Talking Treaties

For information on the Talking Treaties film – By These Presents, ‘Purchasing Toronto’, directed by Ange Loft – go to

To rent or purchase a copy of the film, please visit

Ashley Riley in scene from By These Presents: “Purchasing” Toronto, 2019

Rooted in oral history and community collaboration, Talking Treaties is a multi-year project that artfully shares local Indigenous history and awareness. Launched in 2015, the Talking Treaties project was initiated and is directed by Ange Loft, with historian Victoria Freeman and produced with Jumblies Theatre & Arts in Toronto. Talking Treaties has many branches, and has engaged thousands of participants in generating symbols, poetry, improvised maps and performative explorations.

Talking about treaties with Indigenous artists, historical researchers and knowledgeable community leaders was our starting point. From the countless narrative threads emerging from these conversations that we could have followed, the project focuses on three main agreements: the Dish with One Spoon, the Indigenous Nation agreement for resource management across the Great Lakes region ; the Covenant Chain which extended, at the 1764 Treaty of Niagara, to 24 Nations, included some Haudenosaunee, the Missisaugas of the Credit and other Anishnaabeg. This became a foundational treaty for subsequent indigenous-non-Indigenous agreements in this area; and the ‘Toronto Purchase’ with the Mississaugas of the Credit, finally settled in 2010.

The knowledge uncovered and shared with us through Talking Treaties, was translated into a series of multi-disciplinary events, activities and workshops. In 2017 and 2018, the Talking Treaties Spectacle was presented at Historic Fort York, sharing the research through words, song, movement, giant puppets and outdoor theatre, and mixing professional and diverse community performers and art-makers.

In Fall 2019, Talking Treaties was featured as a multimedia installation at the Small Arms Inspection Building for the inaugural Toronto Biennial of Art. This installation, entitled By These Presents: ‘Purchasing’ Toronto, included 3 short films, and artifacts from the Talking Treaties Spectacle and interactive workshops. 

In 2020, Talking Treaties continues into a new phase, involving ongoing workshops, dissemination of its films and resources, new partnerships, and ongoing relationships with numerous artists, partners, community members and valued contributors including Black Creek Pioneer Village, Historic Fort York and Toronto Biennial of Art.

Oral presentation, audio & video excerpts, reflective arts-based activity and sharing
2.5 hours, $300

This presentation and workshop reflects on treaty making and upkeep in what is now known as Toronto, through the lens of three main agreements: the Dish with One Spoon; the Covenant Chain and 1764 Treaty of Niagara; and the ‘Toronto Purchase’ with the Mississaugas of the Credit. Narratives of Nation-to-Nation gift giving, kin building, resource sharing, and the role of oral memory are supported by excerpts from the 2016 Talking Treaties Audio Gallery and the 2019 film “By These Presents: ‘Purchasing’ Toronto”. Glimpses of the multi-year community engaged process reveal the capacity of arts-based learning to foster personalised and active approaches to treaty knowledge.

An online version of this workshop is available, and can be facilitated to groups through Zoom. Scroll down to view images from previous workshops.

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In Fall 2019, Talking Treaties was featured as a multi-media site-specific installation, part of the inaugural Toronto Biennial of Art. This installation, entitled By These Presents: “Purchasing” Toronto, included 3 short films, props and artifacts from the Talking Treaties Spectacle and interactive activities.
The installation was presented at the Small Arms Inspection Building, beside Etobicoke Creek. The creek, which has never been ceded, marks the disputed boundary of the so-called Toronto Purchase, and is now subject to a water claim by the Mississaugas of the Credit

Toronto Indigenous & Treaty History Timelime – Toronto Biennial of Art 2019

After premiering at the Biennial, the By These Presents: “Purchasing” Toronto shorts, re-cut as one film, have been screened at festivals in Canada and internationally. The film is an absurdist examination of the Toronto “Purchase”, using dance, large-scale puppetry, and humour to chronicle the opening chapter of the city’s colonial history.

The plot centres on the treaty negotiations of 1805, whereby British officials covertly extended the boundaries of the Toronto Purchase lands beyond those allegedly sold in a poorly documented meeting in 1787. We see a group of Mississauga negotiators – with backup from a 5-foot beaver – confront the Queen’s representative, demanding that he justify the Crown’s unscrupulous dealings.

Shot at historic Fort York and along the contentious boundaries of the ‘Purchase’, By These Presents features an all-Indigenous cast whose visceral performance collapses past and present, revealing the city’s colonial foundations. With a script drawing from treaty council minutes, Mississauga petitions to the Crown, correspondence between colonial officials, and interviews with Indigenous knowledge keepers, the film reveals the calculus the British employed to diminish the Mississaugas, divide them from their Haudenosaunee allies, and acquire their lands at rock-bottom prices.By These Presents is the history lesson you wish you’d got in school. But the film leaves us with more questions than answers for Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples who want to honour treaties. How do we ‘honour’ a dishonourable agreement?

