Witnessing and Unwitnessing Ontario’s Treaties

This post was originally published on ActiveHistory.ca

Last week was the second annual Treaty Recognition Week in Ontario. Organized by the provincial government, this is a time for Ontarians to acknowledge and learn about the treaties upon which the province was developed. This year, Ontario’s Ministry of Education announced that Indigenous history and culture would become part of the K-12 curriculum by fall 2018.

A Wampum Belt Marking the 1764 Treaty of Niagara

In southern Ontario, treaty recognition is sorely needed. Here, the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth-century treaties that enabled settlement on Indigenous lands remain poorly understood. Though individual First Nations, the Union of Ontario Indians, and the provincial and federal government all provide basic information about these treaties on their websites, most of these initiatives are relatively recent. From a comparative perspective, there are no parallel in-depth studies to the relatively vast literature on treaties elsewhere in Canada.[1] The most comprehensive resource that I have found remains Robert Surtees’s 1984 Land Surrenders in Ontario in addition to a handful of academic journal articles, doctoral dissertations and more local studies.[2]

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