Notes on 6th Text for Reading Field: Krasowski

Canadian History, Week One:

Sheldon Krasowski, “Images of Treaty Negotiations, Annuity Payments and Treaty-Days: Treaties 1 to 10,” Native Studies Review 13, no. 1 (2000): 97-112.

Krasowski supplies twelve graphic images selected from a collection of over one hundred photographically reproduced archival documents assembled by the Office of the Treaty Commissioner in Saskatoon between 1989 and 1997. The images are meant to illustrate themes associated with the treaty relationship in Western Canada. Krasowski presents the themes as “the importance of the early treaties, the relationship between the NWMP and the government of Canada, the importance of First Nations women, the solemnity of the treaties, looking forward to future generations, and non-Aboriginal peoples as treaty partners.”[1] According to Krasowski, these themes are helpful in generating understanding of the treaty relationship as one with a potential for “positive future relations between First Nations and all other Canadians.”[2]

The images, and Krasowski’s readings of them are interesting for what they indicate about how — generally speaking and through Krasowski’s eyes — First Nations of Western Canada were seeking to communicate their perspective at the time of publication. In terms of historiographical utility, the existence and preservation of both the images and archived collections of such photographs are unquestionably beneficial. However, Krasowski’s article is too brief and lacking in precision or detail to serve as much more than an alert that such materials are available for cross referencing against written texts, or perhaps for suggesting avenues of research.

Although Krasowski refers to all of the images as photographs, in their published incarnation in the pages of the Native Studies Review they are technically prints. Further, not all of the images were originally produced using photographic technology. This has implications for the way in which the images are, or might be, interpreted. For example, ‘Plate 1’ is a reproduction of an illustration printed in a popular journal. Although the journal is identified as the Canadian Illustrated News, the date of publication and the identity of the illustrator(s) and engraver(s) who composed the image and prepared it for printing are not provided. No indication is given as to whether the image was created by people who had been present at the event depicted, or had more than cursory information on which to base their depiction. Questions as to whether the Canadian Illustrated News held a particular editorial stance with respect to treaty-making and Aboriginal peoples, and whether the illustration appears to reflect any aspects of that stance are likewise not considered. Of the images that were originally photographs, few are described in a manner that indicates who the individuals present at, and participating in, the photographic event were; when in a particular year the picture was taken; by whom it was taken, and for what purpose. In short the provenance that a historian requires is absent.

[1] Sheldon Krasowski, “Images of Treaty Negotiations, Annuity Payments and Treaty-Days: Treaties 1 to 10,” Native Studies Review 13, no. 1 (2000): 99.

[2] Ibid., 100.


About hallnjean

PhD in Canadian History
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