History lends context to our understanding of present day events. Few Canadians have a detailed understanding of the myriad of factors behind native land claims. The legal precedents derived from three centuries of treaty-making form a labyrinth that few researchers have dared map before. After almost two decades of research on Native-newcomer relations, Dr. James Miller has taken on the task.
Since 1983, Dr. Miller has worked on a succession of research projects aimed at advancing the understanding of Native-newcomer relations in Canada. His research concentrates on the interaction of indigenous and immigrant peoples, and on assessing its impact on both sides of the encounter. This work has greatly enriched our understanding of these issues while identifying specific areas that require further work. The history of the treaty-making process is one such area.
From the time Europeans first ventured into the forests of what is today Canada, they and their Native counterparts faced a great challenge: how to share a land that one group claimed through ancestry and the other claimed in the name of God and a far-off King? At first there were violent conflicts but over time, agreements, or treaties, were made. Why should we care about these ancient agreements? Because the treaties offer context for, and facilitate understanding of, many of today's contentious issues regarding Aboriginal rights.
Issues such as land claim settlements, Native self-government, hunting and fishing rights all trace their lineage back through 300 years and a patchwork of written and oral agreements that sometimes contradict each other. In taking a systematic approach to the study of Canada's treaty process, Dr. Miller expects to reveal a story that is faithful to history and relevant to future treaty makers, both Native and Newcomer.