Remembering the Toronto Purchase and its Settlement: June 8: Snapshots in History
Note: This article includes historical materials from the collections of Toronto Public Library. Who tells the story, and how the story is told creates tensions when trying to present content written by settlers about Indigenous people. These materials can reflect offensive historic attitudes, and in some cases, were created by individuals directly involved in acts of cultural genocide committed against Indigenous peoples. These materials are included as part of TPL’s commitment to the 69th Call to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, which recognizes the inalienable right of Indigenous peoples to know the truth of what happened and why.
On June 8 and beyond, take a moment to reflect upon the disputed Toronto Purchase of 1787 and its eventual compensatory settlement reached on June 8, 2010 between the Government of Canada and the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation, an Anishinaabe-speaking Mississauga Ojibwa First Nation located on an Indigenous reserve (2,392.6 hectares in area) near the Six Nations of the Grand River in Brantford, Ontario. (Note: Since this blog post was originally written, this First Nation underwent a name change and is now referred to as the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation.)
The Toronto Purchase involved the surrendering of lands in the Toronto area from the Mississaugas of The New Credit to the British Crown. After a time period exceeding 200 years, the Government of Canada agreed on June 8, 2010, to compensate the Mississaugas of The New Credit in the amount of $145 million in order to settle the Toronto Purchase Specific Claim, following a strong ratification vote by the Mississaugas of The New Credit in late May 2010. Most of the money was put in trust, but each adult band member received a $20,000 payout. (At the time of the announcement, Chief Bryan Laforme reported that some of the money would be earmarked for affordable housing and clean water.) The Mississaugas of The New Credit originally filed the Toronto Purchase Specific Claim in 1986. Review the background document Toronto Purchase Specific Claim: Arriving at an Agreement (PDF), published by the Mississaugas of The New Credit in the early 2000s, emphasizing their community vision statement “striving to achieve a ‘united, thriving self-sufficient and self-determining Anishnabek community.’”
On September 23, 1787, the British Crown (represented by Deputy Surveyor-General John Collins under the auspices of Governor-General Lord Dorchester) agreed to purchase 250,880 acres (101,527.5 hectares) of land from the Mississaugas of The New Credit (represented by three Chiefs) that comprises present day York Region and most of the City of Toronto (with Lake Ontario as the southern border, Etobicoke Creek and Highway 27 as the approximate western boundary, Ashbridge’s Bay, Woodbine Avenue, and Highway 404 as the approximate eastern border, and Sideroad 15 and Bloomington Road as the approximate northern boundary). The price was 10 shillings (roughly $60 value in 2010), 2,000 gun flints, 24 brass kettles, 120 mirrors, 24 laced hats, a bale of flowered flannel, and 96 gallons of rum. (Another piece of land in current day Mississauga was purchased for the same amount.) There was a difference in interpretation as to what had actually transpired. The British thought that they had “bought” the land but the Indigenous interpretation, as outlined by Douglas Laforme in his June 7, 2017 article on the Torontoist, was that “(o)ur understanding in 1787 was that this land was to be made freely available to the settlers, that these ‘gifts’ would be given in perpetuity, and that no one, in fact, can own the earth…”
The Government of Canada, in a September 7, 2007 news release, acknowledged that “(t)hrough the 1805 transactions, the Mississaugas surrendered much of what is now metropolitan Toronto. Negotiators for the parties will work towards an agreement on what constitutes fair compensation for the losses to the First Nation as a result of the 1805 Toronto Purchase. The current ownership of that land is not in question and is not at issue in this claim…”
One can review the text of the 1805 indenture (revision) of the 1787 Toronto Purchase (both listed as Crown Treaty Number 13) on the Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada website. However, the Mississaugas of The New Credit also claimed the Toronto Islands (which was not included in the agreement as the agreement only extended to the Lake Ontario shoreline). Nonetheless, the British claimed that they had bought twice as much territory as had been agreed to in 1787. Ten shillings were paid out as part of the 1805 indenture as a sign of good faith towards the Chiefs present at the 1805 negotiations.
Consider the following items for borrowing from Toronto Public Library collections:
Mississauga Portraits: Ojibwe Voices from Nineteenth-Century Canada by Donald B. Smith
Consider reviewing the following items from Toronto Public Library's Digital Archive:
Edit: Note added to start of post. January 12, 2022.