Treaties and Territory Loss
Between the middle of the nineteenth century and the start of the twentieth century, the Canadian government negotiated a series of treaties to acquire land in the West in order to settle colonizers on them. The treaties extended from the eastern border of Ontario all the way to the Rockies. The treaties were signed too quickly. The First Nations, who were in a precarious situation ever since bison disappeared and epidemics began to spread, were in need of assistance. The treaties provided for the creation of reserves in exchange for allowances, agricultural equipment, medals, etc.
However, with the massive influx of immigrants at the start of the twentieth century, the Department urged the First Nations to sell their reserve lands in exchange for assurances that they would receive assistance. Between 1896 and 1909, the government succeeded in selling 750,000 reserve acres. With the increase in the birth rate in First Nations communities at the start of the twentieth century, families received increasingly smaller land lots. According to some historians, after the First World War, farmers were living in such destitute circumstances that many of them were not even aware of the crisis bearing down on the country in 1929.
In 1911, the government continued along the same path and eliminated from the Indian Act the requirement to obtain consent from band councils to dispose of lands. In the same year, it gave municipalities the power to take over sections of reserves to build roads, railroads and other public structures, and it pre-empted the right to relocate a reserve situated near a town of over 8,000 people without the consent of its inhabitants. Finally, in 1927, in order to thwart future land claims, the government amended the Indian Act to ban fundraising for such claims. It even forbade lawyers to defend members of the First Nations without its agreement.