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What's New

Spirit and Intent: Understanding Aboriginal Treaties

A Fascinating New Exhibition at Library and Archives Canada

(OTTAWA - September 24, 2007) - Library and Archives Canada (LAC) is proud to launch its latest exhibition Spirit and Intent: Understanding Aboriginal Treaties on September 24, 2007. The exhibition showcases a wide selection of treaty documents dating from the 1600s to the 1990s. In addition to these documents from the collection of Library and Archives Canada, visitors will discover interesting items loaned from other Canadian cultural institutions.

Spirit and Intent: Understanding Aboriginal Treaties provides insight into the voices, values and visions behind Canada's Aboriginal treaties. The documents and artifacts on display are some of the most precious of Canadian heritage records because they illustrate decisions that have shaped this country.

"This exhibition is a significant expression of our continuing dedication to preserve and make the history of Canada's First Peoples known," said Ian. E. Wilson, Librarian and Archivist of Canada. "It contains treasures of our shared past that are extremely rare, priceless and of immense historical and cultural significance."

The two curators of the exhibition are Dr. John Burrows, Professor and Law Foundation Chair of Aboriginal Justice and Governance of the University of Victoria, and Dr. Jim Miller, Professor of History and Canada Research Chair in Native-Newcomer Relations from the University of Saskatchewan.

"The exhibition explores the assumptions and motives behind agreements between Aboriginal peoples and the Crown," said Dr. Jim Miller. "This process is an important building block for modern Canada."

Dr. John Burrows, who is Anishinabe and a member of the Chippewa of the Nawash First Nation, says the Aboriginal treaties exhibition provides evidence that peace, friendship and respect are at the foundation of the creation of Canada. "My great-great grandfather signed a treaty in Southern Ontario in the 1850s on behalf of my First Nation," said Dr. Burrows. "It is a good feeling to know that five generations later we are still remembering the importance of that agreement to our collective future."

Among the many highlights is the original Treaty 9, signed in 1906, also known as the James Bay Treaty. This treaty represents the first time a provincial government took an active role in negotiations with Aboriginal people. Also on display is a map of New France, by Jesuit priest Francesco Giuseppe Bressani, considered to be one of the most significant of the 17th century, and a treaty jacket offered by government representatives to Aboriginal chiefs during treaty negotiations.

Other documents and artifacts in the exhibition include publications, paintings, wampum belts, trade items, totems, diaries, land-claim negotiations and modern agreements.

A companion exhibit entitled Survey, Examination and Analysis of Treaty Documents illustrates some techniques used to evaluate the state of preservation of these treaty documents. This collaborative project is between LAC, the Canadian Conservation Institute and the Centre for Scientific and Curatorial Analysis of Painting Elements.

Working in partnership with First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities and associations, LAC has fostered a strong relationship of cultural understanding among these groups. LAC thanks the Reading Advisory Committee, whose members, representing the First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities, provided advice and commentary on the exhibition texts.

LAC also wishes to thank the institutions that have contributed to this exhibition by loaning materials. They include the Canadian Museum of Civilization, Canadian War Museum, Currency Museum, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg and the Office of the Treaty Commissioner for Saskatchewan.

Spirit and Intent: Understanding Aboriginal Treaties is open to the public daily from September 24, 2007 to March 24, 2008 at Library and Archives Canada, 395 Wellington Street, Ottawa. Admission is free.

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Louisa Coates
Senior Media Relations Officer
Library and Archives Canada

For historical information visit: Archived What's New