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Indigenous Legal Research



The British extended its sovereignty in Canada in the 18th century. In doing so, it did not deny the legal rights of the Canadian Aboriginal peoples to continue to occupy their traditional lands. A royal proclamation of 1763 expressly reserved to Aboriginal peoples as their hunting grounds such parts of British territories that had not been ceded to or purchased by the British. The proclamation also recognised that where Aboriginal lands were to be settled, they had to be purchased by agreement with the Crown. During the 18th century through to the early twentieth century, Aboriginal peoples entered into treaties that ceded large tracts of lands in return for reserve lands and other benefits. Much of Canada's land mass is covered by treaties. Currently, there are approximately 70 recognised treaties that form the basis of the relationship between 364 First Nations and the Crown.

See more information on the on the Treaties and Agreements website of the Canadian Government's Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada website:


The Treaty Texts page of the Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada website contains the full text of many of the concluded treaties, dating from the mid 1700's to the early 1900's. This collection is listed by Treaty.

Library and Archives Canada holds an extensive, but not complete, collection of historic Canadian Indian treaties, land surrenders, and related agreements between the Crown and First Nations. There are currently 524 documents in a searchable database. This collection is searchable only - it cannot be browsed.
Comprehensive Land Claims - these claims arise in areas of Canada where Aboriginal land rights have not been dealt with by past treaties or through other legal means. In these areas, modern treaties are negotiated between the Aboriginal group, Canada and the province or territory. These treaties are implemented through legislation and remain the most comprehensive way of addressing Aboriginal rights and title and achieving certainty about the ownership, use and management of land and resources. Some treaties also include provisions relating to Aboriginal self-government. The rights set out in the treaties receive constitutional protection.
Specific Claims - these are claims for compensation for past grievances of First Nations related to Canada's obligations under historic treaties or the way it managed First Nations' funds or other assets. These claims do not always involve land. Specific claims that cannot be resolved by negotiation are heard in the the Specific Claims Tribunal.
For more detail on specific claims, see the following book: