A Treaty Guide for Torontonians

About the Book

Copies of A Treaty Guide for Torontonians are available through Art Metropole

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Kwe, She:kon, and Aaniin, We – Ange Loft, Victoria Freeman, Martha Stiegman, and Jill Carter – welcome you to A Treaty Guide for Torontonians.

Like many people now living in the city of Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), Ange, Victoria, and Martha are not originally from this territory, having arrived in the city as adults. Ange came in 2008 from the Kanien’keh.:ka/ Mohawk Territory of Kahnaw.:ke, near Montreal. Victoria and Martha are white settler residents of the city. Victoria first arrived in 1973 from Ottawa, though some of her ancestors lived in the city from the mid-nineteenth century. Martha arrived in 2014 from Mi’kma’ki, or so-called Nova Scotia. Jill Carter (Anishinaabe-Ashkenazi) was born and fostered in this city and now bases her artistic practice here.

We came together to write this book because, as Torontonians, we were trying to understand our own relationship to this land and the people who are indigenous to this particular place. We have each spent many years engaging with and learning about treaty relations. We wanted to bring our perspectives into conversation to deepen our understandings of the agreements that underpin relationships between our peoples here – as well as the responsibilities these relationships entail for all Torontonians, Indigenous and non-Indigenous.

In 2015, members of First Story Toronto and Jumblies Theatre’s Talking Treaties interviewed key members of the Mississaugas of the Credit about the 1787 Toronto Purchase and 2010 Toronto Purchase specific claims settlement. We also interviewed historical researchers, Indigenous community leaders, artists, and former mayor David Miller. These interviews sparked a series of arts-based and community-engaged Talking Treaties projects -- workshops, performances, installations, films, and publications -- produced by both Jumblies and the Toronto Biennial of Art, with many other partners and contributors.

A Treaty Guide for Torontonians is the latest iteration of The Talking Treaties project and draws on years of questions, research, and discussion with Indigenous and non-Indigenous scholars, treaty historians, Elders, artists, community leaders, and Toronto residents.

We have been greatly aided by Anishinaabe historian Al Corbiere, who shared his deep knowledge of Wampum and treaty history, and by feedback and contributions from: Darin Wybenga, Traditional Knowledge and land-use coordinator of the Mississaugas of the Credit; Tuscarora historian Rick Hill of Six Nations; treaty historian Alison Norman; legal scholar Kent McNeil; and Jean Philippe Thivierge, research officer for the Huron-Wendat Nation. We have learned so much from them – but ultimately, our interpretations and errors are our own.

Toronto’s Indigenous history is deep and complex. Several nations have ties of various kinds to this territory and offer understandings of agreements that at times conflict. We do not avoid these differences or attempt to resolve them but acknowledge – with respect – diverse and sometimes competing relationships to this place.

We have come to see that there is not just one treaty for this area but layers of treaties and agreements that call on different relationships, obligations, and responsibilities. In this book, we explore each of these layers in depth and in chronological sequence, recognizing that they all have relevance for treaty relations today.

Toronto’s Indigenous and treaty history has also been widely erased. Settler colonialism, missionization, and state-sponsored schools (both residential and day schools) are largely responsible for the disrupted memories and Oral Traditions of Indigenous nations, while settlers and their children have rarely been educated about treaties. The biased and incomplete written records of the colonizing British make reconstructing Toronto’s treaty history a challenge.

On one level, uncovering the truth about treaties is historical detective work. We have no full records of all the discussions and promises made at various Treaty Councils or of how they were understood by all parties or all the factors that led to the terms of a particular agreement and its acceptance, whether grudging or enthusiastic. Were there translation issues or ulterior motives? Did the signatories have the backing of their people? Was there due process? Deceit? Sometimes the records are remarkably frank; in other cases, we’ll never know. To understand our treaty relations, we need to consider much more than the words recorded in treaty texts or Council minutes; we also need to understand treaties through the eyes (and languages) of the Indigenous partners – and that is the primary focus of this book. Wampum Belts and the Oral Tradition they hold are key to doing this.

