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Land acknowledgments, treaties, and further resources: Centennial College and the City of Toronto

The "Sale" of Toronto

In the early 18th Century, the colonial government applied pressure to the Mississaugas due to an influx of European settlers in need of land. The Mississaugas agreed to 'grant' or 'cede' their lands in a series of 8 treaties, leaving them with only 200 of their original 3.9 million acres. Our college campuses are located on two of these treaty lands: The 'Toronto Purchase' and the 'Gunshot Treaty'. Both of these treaties remain controversial. The Mississaugas and the colonial government viewed land very differently. The Mississaugas saw themselves as stewards (i.e. keepers or caretakers) of the land, while settlers and the colonial government saw land and its resources as proprietary; something to be permanently signed away. 

The 'Toronto Purchase' Overview

1787 Sir John Johnson gives the Mississaugas blankets, kettles, and gunpowder and later claims they were payment for the land. He later produced a (questionable and not legally binding) deed on which chiefs signatures had been transferred from other documents

1788 Alexander Atkin attempted to survey the land, but was told by the Mississaugas that they had not ceded anything as far east as the Don River or as far west as the Humber River. Atkins employed the military to push the Mississaugas west to the Etobicoke River, but was unable to complete his survey.

1798 John Johnson gives a shady account of negotiations, claiming that the sale encompassed 10 square miles in Toronto; 2 to 4 miles on each side of the road leading to Lake Simcoe; 10 square miles near Lake Simcoe; and 10 square miles near Lake Huron

1805 Under extreme pressure due to food insecurity, the Mississaugas met with the Crown to negotiate Treaty 13a, which served to connect the boundaries of the original Toronto Purchase. The Mississaugas received 10 shillings (equal to $60 today) for the sale of Metro Toronto (i.e. Etobicoke Creek to Ashbridges Bay)

1923 The lands connecting the eastern border of the Toronto Purchase to the Bay of Quinte were ceded in the undocumented Gunshot Treaty, which allegedly covered the lands as far as a gunshot could be heard from the shores of Lake Ontario. The undocumented nature of this treaty led the Crown to establish the Williams Treaty with the Mississaugas of Rice, Mud, Scugog Lakes, and Alderville. The Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation were not informed their lands were being renegotiated

1986 The Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation won a land claim settlement of $146m ($20k to each band member).

2015 The Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation filed a claim regarding the Rouge River Valley, their traditional lands which were, unbeknownst to them, absorbed into the Williams Treaty. The claim has not yet been resolved.

(Toronto Land Acknowledgement by Shannon Winterstein/Centennial College (2019))

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