday June 12th at midnight) - Indigenous Box
Seasonal Discovery Box
Indigenous Box
Seasonal Discovery Box

Like this blog?

Sign up for more content and all the latest product drops and limited offers, straight to your inbox.