BC Social Studies Lesson Plans

Treaties in British Columbia

Grade 5


Treaties in British Columbia

Big Idea

Natural resources continue to shape the economy and identity of different regions of Canada.

Essential Question

How fair has BC’s treaty process been?

Learning Standards Content

Students are expected to know the following:

  • First Peoples land ownership and use
    • Treaties

Curricular Competencies

Students are expected to be able to do the following:

  • Take stakeholders’ perspectives on issues, developments, or events by making inferences about their beliefs, values, and motivations (perspective)

Core Competencies

I can explain what a treaty is and why nations sign treaties.

I can consider the impact of the fact that BC has very few treaties.

I can reflect on the importance of treaty negotiations to First Nations and British Columbia as a whole.

First People's Principles of Learning

• Learning ultimately supports the well-being of the self, the family, the community, the land, the spirits, and the ancestors.
  • Write the word “treaty” on the board. Explain that treaty is another word for an agreement between nations. Treaties between First Nations were spoken (oral). Written treaties were created between First Nations and Britain and later with Canada.
  • Introduce the concept of treaties by showing the Heritage Minute video Naskumituwin (Treaty) (1:00) which depicts the making of Treaty 9 from the perspective of an 18-year-old Cree hunter.
  • Use a Think Pair Share strategy to discuss:
    • Why did the Cree sign Treaty 9?
    • Why were treaties necessary for the creation of Canada?
    • What problems can result when an agreement isn’t followed?
  • Have students respond in their journals:
    • Why would the Canadian government want to sign treaties with First Nations?
    • Why would First Nations agree to sign treaties with the government?

Part 1: Treaties in BC

  • Explain that most treaties in Canada were signed more than 100 years ago. In BC, only two treaties were signed over 100 years ago. While there are 203 First Nations in BC, there are very few treaties.
  • Help students find out the name(s) of the First Nation(s) territory that their community is located on by using the website Native Land.
  • Ask students whether they know if their community is on treaty land or if it is on territory where no treaty was signed. Explain that if no treaty exists, the land is unceded which means that the land has not been surrendered.
  • Have each student write a personal land acknowledgement for their community using the handout “Land Acknowledgement”.


Part 2: Historical Treaties in BC

  • Explain that the first treaties in what is now BC were on Vancouver Island. Between 1850 and 1854, fourteen small treaties were made on Vancouver Island between several First Nations and James Douglas, governor of the Colony of Vancouver Island. At that time, Vancouver Island was a British colony and Britain wanted the land for settlers. The First Nations agreed to share part of their territories with the settlers. In exchange, Governor Douglas provided them with a small amount of money, clothing, and blankets.
  • Provide students with the handout “Vancouver Island Treaties”. Have them work in small groups to read the excerpt from the treaties and to answer the questions.
  • Explain that the only other treaty signed over 100 years ago that included part of BC was Treaty 8. In 1899, a large treaty was made between the Government of Canada and First Nations in the Peace River region of northeastern BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Northwest Territories.
  • Use a jigsaw strategy to have students cooperatively research Treaty 8. Divide students into five groups and assign each group one of the questions from the handout “Treaty 8”. Provide students with access to Canadian Encyclopedia and the Government of Canada’s Treaty Research Report in order to conduct their research.
  • Once groups have completed their research have them share their findings with the class so that all students will have answers to each of the questions.


Part 3: Modern Treaties in BC

  • Explain that except for the Vancouver Island treaties and Treaty 8, the land rights of First Nations in BC were ignored or denied by governments for over 100 years. Most of BC has no treaties which means that the First Nations never gave up their claim to the land.
  • Show the short BC Treaty Commission video BC Treaty 101 (3:49) about the treaty negotiation process in BC.
  • Model how to use the BC Treaty Commission website to find out whether any of the First Nations in your region are currently taking part in the treaty process. If so, what stage of negotiations are they at?
  • Why are treaty negotiations important for First Nations?
  • Why are treaty negotiations important for all people in BC?
  • How fair has BC’s treaty process been in the past?
  • How fair is BC’s treaty process today?
  • Not all First Nations choose to negotiate treaties. Explain that one alternative to the BC Treaty Process is for First Nations to go to court to have their Indigenous Rights and Title legally affirmed.
  • Have students use the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia’s site to research the 2014 Tsilhqot’in Decision. Students can summarize the decision using the handout “Tsilhqot’n Decision”.
  • Have students brainstorm reasons that a First Nation would object to the province allowing a private company to log their traditional territory.
  • Show the CBC video Tsilhqot’in First Nation granted BC title claim in Supreme Court ruling (3:57)

British Columbia. [n.d.] “1850 - Douglas Treaties.” Legislative Assembly. Discover Your Legislature. History.



British Columbia. [n.d.] “History of Treaties in B.C.” First Nations Negotiations. About First Nations Treaty Process.



Canada. 2010. “Why is Canada Negotiating Treaties in BC?” Indigenous and Northern  Affairs Canada.



Canada. 2013. “Conveyance of Land to Hudson's Bay Company by Indian Tribes.”

From: Papers Connected with the Indian Land Question, 1850-1875, Victoria, R. Wolfenden, 1875. Treaty Texts - Douglas Treaties.



Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO). 2019. “An Introduction to Treaties: Compilation of Online Resources.” Toronto: ON



Hanson, E. 2009. “Aboriginal Title.” University of British Columbia. First Nations and Indigenous Studies.



Historica Canada. [n.d.] “Treaties in Canada: Education Guide.”



Slattery, B. 2015. “The Royal Proclamation of 1763 and the Aboriginal Constitution” In Terry Fenge and Jim Aldridge, eds., Keeping Promises: The Royal Proclamation of 1763, Aboriginal Rights, and Treaties in Canada. Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2015, 14-32, ISBN: 978-0-7735-4587-8, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3340293


Te’Mexw Treaty Association. [n.d.] “Douglas Treaties.” Victoria, B.C. The Association.



Tesar, Alex, "Treaty 8". In The Canadian Encyclopedia. Historica Canada. Article published August 29, 2016; Last Edited August 29, 2016.



Wood, Chris, "Nisga'a Land Treaty". In The Canadian Encyclopedia. Historica Canada. Article published December 03, 2012; Last Edited December 16, 2013.



University of British Columbia. 2020. “Resources.” Aboriginal Treaties.  https://guides.library.ubc.ca/aboriginal_treaties/resources


University of British Columbia. 2021. “Treaties.” Indigenous Education K-12.


Download Complete Lesson Plan

.docx .pdf

Rate this Curriculum

Last Reviewed

February 01, 2023

Produced by JES

curriculum developers