The first week of November marks Treaties Recognition Week to recognize the importance of treaties and increase awareness of the treaty relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities in Ontario.
Library and Archives Canada (LAC) holds an extensive collection of historic treaties, surrenders and agreements in Canada. During Treaties Recognition week, you will be able to see two different Williams Treaties in Ottawa, named so after the Williams Commission, appointed to negotiate these treaties.
At the Ottawa Public Library’s Main Branch:
On November 7, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., the Williams Treaty between his Majesty the King and the Chippewa Chiefs and Headmen of Christian Island, Georgina Island and Rama will be on display at the Ottawa Public Library (120 Metcalfe Street).
At the University of Ottawa:
On November 8, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., the Williams Treaty between his Majesty the King and the Mississauga Chiefs and Headmen of Rice Lake, Mud Lake, Scugog Lake and Alderville will be on display at the University of Ottawa’s Social Sciences Building (120 University Private).
About the Williams Treaties
The signing of both of the Williams Treaties in 1923 marked the last historic land cession treaties in Ontario. The treaties involve three large parcels of land and implicate a total of 12,944,400 acres (more than 20,000 square kilometers) in south-central Ontario.
At the time, settlers were already using the land. The Chippewa of Lake Simcoe and the Mississauga of the north shore of Lake Ontario signed the treaties, which provided a one-time payment for the Indigenous signatories.
They were the only treaties at the time in which First Nations apparently surrendered their hunting and fishing rights. The First Nations, who had also signed earlier Pre-Confederation treaties, contend they did not agree to give up these rights when they signed the treaties. This clause in the treaty devastated the traditional economy and brought the process, terms, interpretation and implementation of these treaties into question.
The First Nations who were signatories of the Williams Treaty are now the Alderville First Nation, Beausoleil First Nation, Chippewas of Georgina Island, Chippewas of Rama, Curve Lake First Nation, Hiawatha First Nation, and Mississaugas of Scugog Island.
In 1992, the seven First Nations initiated the Alderville litigation, which went to court in 2012. In September 2018, the Government of Canada, the Province of Ontario and the seven First Nations reached a negotiated settlement agreement that resolves the litigation.