Peace and Friendship Treaties (1725-1779)

Throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, the empires of France and Britain constantly struggled for colonial domination of North America. On the Atlantic coast, they fought over Acadia, which included present-day Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and the western edge of the state of Maine. Acadia was strategic militarily as the entrance to the St. Lawrence River and it offered economic benefits to European colonisers because of its forests, furs, and fishing. It was highly coveted in the struggle for supremacy between New France and New England. Aboriginal peoples living in the region included the Abenaki and Passamaquoddy of Maine and Acadia; the Malecite of the St. John River valley; and the Mi'kmaq of the Nova Scotia peninsula, the isthmus of Chignecto, and Cape Breton Island. At the location of their first North American colony, Port Royal in the Annapolis valley, the French were the first to establish strong commercial and military alliances with the different Aboriginal people of the region.

When European wars spilled over into the colonies, colonial officials often called upon their Aboriginal allies for support in the ongoing conflicts. The French had established stronger relations with local Aboriginal peoples than did the British and thereby enhanced the security of French activity in the area. The French routinely encourage guerrilla warfare and pushed the Mi'kmaq to harass the British. The Mi'kmaq sporadically attacked New England fishing boats and trade vessels that were fishing in the waters off Nova Scotia. The attacks continued until 1713 when hostilities in Europe and the Americas ended with the signing of the Treaty of Utrecht.

Because its military campaigns suffered defeat in the latter part of the war, France had to relinquish the part of Acadia constituting present-day Nova Scotia to Britain in 1713. However, France did not lose all of its Atlantic possessions: it retained Île Royale (Cape Breton Island), Île St. Jean (Prince Edward Island), and present-day New Brunswick. In the years following the transfer, France continued to support both its former settlers and their Aboriginal allies in Nova Scotia. In an effort to regularise trade and assure a stable peace, British Governor Dummer sought out the region's Aboriginal peoples and on December 15th, 1725, the two groups negotiated a "Peace and Friendship" treaty. The 1725 Treaty of Boston included the Aboriginal peoples of Maine, New Hampshire, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. Under the terms of the treaty, the Aboriginal signatories agreed to "forbear All Acts of Hostility, Injuries and discords towards all the Subjects of the Crown of Great Britain and not offer the least hurt, violence, or molestation of them or any of them in their persons or Estates." With the treaty, Governor Dummer intended to prevent conflict between British settlers and local Aboriginal peoples by establishing trade relations with them and by acquiring their consent for British colonisation in the region.

The 1725 Treaty did not establish a long lasting and stable peace in the Atlantic region. French administrators at Louisbourg continued to offer presents to those Aboriginal peoples who agreed to attack British settlements. French missionaries also gave presents to those who opposed the British. The British and groups from the Mi'kmaq, the Maliseet, and the Passamaquoddy nations concluded peace and friendship treaties with each other on over half a dozen occasions between 1725 and 1779. Nonetheless, as the struggle for settlement lands continued throughout the continent, the French continued to turn to their Aboriginal allies for support. Hostilities in the region continued until Britain and France ended their conflict in North America at the end of the Seven Years' War in 1760.

The Peace and Friendship treaties concluded in this period all followed a similar pattern. Their terms simply re-established peace and commercial relations. In these treaties, Aboriginal peoples did not surrender rights to land or resources. Two of the treaties have a specific trade related clause not found in the others, known as the "Truck House" clause. In the 1752 and 1760-1761 Peace and Friendship treaties the British promised to establish a truck house, or trading post, for the exclusive use of the Aboriginal signatories. As one of the primary purposes of the treaties was to re-establish trade within the colony, these "truck houses" would serve to encourage a commercial relationship between the Mi'kmaq, the Maliseet, the Passamaquoddy, and British settlers. While the actual trading posts were short lived, the Truck house clause became the central focus of two different court cases in the 1980s and 1990s. In both the Simon and Marshall cases, Aboriginal claimants argued that the Truck House clause guaranteed Aboriginal rights to hunt and fish throughout the region and to maintain a moderate livelihood there.

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