Some Thoughts About the Treaties and Art

More than half the landmass of Canada is Treaty Land; Including the including the land which has been ceded or reserved under the terms of the eleven numbered treaties signed between the Government of Canada and many of the First Nations in central Canada. Also covered under numerous earlier, smaller treaties are areas of southern Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia and the Eastern Provinces. Vast areas of Northern Quebec, the North West Territories, British Columbia and all of Newfoundland have never been brought under treaty.

In reviewing the written terms of the numbered treaties it is shocking to note the vast tracts of landed ceded by, and the pittance reserved for, Native tribes. It is telling to examine how the terms of the treaties changed between the signing of Treaties 1 and 2 in Manitoba in 1871 and the last of the numbered treaty adhesions signed in 1954 and 1956. Slowly, the Government began paying just a little more attention to the positions of Native negotiators. Even more telling are the terms of the Agreement in Principle signed by the Nisga'a of British Columbia and the Federal Government in 1996. The Nisga'a demanded, fought long and hard for and finally won, a fair deal.

All of Manitoba is covered under five separate agreements; Treaties 1 and 2, Treaty 3, Treaty 4 and Treaty 5 signed between 1871 and 1956. The entire northern half of Manitoba as well as parts of Saskatchewan and the North West Territories were ceded through a key adhesion to Treaty 5 in 1908. Currently, a number of ongoing First Nations claims regarding Government failure to honor treaty commitments remain in contention.

It is within the bounds of these Treaty Lands that I have lived, worked and travelled over the last eighteen years. It is these landscapes and the histories they carry which I have explored in my art over that time. The power of the Aboriginal presence in this province is great. And the level of racism and intolerance amongst non-Aboriginal peoples here is also great. It is my hope that people who see my Treaty Lands work will enjoy it for what it is, but at the same time will give some of these ideas at the very least, passing thought. And that from time to time when we step out our front doors, we will consider the notion that this is Treaty Land and what that might mean as we move through our day.

- Tim Schouten, 2011