On October 7th, 1763, King George of Britain signed a document that set out the principles of treaty rights for North America’s Indigenous people.
To mark the 250th anniversary of that event, a delegation of Saskatchewan’s First Nations veterans, elders and leaders is headed to London to take part in a number of ceremonies.
FSIN Chief Perry Bellegarde is leading the group. He has been working on the agenda for months. There will be speaking engagements at universities, a wreath-laying at the Great War Memorial and a pipe ceremony marking the 250th anniversary of the Royal Proclamation.
He says the document marked the beginning of a special relationship:
“It is important because that is the first time the Crown, in writing, officially recognized First Nations title to land and territories — so that is why we want to mark that anniversary in a special way, and in a spiritual way.”
The Royal Proclamation laid the groundwork for the treaties, which gave First Nations people a pass on defending the Crown in wars. Despite this, nearly a thousand Saskatchewan First Nations people volunteered to fight in the World Wars and the Korean War.
First Nations soldiers were noted for their stamina, keen observation skills and courage.
Bellegarde says their efforts will be recognized at the Great War Memorial:
“The promises made to our chiefs was that our warriors would not be called out of our territory to go and fight the Queen’s wars — and yet they volunteered, they fought under that flag.”
The Saskatchewan delegation leaves October 3 and returns October 8. Most legal scholars recognize the Royal Proclamation as the first step toward the recognition of existing treaty rights, including the right to self-government.