A delegation of about two dozen chiefs, veterans, elders, and aides from the Federation of Saskatchewan First Nations (FSIN) travelled to London, England to mark the 250th anniversary of the Royal Proclamation of 1763 on October 7, 2013. “The Royal Proclamation is important to us because it marks the first time that the Crown recognized our title to and jurisdiction over lands and territories as Indigenous peoples,” said FSIN leader Chief Perry Bellegarde. “We decided to go to London because that is where the original document rests and from whence the original relationship emanated.”
During a four-day trip to London, the FSIN delegation took part in a number activities including a public dialogue at Oxford University about the ongoing struggle for treaty and Aboriginal rights in Canada, a wreath-laying ceremony at the Royal Military Chapel to honour First Nations veteran’s loyalty to the Crown, and the anniversary of the Royal Proclamation itself. FSIN leaders hope the journey represents an opportunity to reinforce the treaty relationship between themselves and the Canadian and British Crown and to highlight the continuing existence and importance of the Royal Proclamation.
The Royal Proclamation of 1763 was issued by King George III after the British conquest of New France (Quebec) following the Seven Years War, to officially claim North America. It has been called the “Indian Magna Carta.” It established guidelines for the European settlement of Aboriginal territories and was the first constitutional act recognizing First Nation’s rights to their territories, establishing the principle that only the Crown can seize First Nations lands through the negotiation of treaties.
Chief Bellegarde pointed out that the proclamation is fundamental to the legal framework for First Nations in Canada and is part of the nation’s constitution. “We want to promote awareness and common understanding of the importance and relevance of relations between First Nations and the Crown and talk about those relations globally,” said Bellegarde.
FSIN leaders hope the trip will invigorate ongoing attempts to renew treaty implementation talks with the Harper Tories who have yet to move forward. “We are here to demonstrate that treaties are still alive and that the terms have yet to be honoured according to their spirit and intent.”