Press Release

08 October 2013

A twelve-foot Canadian canoe covered in messages written by the public will be the centrepiece of a new project exploring British colonial history and the recognition of indigenous rights.

Titled Treaty Canoe II, the project aims to symbolise treaties made between the British colonial territories and their indigenous people. It takes place during the 250th anniversary of the Royal Proclamation of 1763 which determined the terms of future negotiations between settlers and indigenous peoples in British North America.

Led by the University of Kent’s Centre for American Studies in collaboration with the Department of History and American Studies at Canterbury Christ Church University, the project will be launched via a public event at the Beaney Institute’s Learning Lab in Canterbury, 10am-2pm on 7 October. This will be followed by the construction of Treaty Canoe II on the University of Kent’s Canterbury campus (Keynes Atrium) from Monday 14 October,12-5pm, and is open to the public.

One of the main aims of this project is to explore the history of the relationship between indigenous peoples - such as Native Americans and First Nations Canadians - and the Crown. It will also explore the ongoing significance this relationship has had to indigenous rights.

The ‘treaties’ for Treaty Canoe II will be undertaken in a similar way, with students, staff and members of the public encouraged to read and consider the terms of a treaty. Participants will then be invited to write out short sections of a single treaty and, echoing the actions of the original parties, sign their name to the terms. Some of these ‘treaties’ will then be used for the skin of the canoe, while the remainder will be displayed with the artwork.

Dr Zalfa Feghali, Lecturer in Modern American Literature at Canterbury Christ Church University (CCCU), said: “Christ Church has important teaching and research ties to Native American and First Nations history and we are really pleased to be able to collaborate with Alex McKay and our colleagues at the University of Kent in the crafting of Treaty Canoe II.

“We invite members of the public, our students and colleagues to join us in visiting the exhibit, as well as joining us on October 7 at the Beaney Art Museum and Library, to learn more about Indigenous peoples and to begin the treaty transcription process. These treaties continue to be relevant and affect all of us – albeit differently – in ways that are both ongoing and fascinating.”

Dr David Stirrup, Senior Lecturer in American Literature at the University of Kent said: “This year is the 250th anniversary of the Royal Proclamation of 1763. Far from being simply an historic document, it still underpins Indigenous Rights and Freedoms in Canada, as well as claims to the recognition of those rights in the USA.

“It also laid the basis, in other words, for the ongoing practice of negotiating treaties with Indigenous peoples in ex-British territories, and has played a major part in the shaping of those nations and in the role Britain plays in forums like the UN.

“In bringing ‘Treaty Canoe’ to the UK, this project will illuminate the ongoing nature of that relationship, while also throwing a spotlight on the role Indigenous people play in environmental issues, accessibility to resources, and other areas of national and international importance. It asks audiences to consider the legacies of treaty making—to the land, the environment, and to the future of the people—and the nature of Britain’s obligations in the present, by broadening the scope of a Canadian phrase: We are ALL Treaty People.”

The first Treaty Canoe, created in Canada by artist Alex McKay, is a sculpture made from cedar, copper wire, birch bark, red-ribbon, glue, which includes ‘treaties’ written onto hand-made linen paper.

For more information and to follow the project, visit:

Notes to Editor

The schedule of events for the project is also available here:

This project is co-sponsored by the Ontario Arts Council, the Kent Institute of Advanced Studies in the Humanities, the Centre for American Studies and School of English at the University of Kent and, and the Department of History and American Studies at Christ Church Canterbury University.

Canterbury Christ Church University

Canterbury Christ Church University is a modern university with a particular strength in higher education for the public services.

With nearly 20,000 students across Kent and Medway, its courses span a wide range of academic and professional subject areas.

  • 94% of our most recent UK graduates were in employment or further studies six months after completing their studies*.
  • We are the number one choice for local people looking to study at university in Kent (2012 UCAS).
  • We are one of the South East’s largest providers of education, training and skills leading to public service careers.

*2011/12 Destination of Leavers from Higher Education survey


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Last edited: 14/12/2018 22:16:00