British Treaty-Making to U.S. Treaty-Making

To justify the invasion and claiming of Indigenous peoples’ homelands, Christianity and Roman Catholic church officials supplied doctrine and documentation granting authority to European monarchs to subdue Indigenous peoples, characterized as “pagans,” “infidels,” and non- Christians, establish authority over trade networks, and gain superior title to their lands. “In fact, the language that English monarchs used in the charters they granted to the American colonists was derived from Pope Alexander VI’s Inter catera ([1493]), the legal basis for Spanish possession of the Americas (except Brazil).” The kings of England would assert authority to convert Indigenous peoples to Christianity as justification for invasion, monopolizing trade, and the seizing of Indigenous lands in charters. Thus, Europeans, including British, Portuguese, and Spanish men, claimed superior title and authority by stepping foot on Indigenous lands armed with legal arguments based on the Christian doctrine of discovery.

“The Doctrine provided that Europeans automatically acquired property rights in native lands and gained governmental, political, and commercial rights over the indigenous inhabitants without their knowledge or consent.”

In the northernmost areas of the continent, British, French, and Dutch men infiltrated Indigenous commerce networks under the guise of partnership and kinship. They built wooden structures and declared themselves permanently established, although under legal principles, their claims were little more than squatters’ rights.

The British monarchy sent men under the authority of its charters to build warehouse structures and enter commercial relationships with promises of kinship and loyalty to Tribal Nations and peoples. Examples of this practice include the charters by King James I for the 1606 Virginia Company and the 1606 Plymouth Company,22 and by King Charles II for the 1670 Hudson Bay Company. These companies led to the British monarchy chartering colonies by the mid-1600s for permanent settlement in North America. To ensure the longevity of these activities and monopolize certain aspects of trade, the British monarchy sought treaty agreements with Tribal Nation leadership. Over time, land-hungry colonists defied British treaty relationships and began to claim territory from direct conveyances with Tribal Nations or simply by staking claim to tribal lands. French nationalists sought alignment with Tribal Nations against the British to continue their European-based tug-of-war. This led to what is commonly referred to as the “French and Indian War” in North America, or the “Seven Years War” when referring to the conflict originating in Europe.

In the aftermath of the war, King George III recognized the need to maintain boundaries as agreed upon with Tribal Nations. Ironically, historians have referred to the tribal military actions during this time period as Indian “uprisings” rather than as actual wars against the European invaders. To be clear, an uprising is defined as “a usually localized act of

Popular violence in defiance usually an established government.” More accurately, Tribal Nations were defending their territories and governments against the uprisings of the opportunistic invaders from British and French backgrounds as tribal governments were the established governments in North America in the mid-1700s.

Permanent Homelands Through Treaties with the United States: Restoring faith in the Tribal Nations-U.S. relationship in light of the McGirt Decision.
Angelique Eagle Woman (Wambdi A. Wast’teWinyan)