Brightening the Covenant Chain

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Look out for the brand new – launching summer ’21

Treatied Spaces has been awarded a Standard Research Grant by the Arts and Humanities Research Council of the United Kingdom for the project ‘Brightening the Covenant Chain: Revealing Cultures of Diplomacy Between the Crown and the Iroquois Confederacy’. This 42 month project will run until September 2024.

The project is led by Joy Porter, Charles Prior, Pekka HämäläinenMark Walters, Dale Turner with artistic and interpretive contributions by Celeste Pedri-Spade and an immersive Soundscape of Haudenosaunee diplomatic oration by Thanyehténhas Nathan Brinklow. Working with us are the Georgian Papers Programme, the Eccles Centre for American Studies, the American Museum and Gardens (Bath), the North American Native Museum, King’s Digital Lab, Johnson Hall Historic Site (New York), and the Northeast Native Research Collaborative.

To the Cree of Saskatchewan, he is ‘Pisimwa Kamiwohkitahpamikohk’, meaning ‘The Sun looks at Him in a Good Way’. We know him as Prince Charles. To the Salish of British Columbia, she is ‘Mother of all people’. We know her as the Queen. This interdisciplinary project investigates the deep but unexplored connections embodied in these names, between the British Crown and the indigenous peoples of Canada and Northeastern America – one of the oldest diplomatic relationships in the world. It shaped the North America we know today and continues to be ‘brightened’ and renewed by the Royal family because of its vital role in addressing global challenges linked to the legal, environmental and territorial resurgence of indigenous rights.

2024 marks the 260th anniversary of a pivotal juncture in the first ‘special relationship’ between America and Britain, a massive and expensive diplomatic pageant known as the Treaty of Niagara, when the Indian ‘Magna Carta’ confirmed Native rights and sovereignty over vast lands and resources. This project uses this and other treaties as lenses to reveal cultures of diplomatic interaction between the Crown and indigenous peoples that are rooted in the 17th century but of increasing global significance today. The project is the first of its kind to examine this globally significant diplomatic relationship in depth and scope. Over the 42 month project, we will:

  1. Connect, examine and interpret a series of unstudied archives and material culture held in the UK, at the Royal Archives at Windsor, the National Archives, and the British Library; in the US, at the Newberry Library (Chicago) and in 13 repositories in the Northeast; and in the Library & Archives, Canada;
  2. Collaboratively produce new materials and avenues of research using a combination of academic, museum and digital platforms;
  3. Create new circuits of international collaboration linking academics, the public, policy-makers, indigenous communities and cultural institutions;
  4. Engage diverse UK audiences in novel ways using an immersive Digital Kinetic Map and a Digital Soundscape that is at the vanguard of innovation in humanities research and museum practice;
  5. Promote Crown-indigenous diplomacy as a significant intercultural asset, of unrealised value to the heritage and experience economy.

Seven interconnected workstreams undertaken by 5 core applicants and 2 PDRAs will bring texture, clarity and nuance to this under-researched topic and transform the way that we understand the history of the British Crown, its empire, and the contemporary relevance of its intercultural past. To bring this past into dialogue with the present, we will co-create:

  • 6 books that illuminate Crown-indigenous relationships and the environment, diplomatic practice, political power, continental perspectives and the historic alliance known as the ‘Covenant Chain’ that underpins indigenous rights today.
  • 2 ground-breaking museum exhibits working with prominent Native artists in residency, 3 interactive public workshops, and a schools outreach programme;
  • A total of 4 international conferences and workshops that will bring together academics and policy-makers and the public
  • Digital platforms, including an immersive Digital Kinetic Map that will animate historic maps from the British Library’s collections, and a Digital Soundscape that will re-create diplomatic speeches in the Mohawk language, a suite of curated digital outputs including podcasts, a learning resource, website, and a people-powered research platform that will crowd-source images of objects and the stories of diplomacy.