...It is further agreed between Her Majesty and the said Indians, that the following articles shall be supplied to any Band of the said Indians who are now cultivating the soil, or who shall hereafter commence to cultivate the land, that is to say: Four hoes for every family actually cultivating; also, two spades per family as aforesaid: one plough for every three families, as aforesaid; one harrow for every three families, as aforesaid; two scythes and one whetstone, and two hay forks and two reaping hooks, for every family as aforesaid, and also two axes; and also one cross-cut saw, one hand-saw, one pit-saw, the necessary files, one grindstone and one auger for each Band; and also for each Chief for the use of his Band, one chest of ordinary carpenter's tools; also, for each Band, enough of wheat, barley, potatoes and oats to plant the land actually broken up for cultivation by such Band; also for each Band four oxen, one bull and six cows; also, one boar and two sows, and one hand-mill when any Band shall raise sufficient grain therefor. All the aforesaid articles to be given once and for all for the encouragement of the practice of agriculture among the Indians…..
The text of Treaty 6, above, describes how Treaty 6 peoples were entrusted with not only stewardship of the land, but harvesting of the land. A literal interpretation of the first sentence would dictate that any party to the Treaty 6 agreement (any Treaty 6 person) who either already farmed at the time of the treaty, or began to farm thereafter, would have an opportunity to access the various supplies and livestock listed. The provision dictates that the supplies would be entrusted to the Band, and that the Band would distribute them as necessary. Logic would dictate that if this treaty promise were kept, we would likely see many Indigenous farmers here in Alberta in 2018. But this is not the case. And even if there were claims to the federal government, asking it to uphold this promise, what would be distributed -- cows?
The latter is a question of treaty interpretation. It appears that it would not in fact be literal cows that would be distributed. But, this is an interesting theoretical concept regarding treaties’ interpretation. In a research report from 1985, the author notes that “the specific items of farming assistance and the medicine chest are, in this writer's opinion, clearly out-dated now. Are these terms of Treaty Six mere anachronisms designed to meet a need in the nineteenth century, but of no continuing significance?”
Additionally, another author goes further to state that:
[A] cause of controversy is the native claim that treaty clauses should be interpreted in the light of changing conditions….a century ago, ploughs, harrows, and oxen were standard agricultural equipment; today their equivalents are combines, tractors, one-way discs, and the like. If other bands, and there are some still eligible, should sign treaties, should the government offer them hoes and reaping hooks to establish their farms? 
Similar promises, of “plows and cows” as they are commonly referred to, were made by the federal government in Treaty 8 territory, and Treaty 8 peoples have made claims to the government over the breaking of this promise. Some of these claims have been settled by the federal government, resulting not in physical cows and plows, but cash equivalents of the cost it would take to start a small farm -- a “farming starter package.” 
I would argue that the weight and significance of the promise endures its arguable usefulness or convenience in today’s day and age -- that is to say, that the treaty provision still matters, even though having access to farming equipment and livestock perhaps presented a more significant opportunity at the time when the promise was made. The fact that the government agreed to provide agricultural equipment and opportunity and failed to do so, is significant.
Would repaying this debt with livestock be appropriate? No. But money is only money, and full repayment of a broken treaty promise should not only include the a) repayment of the value of the promise and b) assistance to put that promise into action, if desired by the people. (Perhaps in this case, repayment could include not only the monetary farmer starter package, but some sort of farming training program? Let us know what you think in the comments.)
Money is not enough to satisfy promises that have been broken for over 100 years.
Until next time,
Team ReconciliAction YEG
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 Treaty 6, online: <www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/eng/1100100028710/1100100028783>.
 John Leonard Taylor, “Treaty Research Report, Treaty 6” (1985), Treaties and Historical Research Centre, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada.
 John W. Chalmers, “Treaty No. Six,” Alberta History (Spring 1977), p 27.
 “Federal government begins to make good on 100-year-old promise to Treaty 8 First Nations”, CBC News (28 Sep 2017), online: <www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/treaty-8-agricultural-benefits-1.4312053>.
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