For all these reasons, we call this book A Treaty Guide for Torontonians, not THE Treaty Guide for Torontonians. It’s certainly not definitive – there will be other interpretations and new sources of information that may emerge tomorrow. But we have spent several years deeply considering what it means to live here and offer you what we have gleaned so far. There are, obviously, many other perspectives to consider, beginning with the Indigenous nations of this region – especially the Mississaugas of the Credit and the Six Nations of the Grand River – who could each write a whole book offering in-depth understanding of their perspective and historical experience of local treaty relationships, something we simply cannot do full justice to. We encourage others to add their voices to treaty education in Toronto, including Black residents, other racialized people, and today’s refugees and immigrants who want to understand the city that is now their home – we cannot speak for you.

A Treaty Guide for Torontonians is also a land acknowledgement. The land is where we start from and what gives every human and other beings life. It is the grounding of Indigenous cultures and of the relationship between our peoples. As we track the struggle for domination, title, and jurisdiction over the region, Jill and Ange offer land-based theatrical activations and activity prompts that will return your thoughts to today, regrounding the story in contemporary Indigenous awareness. We also engage with a series of selected texts from colonial officials – undoubtedly containing dated language and offensive perspectives – to parse the cultural attitudes of the times.

What we have learned is that a treaty is far more than a treaty text – or even a single Wampum Belt. Many Indigenous People have told us that a treaty is a living document, something that continues to grow and evolve as circumstances change. As Rick Hill says, “If the principles are deeply held, then minor adjustments can be made to renew the relationship. But the desire to continue that relationship as equal partners must be there. Without the commitment to the principles of the relationship, words and Wampum become meaningless except to reveal what might have been true in the past.”

We provide very few answers about how to be a good treaty partner in the present – we can’t tell you what to do. We do offer some means to artfully consider the treachery, heartbreak, absurdity, and promise in our treaty history and relationships. Art director Ange Loft, illustrators Kaia’tan.:ron Dumoulin Bush, Karis Jones- Pard, Alaska B and graphic designer Sébastien Aubin have created the book’s visual style, which draws on the imagery of past Talking Treaties productions to convey the interpenetration of past and present, Wampum symbolism, and contemporary artistic imagination, in ironic and sometimes humorous juxtaposition. We hope our book will be an engaging and imaginative introduction to this history and spark your own discoveries, thinking, conversation, and action – guided by your own areas of interest. We hope A Treaty Guide for Torontonians will help all of us address what treaties mean for relations between our peoples in the present and for the future.

Acknowledgements and Credits

The authors have many people to thank. A Treaty Guide for Torontonians would not exist without the visionary support of Ruth Howard, artistic director of Jumblies Theatre + Arts, Ilana Shamoon, deputy director and director of programs for the Toronto Biennial of Art, and Jonathan Middleton, Executive Director of Art Metropole. The assistance of Sam Egan, Clare Butcher, Candice Hopkins, and other Biennial and Jumblies staff has also been crucial, as has the support of York University’s Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change. Jeff Baillargeon, Jaskeerat Signh and Tara Chandron, our meticulous research assistants, have been lifesavers.