By These Presents: “Purchasing” Toronto will be available for distribution through VTape in Summer 2020

Click on the images below for full credits
Director: Ange Loft
Co-director: Martha Stiegman
Research: Victoria Freeman
Produced with support from:
Toronto Biennial of Art, Government of Canada, Canada Council of the Arts, Ontario Arts Council & Toronto Arts Council

Media for By These Presents
A New Kind of Land Acknowledgement – canadianart


The Talking Treaties Spectacle was an outdoor pageant explored the treaty history of the Toronto area through words, song, movement, puppetry and spectacle. The mobile performance was co-created with a team of diverse community artists, bringing together oral history, petition texts to the crown, and arts based research to an outdoor audiences with rhythmic delivery. The spectacle moves around the tightly scripted one act play “Symbolically United” addressing the marriage of Molly and William Johnson on the eve of the Treaty of Niagara.

The Spectacle premiered at Fort York’s Indigenous Arts Festival in June 2017, alongside companion composition Underneath the Concrete, as the culminating events of Jumblies’ 7-week Touching Ground Festival.

In 2018 the Spectacle was remounted for a longer run of 6 show, with an all-Indigenous professional cast, performing alongside diverse community singers and performers. 

2017 Production

Click on the program images below for full credits and more information

2018 Production

Click on the program images below for full page credits and more information
Ange Loft: Lead Artist, Co-writer, Designer, Director
Victoria Freeman: Historian & Co-writer

Original production supported by: Canada Council for the Arts, Ontario Arts Council, Toronto Arts Council, Ontario 150, Toronto Foundation, Metcalf Foundation, J.P. Bickell Foundation, Inspirit Foundation, Ontario Trillium Foundation, First Story,
Remount supported by: Government of Canada, Canada Council of the Arts, Ontario Arts Council, Toronto Arts Council and Historic Fort York

Media for 2017 Production
Talking Treaties in Canadian Art Magazine
Mooney on Theatre review of Talking Treaties Spectacle
New Canadian Life radio interview with Ange Loft
Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation “Indigenous Voices on Treaties” interview with Ange Loft

Media for 2018 Remount
The Whole Note Concert Report: At Fort York, Talking Treaties energizes and engages
Mooney on Theatre review of Talking Treaties Spectacle
Inside Looking In review of Talking Treaties Spectacle
My Entertainment World review of Treaties Spectacle at Fort York
Ontario Presents Spotlight On: Ange Loft


Throughout the development and into the legacy phase, we have shared Talking Treaties via a series of creative workshops, with partnerships and commissions from across the arts and education sectors. The workshops have engaged thousands of participants in generating symbols, text and performance: a process of art-based research that fed in to the creation of the Talking Treaties Spectacle and upcoming projects. See above for details on hosting a workshop.

2020 workshop offerings:

TALKING TREATIES in TKARONTO PRESENTATION: Oral presentation, Audio and Video excerpts, reflective arts-based activity and sharing.

Media Link


Over the spring of 2015, interviews were collected with local historians, educators, and public figures, on their relationship to, and understanding of, Treaties in Toronto. The four short audio art tracks presented featured six of those voices. The audio gallery was initially installed at the Ground Floor, and travelled to various venues across Toronto, including a month long stay at the Native Canadian Center. Four audio art art tracks were featured; approximately 5 minutes each. Participants were prompted to write or draw responses, key phrases, questions, or new ideas.

Voices heard
Lee Maracle, Duke Redbird, Rebeka Tabobondung, Bonita Lawrence,
Ed Sackaney, and Andrew Wesley

Audio artists

How Powerful it Can Be: Alaska B
Skullduggery: Ange Loft
Acknowledgement: Adrienne Marcus Raja
Trips and Wires: LAL (Rosina Kazi and Nic Murray)

Interviews collected by: Lilia Leon, Julia Hune-Brown, Rosina Kazi, and Mindy Stricke

Project leads: Ange Loft and Victoria Freeman
A partnership between Jumblies Theatre and Native Canadian Center of Toronto’s First Story. Funded by Ontario Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs

Media Links

Territorial Delicacy was a performance involving an audio collage of voices, laying of table settings, and sharing of a loaf of chocolate challah (a “local delicacy”), making sure that there was enough to go around the whole group – inspired by research into the ‘Dish With One Spoon’ agreement. The performance was originally produced with a collaborative of Toronto historical societies for the event The Toronto Carrying Place: A Shared Legacy, with a site specific performance set beside the Humber River at Toronto’s Old Mill. Territorial Delicacy has been remounted for various Ground Floor audiences.

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*Description to be added soon

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