The Treaty Nine Badge
Treaty No. 9 is the only numbered Treaty that DID NOT provide a medal for the Chiefs and Councillors at the time of Treaty. In 1910, five years after the Treaty was concluded in 1905, the Chiefs and Councillors were presented with a Badge.
The Department of Indian Affairs decided to issue the badge to lend authority and status to the elected Chief and Council of each newly created Treaty band.
The description of the badge on the Library and Archives website reads:
“Unlike with past numbered treaties, a medal was not awarded in conjunction with Treaty 9. Instead a badge was presented to the chiefs and sub-chiefs (or councillors). The badge consisted of a flat ring in the centre of which is attached a shield bearing an enameled Union Jack.”
The Badge was made of enamel on bronze, and weighed 32.17 grams.
The Purpose of Badges
The badges were intended to lend status to the Chiefs and Councillors who had been instructed that they were to set a good example for the rest of the band and enforce the law. In fact, the badges were issued as a partial solution to the problems of the administration of justice in Treaty Nine territory.
Treaty Paymaster J. D. McLean reported that at Marten Falls, he “invested them with their badges which pleased them very much and gave them a more prominent standing in the opinion of their people.” 1
When the badges were first given out at Moose Factory in 1910, Treaty Paymaster McLean announced to the Chief that “he had very nice badges which the Government had sent to him and his councillors as a mark of distinction during their term of office.” 2
Paymaster McLean further explained that he would only give the badges to the people he deemed were conducting themselves properly and were providing a good example.
Because McLean had received a “bad report” about one of the councillors, he did not give him the badge, and removed him from office.
Similarly, at English River McLean refused to honour the Chief with a badge, since he had “proved himself to be unreliable and untruthful.” 3
Although the badges and flags were meant to give the Chiefs and Councillors distinction to better enable them to enforce the law, they did not provide actual law enforcement authority. Moreover, the First Nations were not accustomed to taking orders from a single leader like the newly created elected Chief.
Traditionally, because families lived in isolation for most of the year, there was no need for a single leader who would have authority over every family trading at a particular HBC post. Rather, when the various families met at certain times of the year, the several group leaders would discuss where each family or group of families would hunt, among other things.
Different leaders were chosen for different roles. The system of an elected Chief and Council introduced by the Treaty and the Indian Act was completely foreign. 4
Although department officials hoped that by enhancing the status of the elected Chief and Council they would be better able to enforce the law, this was not the case.
The production and sale of home brew (alcohol) was of particular concern, especially around Moose Factory. In 1906 violations of the liquor act were so numerous that the Paymaster recommended that notices be posted at Moose Factory and Albany warning of the consequences of selling beer.
In 1910, when confronted with disorderly conduct among members of the Moose Factory Band who were making their own beer, the Chief explained that the only way to prevent this behaviour was for the Department of Indian Affairs to employ a constable or a Justice of the Peace.
Requests for a police officer were also made at Wahgoshig. The Department’s rationale for not providing a constable was that the people were not yet settled down on the reserve.5
The following year, in 1911, unable to prevent the making of liquor, the Chief and Councillors at Moose Factory turned in their badges, saying that they had no real power to punish lawbreakers or to enforce the law. Paymaster McLean begged them to retain their positions for one more year, “in the hopes that the Government would take steps to enforce law and order being maintained among them.”
The Department of Indian Affairs, which is a Federal department, did not provide a policeman, since the administration of justice in the James Bay District was deemed a Provincial responsibility. Therefore, the problem of law enforcement remained, and clearly the badges provided by the Federal Government were not enough.