THE ROYAL PROCLAMATION - 1763
WHEN IT ALL BEGAN
The oppression of Native people started when the first European set foot on Turtle Island, looked at the first Native man he saw, and said "Be a Man!". This was said in mocking reference to the decision-making responsibilities held by women. The downfall began to pick up pace with the imposition of the Royal Proclamation in 1763 which is still embedded in the Canadian Constitution.
The Proclamation set the boundaries of a new Québec colony which was now under British control. This document would open a new chapter in European-Native relations, because it was the first document that called for Natives to cede their land in order for large scale settlement to take place. In this case ceding land meant the extinguishment of Aboriginal Rights.
Such attitudes caused great confusion among Native nations because the concept of land ownership was an alien idea. The fundamental spiritual connection to the land was that of caretakers and guardians, not owners. Turtle Island (North America) was the greatest gift that Noo Halidzoks (Mother Earth) could give to Indigenous People, therefore it was to be revered, cared for and loved. The Europeans without delving too deeply into understanding why the land could not be sold, took it upon themselves to simply take it. This fundamental misunderstanding of ownership/caretaker between Natives and Europeans to this day lies at the root of all land claim difficulties.
AT THE PLEASURE OF THE KING............
THE ROYAL PROCLAMATION, 1763
The Royal Proclamation of King George III established the constitutional foundation of British imperial Canada after the defeat of the French army in North America during the Seven Years’ War.
The Proclamation was brought into law when Ottawa Chief Pontiac said he would resist British colonization if there were not proper provisions to "recognize the collectively held title of First Nations peoples to their ancestral lands." (Molloy, pg. 6) Its intent was to protect Native people until they made the transition to becoming settled on reserve lands and acquired European habits and culture so they could enter mainstream society. As well Natives needed time to acquire skill at farming and agriculture.
The Royal Proclamation (also called the Indian Magna Carter or Indian Bill of Rights) affirmed that the "...several Nations or Tribes with whom We are connected ... should not be molested or disturbed..." in Indian lands, and lands reserved for their use.
The King reserved Western Lands (Prairies, Northern Ontario) for "several nations or tribes of Indians" that were under his "protection" as their "exclusive hunting grounds.
The Proclamation is still entrenched in the Canadian Constitution. Its best known provision states, in effect, that only the Crown can extinguish "Indian title." This lead directly to the land cession treaties in which Native groups gave up claim to large tracts of land in exchange for certain areas to be reserved solely for their use.
In other words, The Proclamation gave the King the sole right to appropriate lands from Native people and initiate the procedure of signing land-surrender treaties between the British and the Native peoples in North America. In the late Eighteenth and early Nineteenth centuries, there followed, in Upper Canada (southern Ontario), a series of land surrender treaties that confined Natives to small holdings and made large tracts of land available to settlers. Natives were then relieved of their lands, through treaties of land surrender, through designation of reserves, and through expropriation of previously established reserve lands.
By 1923, there were more than 50 such treaties. Where the government saw these agreements mainly as instruments for freeing lands for settlers, Natives saw (and still see) them as defining their negative relationship with the Dominion.
As noted earlier, Natives
and Europeans did not have the same understanding of the land surrender treaties.
In most Native cultures, land was not a commodity to be bought and sold.
Evidence from Native
testimony shows that they understood these agreements to be matter of
sharing, of friendship, of mutual respect, and not final and irrevocable
sales, and ultimate loss of ancestral territory.
FOUR MAJOR REASONS FOR THE ROYAL PROCLAMATION
1. Disposition of lands to the French - expanding borders of Quebec, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. French consider themselves the original Founding European inhabitants of North America. the fight for separation goes back to the Proclamation.
2. Establishment of new structures/policies for colonists. For example, the most important, the imposition of the British Court System: Colonists were informed that the rules would be based on British law. They were angry about this because England was so far away and the rules did not translate well for a new, untried, rough land where lives and settlements were vastly different, never mind translating them into Indigenous languages. King George III denied these differences and refused "wilderness justice"; he imposed a "civilized Governor." LAND GRANTS: Settlers wanted to move from Vermont, Maine, inland and trade with the Natives (trading for land). King said No, that he had to look after the Natives. Colonists said they would trade with the Natives in their territory. King said NO, after all, it was his territory. In response the King sent a secret army to spy on the settlers. As a result of all this subterfuge, Two major problems emerged: Angry Settlers, Angry Natives who said trade did not include giving up what little land they had left.
3. Land grants to loyal soldiers and seamen of the King who had fought in the Seven Years War. Where do these land grants come from? The ever-shrinking "Native Territory." Most Native people live around water and this is the land that was first highly sought after and the first to be appropriated.
