Treaty Canoe by Alex McKay (1999, 12’x24”x32”,) is a performance/sculpture/installation that is made from cedar, copper wire, birch bark, red-ribbon, glue, and treaties hand-penned onto hand-made linen paper. Using dip pen and ink, treaties were performatively transcribed by many hands.
Keith, and the Treaty People circle have been working to bring an art installation called Treaty Canoe (Alex McKay, artist) to Holy Trinity this summer as part of our journey toward reconciliation. Most recently displayed publicly at Osgoode Law School early last year, this piece was created in 1999, long before ‘reconciliation’ entered the general public’s mind as an idea. Encumbered, as so much of reconciliation work is, by conversations of appropriation and our understanding of history and relationship, this work will help us become more aware of the treaties which enable the existence of Canada and our responsibilities to each other.
We are hoping this will allow us to engage more of the public in the conversation as they visit our space and see Treaty Canoe suspended from our ceiling, just out of reach. We would welcome the help of any members of the HT community in interpreting and spreading the word–whether you are part of People Presence, the Sunday worship group, the refugee committee, Christmas Story, hospice, housing, or one of “the guys.”
We’re still finalising details, but are hoping that the installation will begin before the end of June and run into mid-September.
Volunteers, most having never read a treaty, in a de-colonial gesture, undertook a close reading, and then reluctantly and poignantly signed the contracts in the stead of their original faithful negotiators.
Treaty Canoe speaks of mutual, sacred bonds of honour and makes clear that we are all treaty people. When exhibited it hangs by a thread balanced on a central pivot point above its centre thwart. It responds to the slightest breeze of a passer-by, rocking and turning. Lit from above the craft becomes translucent; in casting a shadow it becomes two canoes, floating in the same current on separate but parallel courses. The transcription process is one of claiming ownership, and responsibility, if not for the past, then the present and future of our relationship.
“We are all treaty people”