Promises, Promises
A Board Game Commemorating the 100th Anniversary of Treaty No. 9


On July 12, 1905, The James Bay Treaty was first signed at Osnaburgh, Ontario. The James Bay Treaty or Treaty No. 9 was drafted by the governments of Canada and Ontario in response to Indian concerns for assistance and protection and the governments' desire to open the land “for settlement, immigration, trade, travel, mining, lumbering and other such purposes.” Its signing was an historic occasion. This treaty forms the basis of the relationship between the signing First Nations and the Crown. Because certain rights and responsibilities arise from this treaty relationship, Treaty No. 9 significantly influences the daily lives of the Aboriginal people in the Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN).

In spite of the importance of this treaty as it was signed in the past and of the influence of this treaty in the present, there is a lack of understanding about Treaty No. 9 by youth and the public in the NAN area. The 100th anniversary of the first signing of the James Bay Treaty, serves to highlight this important process and provide students and NAN community members with an opportunity to gain a greater awareness of it. This 100th anniversary can also supply the non-Native public and schools with a chance to increase their understanding of the treaty process as well. Promises, Promises is a unique way of emphasizing the significance of the James Bay Treaty in a challenging and educational manner.


When the Cree elders explain Treaty No. 9, they use their own words. The Cree elders do not speak of “treaty rights” but of shatamakewina or promises. They indicate that the main treaty promise refers to the idea of wiichiihiiwewin, which means assistance or helping one another. The following Cree elders' quotes provides a greater understanding of their views on the signing of Treaty No. 9:
"When the natives gave up their land by signing the agreement, it was said that the government agreed to provide free medical care and free education for their children. The government also said that the natives will not lose their land nor their traplines. These will belong to them for their survival and also enable them to teach their children traditionally. They were also told to choose a suitable land where they can create a community that would be beneficial to them. These the government promised, under oath, that they will never end as long as the sun shall rise in the morning, as long as the moon shines at night, and as long as the river flows down stream for it can not flow up steam. ..."
-Emelda Nakogee, Fort Albany (p. 44)

"These elders we talked about liked what they heard. They thought everything they heard would happen, but it never did."
-James Wesley, Kashechewan (p. 55)

"We know the sun still comes up everyday, we know the river still flows but many of the promises made by the government to the people are not there anymore. The new government people are erasing the promises made in 1905 ... Many of the promises made to the people were never seen."
-Janet Nakogee, Attawapiskat (p. 87)

"We are told to love each other. We are told to help each other. Yet every time I go to meetings held by the government, they always argue when they are reminded of the promises they made in the treaty. If I wrote a letter to someone and I promised that person something and he didn't hear from me, he would write to me or he would come to see me and remind me of my promise. This is what we are now doing. Look at the government, if we forget or if we are late in a paying a bill, they remind us by mail."
-James Carpenter, Attawapiskat (p. 105)

These elders' quotes were taken from John S. Long. (1993). The Government Is Asking You For Your Land: The Treaty Made in 1905 at Fort Albany According to the Cree Oral Tradition. Schumacher, ON: Author.