4. Policies and laws regarding Indians - "Protection" of the Natives from the Colonists and Soldiers. Natives were granted rights to live on a small part of the dominion. The great tragedy is that this is Sacred Ancestral Land upon which Indigenous people had lived for thousands of years; now they were arrogantly being granted permission to live on some of it!!
EIGHT CONDITIONS OF THE PROCLAMATION
1. King claimed ultimate dominion over North America - In other words, he owned it.
2. All people, excluding Natives and Soldiers who received land grants, were to leave Native Lands.
3. No private purchase of reserve land was allowed and no trade for the land could occur between Natives and settlers.
4. King and heirs have exclusive right of purchase (Feudalism). Herein lies an interesting irony, how can anyone purchase (or sell) what is already owned by the King?
5. Native groups, if they freely choose to, can sell their land rights to Agents of the King (As noted: cannot sell what King already owns!). The language used was simply semantics as it tried to make Natives feel they had a choice and were involved in the process, when clearly their weren't. Question: How do you ask people who are no longer free to choose 'freely'?
6. Such selling of land rights would occur in a public place. This way it show the paramount dominance of the King.
7. All people trading with Natives must be licensed (Imperial authorities).
8. Crown is essentially the central agent in the transfer of Native lands to ALL settlers.
RECAP OF POINTS TO CONSIDER ABOUT THE PROCLAMATION
1. Irony of the document as regards royal ownership and purchase.
2. The language in the Proclamation as regards protecting Natives and their ancestral lands is really a case of smoke and mirrors. The special language of the Proclamation stresses that reserve lands are preserved for the "use" of Natives and was supposed to engender warm feelings, that Natives were being looked after, when in fact, nearly 98% of their ancestral land base had eventually been appropriated by theft and other forms of subterfuge; the small parts that were left were also up for grabs at the "pleasure of the King." See 3.
3. Temporal (time-based). "Use" of land at the "pleasure of the crown" - in other words, the Natives looked after and lived temporarily on the land for the duration of their lives. Also, when the Crown decided "for the present".
4. Feudalistic because the transfer of the dominion goes to the king's heirs and is managed by governors.
5. Its paternalistic nature, has the King assuming the starring role of "benevolent dictator."
7. United States threw out the Proclamation after the War of Independence; they wrote their own version called the "Settler Document."
An abbreviated version of the
October 7, 1763
BY THE KING. A
Whereas we have taken into our royal consideration the extensive and valuable acquisitions in America secured to our Crown by the late definitive treaty of peace concluded at Paris on the 10th day of February last; and being desirous that all our loving subjects, as well of our kingdom as of our colonies in America, may avail themselves, with all convenient speed, of the great benefits and advantages which must accrue there from to their commerce, manufactures, and navigation; we have thought fit, with the advice of our Privy Council, to issue this our Royal Proclamation, hereby to publish and declare to all our loving subjects that we have, with the advice of our said Privy Council, granted our letters patent under our Great Seal of Great Britain, to erect within the countries and islands ceded and confirmed to us by said treaty, four distinct and separate governments, styled and called by the names of Quebec, East Florida, West Florida, and Grenada, and limited and bounded as follows, viz:
First, the Government of Quebec, bounded on the Labrador coast by the river St. John, and from thence by a line drawn from the head of that river, through the lake St. John, to the south end of the lake Nipissim; from whence the said line, crossing the river St. Lawrence and the lake Champlain in 45 degrees of north latitude, passes along the high lands which divide the rivers that empty themselves into the said river St. Lawrence from those which fall into the sea...
we do further expressly enjoin and require all officers whatever, as
well military as those employed in the management and direction of
Indian affairs within the territories reserved as aforesaid, for the use
of the said Indians, to seize and apprehend all persons whatever who,
standing charged with treasons, misprisions of treason, murders, or
other felonies or misdemeanors, shall fly from justice and take refuge
in the said territory, and to send them under a proper guard to the
colony where the crime was committed of which they shall stand accused,
in order to take their trial for the same.
And Whereas, We are desirous, upon all occasions, to testify our Royal Sense and Approbation of the Conduct and bravery of the Officers and Soldiers of our Armies, and to reward the same, We do hereby command and empower our Governors of our said Three new Colonies, and all other our Governors of our several Provinces on the Continent of North America, to grant without Fee or Reward, to such reduced Officers as have served in North America during the late War, and to such Private Soldiers as have been or shall be disbanded in America, and are actually residing there, and shall personally apply for the same, the following Quantities of Lands, subject, at the Expiration of Ten Years, to the same Quit-Rents as other Lands are subject to in the Province within which they are granted, as also subject to the same Conditions of Cultivation and Improvement; viz.