We would like to thank the hundreds of Talking Treaties workshop participants from 2015 to 2022, whose visual and poetic contributions and theatrical improvisations have informed the treaty guide, particularly its activities. Illustrations in the treaty guide include imagery from Jumblies Theatre + Arts’ contribution to the 2019 Toronto Biennial of Art, and the 2017–18 Talking Treaties Spectacle at Historic Fort York, marking a continuum of learning and interconnectivity of our community arts–derived output. We would also like to thank Julia Hune-Brown, Rosina Kazi, Lilia Leon, Brian MacLean, Zachary Smith, Mindy Sticke, and Jesse Thistle for their roles as Talking Treaties/First Story interviewers in 2015. We are indebted to our interviewees: Carolyn King, Max King, Bryan Laforme, Stacey Laforme, Garry Sault, Margaret Sault, and Darin Wybenga, all of New Credit, and Keith Jamieson, Hayden King, Bonita Lawrence, David Miller, Duke Redbird, Ed Sackanay, Rebeka Tabobondung, Nathan Tidridge, Andrew Wesley, and the late Lee Maracle. These interviews formed the foundation for our learning. We are also indebted to Alan Corbiere, Rick Hill, Kent McNeil, Alison Norman, Jean Philippe Thivierge, and Darin Wybenga for their contributions, including comments on the text, and we would also like to thank John Borrows and Jay Cassel.

Project Team:

Talking Treaties Project Lead: Ange Loft, Associate Artistic Director, Jumblies Theatre + Arts

Project Coordination: Victoria Freeman, Ange Loft

Writing and Research: Victoria Freeman, Martha Stiegman, Ange Loft

Activity Creation: Ange Loft, Jill Carter

Research Assistance: Jeff Baillargeon, Tara Chandran, Jaskeerat Singh

Art Direction/Design: Ange Loft

Illustration: Kaia’tan.:ron Dumoulin Bush and Karis Jones- Pard

Graphic Design: Sébastien Aubin

Web Design: Ali S. Qadeer

Copy Editing: Lesley Erickson

Website Development/Coordination: Martha Stiegman

Polishing the Chain Seminar Series Development/ Coordination: Martha Stiegman

Jumblies Theatre + Arts, the Toronto Biennial of Art, and the authors gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the Canada Council for the Arts, the Toronto Arts Council, the Ontario Arts Council, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, York University’s Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change, York University’s Indigenous Teaching and Learning Fund, and the City of Toronto for the creation and publishing of the book A Treaty Guide for Torontonians and the creation of this website.

Creator Bios

Ange Loft is an interdisciplinary performing artist and initiator from Kahnaw.:ke Kanien’keh.:ka Territory, working in Tsi Tkar.n:to. She is an ardent collaborator, consultant, and facilitator working in arts-based research, wearable sculpture, theatrical cocreation, and Haudenosaunee history. She is a vocalist with the music collective Yamantaka // Sonic Titan.

Victoria Freeman is an author, historian, theatre cocreator, and educator of British settler heritage. Her work focuses on Indigenous-settler relations and the Indigenous and colonial past of Toronto. She has collaborated on numerous community projects, including with Jumblies Theatre, First Story Toronto, Toronto Council Fire Native Cultural Centre, and L’Arche Toronto Sol Express.

Martha Stiegman is Assistant Professor of white settler ancestry in the Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change at York University. Her community-based research and collaborative video work examine Indigenous-settler treaty relations in their historical and contemporary manifestations, with particular attention to food sovereignty and justice as well as participatory and visual research methodologies.

Jill Carter is an Anishinaabe-Ashkenazi theatre practitioner, researcher, and educator at the University of Toronto. Based in Tkaron:to, where she was born and largely raised, she is an active member of the Talking Treaties Collective, serves as researcher and tour guide for First Story Toronto, and devises land activations, mapping interventions, and personal cosmography workshops.

Kaia’tanó:ron Dumoulin Bush is an Onkwehonwe-French Canadian illustrator and arts educator from Oshahrh.:’on/ Chateauguay, Quebec. She holds a BFA in Indigenous visual culture from OCAD University and has diplomas in fine arts and illustration and design from Montreal’s Dawson College. She currently teaches drawing to young Kahnaw.ker.:non enrolled in the Encore! Sistema program.

Karis Jones-Pard (Moakpi’ksiiakkii) is a Native, two-spirit, gender-fluid queer artist based in Toronto. They desire to create and offer art making as a form of self-care and boundaryless expression and want to dismantle the idea that art must be perfect/profitable/for production.