Native Land Claims - Teaching Resources

Rationale: Negotiating a Treaty
With many First nations treaties in the process of negotiation in BC it is important for young British Columbians to have some understanding of what that process entails.  This learning strategy will give them the opportunity to participate in a negotiation simulation, by discovering the issues that each side must deal with, recognize historical, cultural, economic and legal claims, learn how to make concessions so that each side gains something, treat opposing sides with respect and come away from the process willing to make the agreement work.
Learning goals

  1. Identify and describe a First Nation person, group, territory and rights
  2. Develop a set of issues based on that identification
  3. Analyse and summarize the impact of asserting those rights
  4. Prepare and present a brief to a panel of negotiators on an issue
  5. Listen to prepared briefs and suggest areas of compromise
  6. Work cooperatively to create an agreement that each group will support
  7. Consider the long range impact of such an agreement

As a class decide on an Aboriginal nation that resides near your community that can be the subject group for the treaty negotiation.
Use the backgrounder to research the prescribed treaty negotiation process.
Have class read the letter to Sir Wilfred Laurier to help them understand the historical concerns of Aboriginal peoples in British Columbia.
Describe the current treaty process by creating an overhead of the BC Treaty Commission process.
Divide the class into three groups and assign Role Cards.  The first group of five students will assume the role of the BC Treaty Commission who will be the decision makers in this process.  The second group will consist of representatives from the First Nations community.  The third group will be representatives from the B.C. Government and the Government of Canada.
According to the Backgrounder, the negotiating process can be diagrammed as follows:
Role Cards
Group 1 – Treaty Commission
You are a neutral group of British Columbians who have an expertise in provincial history, economics, legal and governmental concerns.  Your job is to facilitate information sharing, discussions and negotiations between the two parties. You cannot impose your views, but must make an effort to understand, clarify and summarize the important issues. You then help the parties work through their differences in order to come to a workable agreement.  You will lead the final class discussion on how to implement the new agreement.

  • Review negotiation process – inform class of format and expectations
  • Receive and review “Statement of Intent” from both groups
  • Schedule First Meeting - notify groups and make arrangements
  • Listen to and make summaries of briefs presented by representatives from each group
  • Identify major and minor issues
  • Instruct the parties on how to resolve differences
  • Encourage groups to make concessions
  • Monitor process
  • Summarize the terms of the agreement – draft an agreement and distribute to both groups for approval in principle
  • Finalize agreement
  • Meet with groups to discuss implementation of terms of the agreement

Group 2 – First Nations Representatives

  • Research information* about the First Nations group you are representing
  • Identify and describe their characteristics, for example:
  1. Population
  2. Distinguishing cultural features
  3. Nature of land currently occupying
  4. Resources available or needed
  5. Monetary compensation sought
  6. Capacity for self-government
  • Identify major issues and assign an issue to each member of the group for further research and analysis. Each member should prepare a summary of their assigned concern
  • Collect information from group members, summarize it and submit it to the Treaty  Commission as a “Statement of Intent”
  • Prepare for oral presentation of briefs at the First Meeting
  • Present 5-minute briefs of issues and concerns to the Commission (Group 1)
  • Participate in the negotiation process after government (Group 3) makes its submissions
  • Help to finalize an agreement
  • Participate in a class discussion on how the agreement can be implemented

Group 3 - Government Representatives

  • Divide group into representatives for either the provincial or federal government
  • Identify provincial or federal ministries that would be involved in negotiating  Aboriginal treaty claims – assign members to represent each ministry or department
  • Have each member do a web search* of their assigned government ministry to determine government policies
  • Identify and summarize concerns of each ministry
  • Collect information from group members, summarize it and submit it to the Treaty Commission as a “Statement of Intent”
  • Prepare for oral presentation of briefs at the First Meeting
  • Present 5-minute briefs of issues and concerns to the Commission
  • Participate in negotiation process after both groups have made their submissions
  • Help to finalize an agreement
  • Participate in a class discussion on how the agreement can be implemented


Once the First Nations group has been identified, check to see if they have a website –
often much of the necessary information can be found online.  If the group has no
website, try that of The Secwepemc Cultural Education Society.
A wide range of information about Aboriginal Claims in Canada can be found at
LawNet Alberta website by searching the key words “Aboriginal,” “people” and “claims.”
Government departments or ministries that have an interest in land claims treaties include:

Newspapers and news magazines frequently carry articles about Aboriginal issues.  For example, the Vancouver Sun did a series on Land Claims on Wednesday Nov. 17, 18 and 19, 2004. 
The recent Supreme Court of Canada decision on the requirement to consult with Native groups if any crown land is to be used by private business can be found online [search for Haida Nation v. British Columbia (Minister of Forests)].

Below are links to a number of websites with informative resources that will help students understand the issues and the outcomes of treaty negotiation.

Aboriginal Law Resources

B.C. Treaties
British Columbia Treaty Commission
Current information on Treaty negotiations in British Columbia, including Status of Treaties for each BC First Nation, Events Calendar, News Releases and Newsletters.

BC Ministry of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation
Site includes Publications and Documents, Interim Agreements and information on BC First Nations in the treaty process. The Nisga'a Treaty page includes the full text of the Agreement, Maps, Backgrounders, and a RealPlayer video of "A New Journey - The Nisga'a Treaty".

Case Law & Legislation
Indian Act
Bill Henderson's Annotated Indian Act. See also this Information Sheet on Bill C-31, the amendment to the Indian Act that was intended to remove discrimination concerning Indian Status and Band membership.

Canadian Native Law Cases: 1763-1978
Published by the U. Sask Native Law Centre, this online database is searchable by case name, subject or full text. For more recent court decisions, Bill Henderson's Canadian Court Decisions provides digests of important Aboriginal law cases, hyperlinked to the full text of each case.

Constitutional Law
A Brief Introduction to Aboriginal Law in Canada
An article by Ontario lawyer Bill Henderson which traces the history of Canadian Aboriginal Law from the Royal Proclamation to the present day. The article is hyperlinked to online case law and legislation.

Curriculum Resources

SchoolNet First People's Home Page
Extensive lists of links including topics such as Cultural Resources, Curriculum Resources, Elders Teachings (quotes and traditional stories), Online Schools and School Projects.

BC Ministry of Education - Aboriginal Education
Links concerning the Aboriginal Education Initiative, whose goal is to enhance the attainment of Aboriginal students in K-12. Site includes the First Nations Studies 12 IRP.

Legal Services Society - Publications and Video

Federal Government
Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples
Full text of the Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples as well as a Highlights Report. To read the Government's Response to the RCAP, go to Gathering Strength: Canada's Aboriginal Action Plan.

History of the Northwest Coast
Maps, photos and articles describing early European contact and daily life among the First Nations of Northwestern BC (including traditional recipes).

A Guide to Aboriginal Organizations and Services in British Columbia

Contact information for a variety of Aboriginal organizations, bands and tribal councils. Published by the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs, Province of British Columbia.