To every Person having the Rank of a Field Officer--5,000 Acres.
To every Captain--3,000 Acres.
To every Subaltern or Staff Officer,--2,000 Acres.
To every Non-Commission Officer,--200 Acres .
To every Private Man--50 Acres.
We do likewise authorize and require the Governors and Commanders in Chief of all our said Colonies upon the Continent of North America to grant the like Quantities of Land, and upon the same conditions, to such reduced Officers of our Navy of like Rank as served on board our Ships of War in North America at the times of the Reduction of Louisbourg and Quebec in the late War, and who shall personally apply to our respective Governors for such Grants.
And whereas it is just and reasonable, and essential to our Interest, and the Security of our Colonies, that the several Nations or Tribes of Indians with whom We are connected, and who live under our Protection, should not be molested or disturbed in the Possession of such Parts of Our Dominions and Territories as, not having been ceded to or purchased by Us, are reserved to them. or any of them, as their Hunting Grounds. We do therefore, with the Advice of our Privy Council, declare it to be our Royal Will and Pleasure. that no Governor or Commander in Chief in any of our Colonies of Quebec, East Florida. or West Florida, do presume, upon any Pretence whatever, to grant Warrants of Survey, or pass any Patents for Lands beyond the Bounds of their respective Governments. as described in their Commissions: as also that no Governor or Commander in Chief in any of our other Colonies or Plantations in America do presume for the present, and until our further Pleasure be known, to grant Warrants of Survey, or pass Patents for any Lands beyond the Heads or Sources of any of the Rivers which fall into the Atlantic Ocean from the West and North West, or upon any Lands whatever, which, not having been ceded to or purchased by Us as aforesaid, are reserved to the said Indians, or any of them.
And We do further declare it to be Our Royal Will and Pleasure, for the present as aforesaid, to reserve under our Sovereignty, Protection, and Dominion, for the use of the said Indians, all the Lands and Territories not included within the Limits of Our said Three new Governments, or within the Limits of the Territory granted to the Hudson's Bay Company, as also all the Lands and Territories lying to the Westward of the Sources of the Rivers which fall into the Sea from the West and North West as aforesaid.
And We do hereby strictly forbid, on Pain of our Displeasure, all our loving Subjects from making any Purchases or Settlements whatever, or taking Possession of any of the Lands above reserved. without our especial leave and License for that Purpose first obtained.
And. We do further strictly enjoin and require all Persons whatever who have either wilfully or inadvertently seated themselves upon any Lands within the Countries above described. or upon any other Lands which, not having been ceded to or purchased by Us, are still reserved to the said Indians as aforesaid, forthwith to remove themselves from such Settlements.
And whereas great Frauds and Abuses have been committed in purchasing Lands of the Indians, to the great Prejudice of our Interests. and to the great Dissatisfaction of the said Indians: In order, therefore, to prevent such Irregularities for the future, and to the end that the Indians may be convinced of our Justice and determined Resolution to remove all reasonable Cause of Discontent, We do. with the Advice of our Privy Council strictly enjoin and require. that no private Person do presume to make any purchase from the said Indians of any Lands reserved to the 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: and in case they shall lie within the limits of any Proprietary Government. they shall be purchased only for the Use and in the name of such Proprietaries, conformable to such Directions and Instructions as We or they shall think proper to give for that Purpose: And we do. by the Advice of our Privy Council, declare and enjoin, that the Trade with the said Indians shall be free and open to all our Subjects whatever. provided that every Person who may incline to Trade with the said Indians do take out a License for carrying on such Trade from the Governor or Commander in Chief of any of our Colonies respectively where such Person shall reside. and also give Security to observe such Regulations as We shall at any Time think fit. by ourselves or by our Commissaries to be appointed for this Purpose, to direct and appoint for the Benefit of the said Trade:
And we do hereby authorize, enjoin, and require the Governors and Commanders in Chief of all our Colonies respectively, as well those under Our immediate Government as those under the Government and Direction of Proprietaries, to grant such Licenses without Fee or Reward, taking especial Care to insert therein a Condition, that such License shall be void, and the Security forfeited in case the Person to whom the same is granted shall refuse or neglect to observe such Regulations as We shall think proper to prescribed as aforesaid.
Given at our Court at St. James's the 7th Day of October 1763. in the Third Year of our Reign.
GOD SAVE THE KING