The St. Andrew’s Society has been instrumental in the formation and operation of the broadly representative Committee to Commemorate the 200th Anniversary of the Peguis Selkirk Treaty. During the planning phase of the committee’s work, it was decided in January 2017 to apply for permission to erect a monument commemorating the spirit of the treaty on the grounds of the Manitoba Legislative Building. The application was submitted in February 2017. The committee has recently received approval for the monument project with design work to begin following confirmation of the assigned location on the grounds. This will be a major undertaking, likely extending over the next two years or so, and intimately related to the Scottish heritage of Red River.
As the first treaty in Western Canada, the Peguis Selkirk Treaty represents the beginning of the formal relationship between First Nations and the Crown in the region. Under the provisions of the Royal Proclamation of 1763, a treaty with sovereign First Nations, original inhabitants of the land, was necessary for the lawful establishment of the Red River Selkirk settlement. Without the treaty there likely could not have been a permanent settlement and the history of Manitoba almost certainly would have unfolded in very different manner.
The written treaty did not truly embody the agreement as it was understood by the five Cree and Ojibway signatory chiefs, and was often not fully adhered to by the Hudson’s Bay Company following Lord Selkirk’s early death in 1820. Despite these deficiencies the great Saulteaux chief, Peguis, a leader among the First Nations, welcomed and supported Lord Selkirk’s Scottish settlers and upheld peace and order in the settlement. During his 1817 visit to Red River, Lord Selkirk himself wrote:
“The Bearer, Peguis, one of the principal chiefs of the Chippewas or Saulteaux of Red River, has been a steady friend to the Settlement ever since its first establishment and has never deserted its cause… He has often exerted his influence to restore peace; and having rendered most essential services to the settlers in their distress, deserves to be treated with favour and distinction by the officers of the Hudson’s Bay Company and all friends of peace and order.”
As a result of this history, the committee proposed a treaty monument featuring a bronze sculpture of a likeness of Chief Peguis, representing himself and the other chiefs, and all First Nations people. The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs has expressed its support for this concept. It is also important to note there has never been any recognition on the Legislative Building grounds of First Nations’ essential contributions to the peaceful settlement and development of Manitoba, an omission long overdue for remedy.
The monument will therefore commemorate the spirit of the treaty and, in honouring Chief Peguis and chiefs Machewheseab, Mechkaddewikonaie, Kayajieskebinoa and Ouckidoat, is intended to represent an act of reconciliation with all our fellow Manitobans of First Nations heritage. As descendant organizations associated with some of the first European settlers, it is entirely appropriate the Scottish heritage community and The St. Andrew’s Society of Winnipeg should be associated with leadership of this historic initiative.
By John Perrin, Co-chair, Committee to Commemorate the 200th Anniversary of the Peguis Selkirk Treaty