It was August 1765, Sir Hugh Palliser, then Governor of Newfoundland met with the Inuit of central Labrador at Chateau Bay at the request of the then British government.
They met to enter into a Treaty for “peace and friendship” to help protect British interests in Labrador against the Inuit and to help prevent further problems with France and the America colonies.
In exchange the British promised the Inuit protection of the British Crown as well as treaty rights that included self-government, hunting and fishing rights and natural resources for trade.
The Treaty signed in August 1765 is protected under section 35 of the Constitution Act of 1982.
NunatuKavut president Todd Russell greeted community members last Tuesday at the Labrador Friendship Centre to kick off the countdown to the celebration of the 250th anniversary of the British-Inuit Treaty.
“Over the next three years, we will have a number of activities, memorials. There will be invitations sent out as well as fundraising campaigns.”
Russell asked the 60 plus community members who came out for the luncheon to bring forward ideas and to volunteer to be part of the celebrations to sign up and be part of history.
“This is kind of fitting, the Treaty event of August 21, 1765 did not happen over the span of a week or a month, it was planned the year before in 1764.”
Russell said imagine for a moment what was a remarkable time almost 250 years ago when the area had 500-600 British soldiers along with Governor Palliser and the ancestors of the Inuit, all gathering to workout a Treaty for mutual protection.
“The British also wanted to establish a fishery on the coast of Labrador, but they could not because of the presents of our ancestors. There was conflicts and killings, there were battles with the British and they wanted peace.”
Everybody grew tired of the conflict and all wanted peace and friendship. The British Governor, Palliser met with the Moravians, who translated what the British government wanted.
“There were a lot of articles read out to what would be undertaken and what it would mean to people.”
There was an exchange of gifts during the Treaty talks and Governor Palliser gave the Inuit a Goulot, a tent “for the protection of people” and told the Inuit “we are friends.”
“It is also a meaningful time today because this lives on, this Treaty is not something that is null and void.”
Russell said most of the people at the luncheon are beneficiaries of the Treaty today and that they carry a heavy responsibility to honour the Treaty.
“But there is also a heavy responsibility on the province of Labrador and upon the federal government to carry their part in this Treaty.”
Russell said that when NunatuKavut says they have aboriginal rights, they also have Treaty rights as outlined in the British-Inuit Treaty of 1765.
“Rights that flow from this agreement, with the British and our Inuit ancestors.”
He says this Treaty is the only British and Inuit Treaty in the world.
“I get filled up a little bit when I think about this Treaty that our ancestors were apart of,” Russell said.
Russell said that the NunatuKavut government would be sending a letter to the Queen or a representative inviting them to come and celebrate this historical event.