Yellowhead Logo Red

COVID-19, the Numbered Treaties & the Politics of Life

COVID-19 and Treaties Report Cover

In many Crown-First Nation treaties, and specifically the Numbered Treaties, there is reference to health care provisions. 

Referred to as a medicine chest in some cases or aid in others, this provision appears in written and oral versions of treaties.

Why then, is it absent in the conversations around the COVID-19 pandemic and First Nations, when it is needed most? This contemporary moment in Canadian time reveals much about the interpretation of treaties and how that interpretation (or mal-interpretation) matters in material ways to First Nations.

In this Yellowhead Special Report, Gina Starblanket and Dallas Hunt consider how healthcare is represented in the Numbered Treaty discussions at the time of treaty-making and into the present, illustrating contrasting visions of our collective relationship and the consequences. But in this study there is also guidance for the future of that relationship, one rooted in mutual support and a politics of life.


Why are health care provisions, protected in many numbered treaties, absent in the conversations around the COVID-19 pandemic when it is needed most? How does the mal-interpretation of treaties affect First Nations in material ways today?



An Annotated Guide to the (Mal)Interpretation of Confederation Era Treaties in Canada

This annotation of a Numbered Treaty reveals the difference in expectations between settlers and First Nations, and the violences that have accompanied the enforcement of a very narrow interpretation of treaties. This narrow interpretation excludes First Nation perspectives but endures into contemporary policy and law.

At such an important time in our shared history, treaty can help us re-imagine new and healthy forms of relationships, new possibilities.


Gina Starblanket

Gina Starblanket

Star Blanket Cree Nation


Dallas Hunt Headshot

Dallas Hunt

Cree, Wapsewsipi


Joi Arcand Headshot

Joi Arcand

nehiyaw, Muskeg Lake Cree Nation