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Pop-up exhibit explores how Canada was shaped by negotiation

Photo of Professor Heidi Bohaker; students Michael Borsk, Lauren Catterson, Stephanie Da Sousa and Mohamed Ugas; Professor Laurie Bertram and James Bird standing in front of the panels

L-R: Professor Heidi Bohaker; students Michael Borsk, Lauren Catterson, Stephanie Da Sousa and Mohamed Ugas; Professor Laurie Bertram and James Bird. Photo: Diana Tyszko.

The Canada By Treaty: Negotiating Histories exhibit tells the story of how Canada was shaped not by conquest, but by negotiation.

Currently on public display at Hart House, the exhibit invites viewers to explore treaties — the legal agreements with Indigenous peoples — that allowed non-Indigenous people to live on, and own land in what is now Canada.

Produced as a direct response to one of the “calls to action” outlined in Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) final report, the exhibit seeks to educate Canadians on the key role of treaties in Canadian history.

“Our exhibit responds to call to action number 94, which changes part of the Oath of Citizenship to ‘I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada including Treaties with Indigenous Peoples,’” said co-curator Heidi Bohaker of the Department of History in the Faculty of Arts & Science. “We asked ourselves how this could be possible unless Canadians new and old learned more about what treaties are, and why and how they made Canada.”

Photo of the panels in Hart House

Using a blend of maps, paintings, accessible text and archival photographs, the display tells the long history of treaty-making, and how and why these agreements were essential to the foundation of modern Canada. Photo: Diana Tyszko.

The truth is that Canada is a negotiated place. By acknowledging ourselves as treaty people — and then by acting on that acknowledgment — we become rooted in this place and begin to understand our responsibility towards the land, each other and our ongoing treaty relationships.”

David Cameron, dean of the Faculty of Arts & Science, added: “Indigenous peoples have remained effectively invisible for far too long. Genuine reconciliation is a long-game that will require great persistence and commitment, but I think we are all hopeful that we are at a real turning point.”

Using a blend of maps, paintings, accessible text and archival photographs, the 24-panel display tells the long history of treaty-making, and how and why these agreements were essential to the foundation of modern Canada.

Words to Form, James Bird’s vision for an architectural monument dedicated to the findings of the TRC was also unveiled at the launch of the Canada By Treaty exhibit. Photo: Diana Tyszko.

Co-curated by history professor Laurie Bertram and James Bird, a mature undergraduate Indigenous student, the exhibit draws on content created by students in Bohaker’s joint fourth-year undergraduate /graduate research seminar course, Canada by Treaty: Alliances, Title Transfers and Land Claims.

In addition to learning about the broad history of treaties in Canada, each student selected one treaty to research from the many that have been settled since Samuel de Champlain first arrived in the early 1600s.

The exhibit will be on display in Hart House’s Map Room until May 26. From there, it will travel to University College and Sidney Smith Hall over the summer months and then to other locations across all three University of Toronto campuses. See the full exhibit schedule on the Department of History website.

Sponsors of Canada By Treaty include the Jackman Humanities Institute, Canada 150, Ontario 150 as well as University College, Hart House, the Centre for Indigenous Studies, University of Toronto Libraries and the Jesuits of English speaking Canada.

Download Treaty Maps:

The Treaty Maps printed on the exhibit may be downloaded here and used without permission for non-profit and educational purposes, including other websites

Map showing overlaid: Canada’s Historic Treaties, Contemporary Agreements (made after 1973) and locations of Canada’s Existing First Nations Communities. Download PDF.

Map showing the boundaries of Treaties and the University of Toronto campuses. Download PDF.

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Maps produced by GIS and Cartography Office, Department of Geography, University of Toronto for the exhibit Canada By Treaty: Negotiating Histories, co-curated by  Heidi Bohaker, James Bird and Laurie Bertram. ©2017.