Thursday, 7 November 2013

The Six Nations and the Royal Proclamation of 1763

Frankly I had forgotten, or was not aware, that the Proclamation of 1763 had any great significance to the Six Nations.  However there is a fascinating U-Tube video which documents the many First Nations people who went to London this year to mark the 250 year anniversary of this treaty.  By in large, when anything relating to land is discussed here, the Nanfan Treaty of 1701 and the Surrender of 1844 are the documents that are front and centre.  The video can be seen here.

It is unclear to me why this Proclamation should be considered of such importance to the present day. 

The key parts of the Proclamation are reproduced on page 70 in Johnston's, Valley of the Six Nations, referred to in a number of earlier blog posts.  Basically considering that many White squatters had been illegally occupying lands claimed by Indian Nations, the Crown attempted to put the brakes on this practise to protect the interests of the Natives.  The Crown asserted that, no private Person do presume to make any Purchase from the said Indians of any Lands reserved to said Indians, within those parts of our Colonies where, We have thought proper to allow Settlement; but that, if at any Time any of the said Indians should be inclined to dispose of the said Lands, the same shall be Purchased only for Us in our Name, at some public Meeting or Assembly of the said Indians, to be held for that Purpose by the Governor or Commander in Chief of our Colony respectively within which they shall lie; .....

A complete version of this Proclamation, included in Horsnell's (2010) article (referred to in previous blog postings).  Here it also, importantly, that, We do further declare it to be Our Royal Will and Pleasure, for the present as aforsaid, to reserve under our Sovereignty, Protection, and Dominion, for the use of said Indians, all Lands and Territories not included within the Limits of Our said Three new Governments, ....... (Appendix 2, p. 27).

So basically the Crown claimed sovereignty and dominion over the Indians within its domains, and thus the earlier Two Row Wampum and Covenant Chain concepts of two separate peoples, were not in effect.  The Native peoples were subjects of the British Crown.  There appeared no hue and cry from any at the time, so one must assume that there was a general acceptance of the terms of the Proclamation.  this is reinforced by the First Nations of Canada visiting Britain to honour the Proclamation, suggesting that they have accepted its terms.

In effect, the only possible way to control to problem of White settlers occupying Indian lands was to assert that the Crown was the only legitimate agent to address land matters.  White settlers needed a deed from the Crown to validate any claims they might have.  Alas, neither this nor the Quebec Act of 1774 could stop the tide of American settlers from illegally occupying Indian lands.

Again, I fail to see what the Proclamation of 1763 does that has not been undone subsequently by for example the American Revolution where the American Republic replaced the British as the formal authority in the region after the Treaty of Fort Stanwix of 1784.  What did remain, however, is that the Crown still asserted dominion over the lands of what is today Ontario.


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