Treaty Canoe

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date


Source Publication

International Law's Objects, J. Hohmann and D. Joyce, eds. (forthcoming 2019, Oxford University Press)


‘Treaty Canoe’ is an admittedly complex object to select for the present collection. As an artwork which is an assembly of made and found objects as well as a performance (in its making), its meaning is both layered and evolving. And yet, its evocation of both the promise and peril of international law in colonial North America is unmistakable. In ‘Treaty Canoe,’ ‘document, object, and location cohere to scrutinize the logics of colonialism, sovereignty and the question of responsibility that inheres in both.” As a collection of objects both art and law, tool and text, past and present, ‘Treaty Canoe’ offers both an important recognition of the violence and erasure at the foundation of the colonial project in Canada as well as an invitation to participate in a de-colonial ‘re-writing’ of these histories.

At Osgoode, ‘Treaty Canoe’ was installed on saw-horses in the glass walled front lobby of the library, where it would be encountered not only to those who entered and exited the library, but to all those passing through the central atrium of the law school. Its presence in the law building was impossible to miss; it commanded attention from passersby and generated comment and discussion among law students, faculty, staff and visitors. The juxtaposition of the various elements of the installation, the combination of familiarity and strangeness that they evoked, invited closer inspection, reflection and dialogue.