“Symbolically United” by Victoria Freeman and Ange Loft, was initially written as a 20 minute one act ‘Play within a Show’ for the “Talking Treaties Spectacle” at Fort York’s 2017 Aboriginal Arts Festival, the culmination of a 3-year oral history and community art collaboration between Jumblies Theatre, First Story and Nagamo Collective. We seek to expand to a full length production.
This educational and sensational historical romp follows Mohawk clan mother Molly Brant and her husband, English agent of Indian affairs Sir William Johnson, as they embark for the negotiation of the 1764 Treaty of Niagara. Significant negotiations take place over the marriage bed, settling terms of commitment personally and professionally, and as part of the monumental agreement at hand, which sought to regulate the settling of Canada.
Framed by letters between English generals and petitions of Indigenous nations, “Symbolically United” is packed with informative tidbits about wampum based agreement, trade values, significance of gifting, and role of women in negotiation when a matrilineal society is in flux. The future development of this work includes expanding on the role of women in Iroquois Council and hospitality laws.
Experiments in relational staging and low tech design bring together necessary mnemonic imagery from the opening dream sequence on. Mats, forts, beavers, ships, and mirrors carry us as the couple refine the delivery of speeches and air differing interpretations of the agreement, bringing 24 Nations into alliance with the English under the Covenant Chain, a British commissioned belt; an indigenized interpretation of the Royal Proclamation of 1762.
The Talking Treaties project and Spectacle received development support from Canada Council’s ACCP, Ontario Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs, and Toronto Arts Foundation’s Toronto 150.
Victoria Freeman is a public historian, multidisciplinary artist, and the author of Distant Relations: How My Ancestors Colonized North America. She teaches courses on Indigenous history and Canadian decolonization at York University, and conducts community-based research and public education on the Indigenous history of Toronto as a member of First Story Toronto, based at the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto. A participating artist with Jumblies Theatre on its Talking Treaties and Train of Thought community arts projects, she also performs with Sol Express, an all abilities theatre/dance ensemble associated with l’Arche Toronto.
Ange Loft is Associate Artistic Director of Jumblies Theatre, a multidisciplinary artist, director and performer from Kahnawake Mohawk Territory. Ange is an ardent collaborator, arts advocate and amateur historian available for speaking engagements and hands on workshops. She makes and facilitates in interdisciplinary creation, wearable sculpture, outdoor performance, oral history, arts based research, community art design and project planning.
Ange is a Juno and Polaris nominated vocalist with YAMANTAKA//SONIC TITAN and creator of the wearable art line Cult of Kateri: Armour and Accessories. She wrote and directed HOOFS, and has contributed to award winning soundtracks for documentary Sex Spirit Strength and video game Severed by Drinkbox Studio. Smithsonian’s NMAI Artist Leadership Program