At the Root of the Relationship: the 1725 Treaty

To Europeans, the history of the lands around the Bay of Fundy in the 17th century and the first half of the 18th century was a contest between the imperial and colonial ambitions of Britain and France. To the Wabanaki peoples, they were a time of invasion, adaptation to social, economic, technological and political change. Wabanaki people became Catholic, though they kept powerful elements of their own spirituality. They became traders. They were drawn into the conflicts between the newcomers. Between these conflicts, the people and their leaders did what people everywhere do: they sought peace and happiness. They worked to find harmony with their neighbours.

The 1725 Treaty was made at Annapolis Royal, directly across the Bay of Fundy from Passamaquoddy Bay. It came in the wake of the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht between France and Britain. Peskotomuhkati, Maliseet, Mi’kmaq, Penobscot, and Norridgewock Chiefs worked out the terms with Major Paul Mascarene, who had been specifically commissioned by the Governor of Massachusetts to make the Treaty.

The Treaty did more than confirm a relationship of peace and friendship. It consists of two main documents – a Treaty signed June 4, 1726, and an earlier document, agreed upon December 16, 1725 – and other documents and instructions. The documents clarify that the Crown and the Wabanaki nations had agreed that two very different ways of life would continue and coexist in the same land.

… the Indians shall not molest any of His Majestys Subjects or their Dependants in their Settlements already made, or Lawfully to be made or in their carrying on their trade & other affairs within the said Province … (June 4, 1726)

I do on behalf of His Majesty’s Said Governour and Government of Nova Scotia or Accadie promise the said Tribes all marks of favour protection and friendship and further Ingage and promise in behalf of the said Government That the Indians shall not be molested in their persons, Hunting, Fishing and Planting Grounds nor in any other their Lawfull Occassions by His Majesty’s Subjects or their Dependants ... (December 16, 1725) 1

The 1725 Treaty intended that the British would live in permanent settlements, with economies based on agriculture, fishing and industry. It saw the Wabanaki peoples continuing their annual rounds, leaving their light footprints on the land as they used their territories extensively rather than intensively. Each people could benefit from the other’s products and trade. There was room for all without conflict.

  1. Andrea Bear Nicholas, the revered historian of the Maliseet Nation, was responsible for locating and encouraging the use of “Mascarene’s Treaty,” which until the mid-1980s had been ignored or rejected by Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. See Andrea Bear Nicholas, Mascarene’s Treaty of 1725, New Brunswick Law Journal 43:3-43, and also R.v. Paul and Paul, (1987) 80 NBR (2d) 1 (NBQB).