By These Presents: “Purchasing” Toronto (2019)
By These Presents: “Purchasing” Toronto (2019, 30min) is an absurdist examination of the Toronto ‘Purchase’, a controversial treaty between the British and Mississaugas covering much of modern-day Toronto. Organized in three acts, By These Presents uses dance, large-scale puppetry, and humour to chronicle the opening chapter of the city’s colonial history. Originally commissioned by theToronto Biennial of Art as a three-channel video installation, By These Presents in available in its original form, and as a 30min film available through Vtape. The first act is available as a 10min stand-alone piece.
Shot at historic Fort York, and along the contentious boundaries of the ‘Purchase’, By These Presents: “Purchasing” Toronto features an all-Indigenous cast whose visceral performance collapse past and present, revealing the city’s colonial foundations.
The plot centres on the treaty negotiations of 1805, where British officials covertly extended the boundaries of the Toronto Purchase lands beyond those allegedly sold in a poorly documented meeting in 1787. A group of Mississauga negotiators - with back up from a 5-foot beaver - confront the Queen’s representative, demanding that he justify the Crown’s unscrupulous dealings. With a script drawing from the original treaty council minutes, Mississauga petitions to the Crown, correspondence between colonial officials, and interviews with Indigenous knowledge keepers, By These Presents reveals the calculus the British employed to diminish the Mississaugas, divide them from their Haudenosaunee allies, and acquire their lands at rock-bottom prices.
By These Presents is the history lesson you wish you’d been given in school. But the film leaves Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples who want to honour treaties with more questions than answers; how do we “honour” a dishonourable agreement?
By These Presents was first presented at the 2019 Toronto Biennial of Art as part of a site-specific installation on Etobicoke Creek. The creek, which has never been ceded, marks the disputed boundary of the 1787 Toronto Purchase and the 1805 Head of the Lake cession (treaties 13 and 14 respectively). It is now subject to a water claim by the Mississaugas of the Credit.
Director: Ange Loft
Co-director: Martha Stiegman
Researcher: Victoria Freeman
Writers: Ange Loft & Victoria Freeman
Producer: Jumblies Theatre & Arts
Director of Photography: Shannon Harris
Editor: Amy Siegel
Assistant Editor: Adrienne Marcus Raja
Sound Design, Edit & Mix: Alaska B
Original Music: Alaska B, Melody McKiver, Rosary Spence, Brandon Valdivia, Martin van de Ven, featuring Vania Chan (soprano) and the Gather Round Singers, conducted by Shifra Cooper
Britannia: Theresa Cutknife
Crown Representative: Jesse Wabegijig
The One Who Knows the Rules: Pesch Nepoose
The One Who Remembers: Kitsuné Soleil
Grown Woman/Negotiator: Jill Carter
Young Woman: Ashley Riley
Grown Man: Jamie Oshkabewisens
Young Man: Brendan Austin Loonskin
Special thanks to the Indigenous knowledge keepers and others who offered insight and historical research, including:
Keith Jamieson, Carolyn King, Hayden King, Max King, Bryan Laforme, Stacey Laforme, Bonita Lawrence, Lee Maracle, David Miller, Duke Redbird, Brian MacLean, Ed Sackanay, Garry Sault, Margaret Sault, Zachary Smith, Rebeka Tabobodung, Jesse Thistle, Nathan Tidridge, Andrew Wesley, Darin Wybenga.
Produced with support from:
Toronto Biennial of Art, Government of Canada, Canada Council of the Arts, Ontario Arts Council & Toronto Arts Council