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Treaties and Land Claims

Cree lawyer says cows and plows settlements don’t reflect spirit of treaty clause

April 12, 2024

‘It didn’t just mean cows, plows, agriculture. It meant livelihood,’ says Deanne Kasokeo

Cows are pictured in a green field.
Under treaties 4,5,6 and 10, the Crown promised agricultural benefits — livestock and farming equipment — to the First Nations that signed. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

CBC Indigenous: A Saskatchewan-based lawyer says “cows and plows” settlements do not reflect the spirit and intent of treaties from an Indigenous perspective.

Under treaties 4,5,6 and 10, the Crown promised agricultural benefits — livestock and farming equipment — to the First Nations that signed. That promise went unfulfilled and many First Nations are negotiating settlements for compensation. 

Deanne Kasokeo from Poundmaker Cree Nation says Indigenous values and understanding of treaties need to be at the forefront of any negotiations with the Canadian government.

“It didn’t just mean cows, plows, agriculture,” said Kasokeo of the clause in question.

“It meant livelihood.”

Indigenous lawyer headshot
Deanne Kasokeo has being doing outreach with First Nations to discuss the agricultural benefit claim.(Submitted by Deanne Kasokeo)

Little Red River Cree Nation in Alberta settled its agricultural benefits claim in 2019. Kasokeo found the agreement online and decided to take a look with her lawyer glasses on. She said what she found worried her. 

“The release clause is the clause that you are releasing Canada now and forever from that date for future generations,” said Kaseoko.  

Kaseoko said First Nations people need to stand strong and assert their rights in these negotiations.

“That’s how they beat us, is with that paper,” said Kaseoko.

Talking about treaties

Manitoba’s Treaty Commissioner Loretta Ross said First Nations are cautious when it comes to the Crown addressing outstanding treaty obligations,

“For so long we haven’t talked about what does treaty mean … we’ve just kind of continued that the Crown has never lived up to treaty,” said Ross.

What is ‘cows and plows’?

WATCH |CBC Indigenous explains cows and plows: 

4 months ago, Duration 1:35

CBC Indigenous reporter Jennifer Francis simplifies what you need to know about this settlement. Plus, she debunks the myth that cows and plows eliminates your treaty rights.

Click on the following ink to view the video:

Ross said she’s happy people are talking about treaty and what that looks like today. 

“It’s hard sometimes to move people off the written text because it’s easy, I can read it and I can figure it out and interpret some of the provisions myself,” said Ross. 

She said the application appraises the treaty in the way that it itemizes livelihood. 

Different world views

Hans McCarthy, a member of Frog Lake Cree Nation in Alberta, said ‘no’ when his community discussed negotiating a claim.

“Indigenous people are always one way or somehow, getting the wrong side of the bargain and we’re always being taken advantage of,” said McCarthy.

To learn more, he turned to TikTok.

He said the Cree world view needs to reflected in negotiations because the treaty obligation was not meant to just be a one-time payment.

“We can’t just forget about our perspective, because that’s who we are as our people,” said McCarthy.

“We’ll accept this because you owe us it, but that’s not the end of it; you still owe us more of it because the treaty is supposed to be for as long as the sun shines, the grass grows and the rivers flow. We have to continue having these conversations.”


Janell Henry

Janell Henry is a proud member of the Roseau River Anishinabe First Nation. Before coming to CBC in September 2022, she worked in the arts sector at Urban Shaman Contemporary Aboriginal Art Gallery. She studied writing at University of Winnipeg and audio in media at the Mid-Ocean School of Media Arts. You can reach her at