Treaties Recognition Week 2020: Recommended Watching and Reading

October 30, 2020 | Jamie

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Treaties Recognition Week began in 2016, as a way to show continued relevance of treaties in our lives. It is the first week in November each year.

Much of Canada exists under treaty agreements for shared use of the land between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. Treaties "define ongoing rights and obligations" for everyone who lives in Canada.

The first treaty signed in what is now known as Canada was in 1701, between Indigenous Communities and the British Crown. It was for the British Colonies of North America. The first treaty signing with the Canadian Government was in 1871. The most recent treaty signing in Canadian history (PDF) was between the Cree Nation and the Canadian Government in 2018.

Treaties uphold Indigenous rights to land, resources, water, health care, education and much more. At times, Canada has not upheld their end of these agreements. But Indigenous peoples continue to uphold their end of the agreement.

These treaties, signed by previous and current governments, include everyone who lives in Canada. Everyone is responsible to uphold treaty rights.

At Toronto Public Library, we recognize local treaties through land acknowledgement statements. We share these statements at the start of events and meetings. We have three statements because Toronto Public Library has 100 branches located across a wide geographic area. Each branch page has the land acknowledgement statement for that branch. Take a look at your local branch statement. You can also find out more about TPL's land acknowledgement statements on our Land Acknowledgement Statements FAQ page.

Interested in learning more about treaties specific to Toronto? We will be hosting Talking Treaties in Tkaronto on Crowdcast on November 5. Register now to save your spot and get an event reminder. Presented by Ange Loft (Kanienehaka) of Jumblies Theatre, this event will focus on treaties specific to the area now known as Toronto. You can also tune in right at 6 pm. An event replay will be available to watch online after the event.


Want to learn more about treaties in Canada? Here are some books and documentaries in our collection to learn more. We encourage you to learn more about these lands and the communities whom they belong to.

Please note that if a resource is by an Indigenous person, their nation is in brackets next to their name, where possible. Descriptions of these documentaries and books are based on descriptions from the creators.


Trick or Treaty directed by Alanis Obomsawin

Trick or Treaty?, directed by Alanis Obomsawin (Odanak) and Annette Clarke

This documentary follows Indigenous leaders seeking justice in negotiations with the Canadian Government. By tracing the history of their ancestors since the signing of Treaty No. 9, they aim to raise awareness about key issues to First Nations in Canada.

This film is also available to stream for free on the National Film Board of Canada's website.

Is the Crown At War With Us? By Alanis Obomsawin (Odanak)

In the summer of 2000, federal fishery officers clashed with Mi'gmaq fishermen in Burnt Church, New Brunswick. Why would Canadian Government Officials attack the Mi'gmaq for exercising their treaty rights?


Nisga'a Dancing in Both Worlds by John Bassett, Rosalind Farber and Annette Shaffer

This documentary follows the Nisga'a beginning in 2003, "to document their history, their struggle, and life since the signing of the Nisga'a treaty in May 2000."

Besides borrowing a DVD or using Kanopy, you can also watch this documentary on YouTube.



We Are All Treaty People by Maurice Switzer

We Are All ...: Treaty People by Maurice Switzer (Anishinabek and Haudenosaunee), illustrated by Charley Hebert (Anishinabek)

"This book gives the history of the culture, values, co-existence, Seven Years War, treaties, Oka, and present day events."

Two Families - Treaties and Government by Harold Johnson

Two Families: Treaties and Government by Harold Johnson (Cree)

First Nations Elders saw treaties as a way to give Europeans the right to settle, share resources and build an equal relationship with Indigenous communities. They did not intend to give Europeans the means to legislate every aspect of Indigenous lives. Johnson provides an easy-to-read definition of treaties and what they represent.

Breathing Life into the Stone Fort Treaty - An Anishinabe Understanding of Treaty One by Aimée Craft

Breathing Lift into the Stone Fort Treaty: An Anishinabe Understanding of Treaty One by Aimée Craft (Anishinabe-Métis)

"In order to interpret and implement a treaty ... we must look to its spirit and intent, especially for both parties at the time" of treaty negotiation. Craft shows how Anishinabe laws (inaakonigewin) defined treaty negotiations.

Living Treaties - Narrating Mi'kmaw Treaty Relations by Marie Battiste

Living Treaties: Narrating Mi'kmaw Treaty Relations edited by Marie Battiste (Mi'kmaw)

"First Nations, Métis and Inuit lands and resources are still tied to treaties and other documents. It is important to understand that treaties are still relevant and constitutionally significant, despite disputes.

Living Treaties shows another side of treaties and their histories from a Mi'kmaw and non-Mi'kmaw perspective. Living Treaties features voices of a new generation of Indigenous lawyers and academics pursuing social and cognitive justice for their families and their people.

Their mission:

  • to bring treaties back into public awareness from the archives
  • to justice as part of the supreme law of Canada, and
  • to use them to mobilize Mi'kmaw restoration and renaissance."

The Right Relationship - Reimagining the Implementation of Historical Treaties by John Borrows and Michael Coyle

The Right Relationship: Reimagining the Implementation of Historical Treaties by John Borrows (Anishinabe) and Michael Coyle

This book offers diverse perspectives on how to use "Indigenous people's own legal and policy frameworks ... to develop healthier attitudes between First Peoples and settler governments in Canada."

Treaty No. 9 - Making the Agreement to Share the Land in Far Northern Ontario in 1905 by John S. Long

Treaty No. 9: Making the Agreement to Share the Land in Far Northern Ontario in 1905 by John S. Long 

For over a century, Northern Ontario has been shared among the governments of Canada, Ontario and the First Nations who signed Treaty No. 9 in 1905. For just as long, details about the signing of Treaty No. 9 have been known only through the accounts of two of the commissioners appointed by the Government of Canada. Long presents the neglected account of a third commissioner.

Aboriginal and Treaty Rights in the Maritimes - The Marshall Decision and Beyond by Thomas Isaac

Aboriginal and Treaty Rights in the Maritimes: The Marshall Decision and Beyond by Thomas Isaac

This book examines "First Nations' rights in the Maritimes through Canadian jurisprudence around Indigenous and treaty rights, rules on interpreting treaties, and how constitutional provisions affect these rights." The Marshall Decision goes above and beyond previous decisions made by the Supreme Court of Canada.

Keeping Promises - The Royal Proclamation of 1763  Aboriginal Rights  and Treaties in Canada by Jim Aldridge and Terry Fenge

Keeping Promises: The Royal Proclamation of 1763, Aboriginal Rights, and Treaties in Canada by Jim Aldridge and Terry Fenge

Aldridge and Fenge discuss how the Proclamation of 1763 is the foundation for all treaties that came after it, in North America and the Caribbean. They also discuss how the Proclamation was also key for "the settlement and development of Canada."


We hope you'll join us on November 5 at 6 pm for Talking Treaties in Tkaronto (online program no longer available for replay), or try one of these resources!