Grades: 9-12

  • History of Western Canada
  • British North American Colonial History
  • Aboriginal History
Key Topics
  • Aboriginal Treaties
  • European-Aboriginal relations in the second half of the 19th Century
  • Primary and secondary source analysis

Author: Lindsay Gibson
Editors: Roland Case, John Lutz and Jenny Clayton
Historical Researcher: Jenny Clayton, PhD, Department of History, University of Victoria
Developed by: The Critical Thinking Consortium (TC2)

Were the Douglas Treaties and the Numbered Treaties Fairly Negotiated?

Step 1: Discuss the idea of fair bargaining

Invite students to think of a time when they bargained to purchase something. What conditions are required in order for us to say that the bargaining process was fair? Prompt a class or small group discussion by asking students to consider each of the following scenarios:

Is it fair bargaining if you make the deal but you . . .

  • know the object is worth more than the person is asking for it?
  • know the object is worth a fortune and the person is asking a tiny amount for it?
  • know the person is reluctantly selling the object because he needs the money?
  • threaten the person with harm or mischief if he doesn’t sell the object to you?
  • know the person is a bit confused about some of the details because she didn’t speak English well?
  • know that the person is grossly confused about the most basic aspects of the deal (for example, the person is very young and doesn’t understand the value of money or what it means to sell something)?
  • exaggerate slightly about the facts in an effort to negotiate a better price?
  • offer outright lies to trick the person (for example, you lie when you say that an expert valued the object at a $50 when the expert’s actual valuation was $300)?

Based on these discussions, invite students to agree on, add to or modify the following criteria for a fairly negotiated agreement:

  • Free authorized consent: Negotiations are fair only if one party is not unduly pressured by the other party to make a deal and that both parties have authority to enter into the agreement.
  • Reasonable value under the circumstances: Although one side may benefit more than another, especially if one party is desperate to sell, the value of the exchange must not be grossly lopsided from the outset in favour of one of the parties.
  • Fundamental understanding: Negotiations are unfair if one party suspects that the other party may be grossly confused or ill-informed about the terms the agreement, and does not make a sincere attempt to clarify the confusion.
  • No significant intentional deception: Negotiations are unfair if one party intentionally tries to deceive or trick the other party about very important matters in the agreement.
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