Regina museum showcasing Indigenous depiction of Treaty 4 negotiations

Saskatchewan's only First Nation account of Treaty 4 negotiations is on display at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum. The display showcases a two-panel illustration, made by Chief Paskwa in 1883, depicting the treaty negotiations and promises made by the Crown.

Chief Paskwa pictograph on display at Royal Saskatchewan Museum

A pictograph of the Treaty 4 negotiations, illustrated by Chief Paskwa. It is considered rare as it is the only depiction of the treaty negotiations from a First Nations perspective. (Royal Saskatchewan Museum)

A historic document is getting a modern showcase at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum.

On display is a two-panel graphite and ledger depiction of the Treaty 4 negotiations between the First Nations people of what is now southern Saskatchewan, and parts of Manitoba and Alberta, and the Crown, represented by then-Lt.-Gov. Alexander Morris.

The pictograph was drafted by Chief Paskwa in 1883, nine years after the signing of the treaty in 1874. 

It is the only document depicting Treaty 4 negotiations from an Indigenous perspective, Evelyn Siegfried, curator of Indigenous studies at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum, told CBC Radio's Blue Sky.

"It's priceless. It's very significant."

A social commentary

"It basically is a comment on what the treaty was about, items that were promised by Lt.-Gov. Morris on behalf of the British crown, and then what had been received by Treaty 4 peoples following the signing of the treaty," Siegfried said. 

This was like a social comment from the chief and his advisers about what was happening in Treaty 4.- Evelyn Siegfried, curator of Indigenous studies, Royal Saskatchewan Museum

The left side of the pictograph depicts the interpretation of the negotiations from the perspective of the Pasqua First Nation.

The right side shows the supplies promised in the treaty, such as agriculture tools and the outfits promised to the chief and headmen. 

"There were people in the First Nations who began to complain about what was happening with the treaties after they were signed," Siegfried said. 

"This was like a social comment from the chief and his advisers about what was happening in Treaty 4; what they were seeing."

How it got to the museum

During a powwow in the Qu'Appelle Valley in 1883, an English traveller named William Henry Barneby and two companions were visiting in the area, Siegfreid said.

Barneby was part of a small group of others that decided to drop by the event, where they met seven chiefs. Chief Paskwa was among them.

After a few hours, the group departed and continued visiting around the area, possibly looking for business, Siegfried said. Days later, Chief Paskwa approached Barneby and handed him the pictograph, Siegfried said, citing a section of Barneby's memoir.

She said the pictograph's original intent and expectation, according to oral history, was that it would go to the Queen. Instead, Barneby had it framed and hung it on the wall of his home in Bredenbury, a village in England. It stayed there until 2000, when Barneby's family put it up for auction.

An anonymous buyer purchased it, held it for seven years and then put it back on the market. It was then bought by the Pasqua First Nation, with the help of the Royal Saskatchewan Museum, the Saskatchewan government and other donors. 

With files from CBC Radio's Blue Sky