The Settler Treaty Card Poster is an ad campaign which features a woman smiling and holding a card designed to appear as though it was issued by Citizenship and Immigration Canada. The poster says “You can’t live here without it!” in large print, and additional text reads: “With your Setter Treaty Card, you get access to countless privileges that your ancestors’ representatives signed on for in perpetuity — privileges like settler self-government and access to the land…Membership has its privileges — and privilege has its responsibilities.” The poster also includes small-print text outlining the details of the privileges and responsibilities associated with Settler Status.
This poster was designed in 2006 by Tyler McCreary and Dave Mitchell from Briarpatch magazine. According to their website, “Briarpatch offers original reporting, insight, and analysis from a grassroots perspective. As a reader-supported publication, Briarpatch is not just devoted to reporting on social movements — it’s committed to building them.” The project was inspired by an article published in Briarpatch magazine in 2005 called “Settler Treaty Rights”. The author of the article, a white settler, discusses his own revelation that settlers have rights in this land, even though they are ubiquitous and exploited. These rights are discussed in more detail and include: The right to one’s own religion, right to share the land, right to agricultural and economic activities, right to political self-determination, and the right to peace and goodwill. The poster was created as a way to express the ideas of the article in a creative format. The image gained significant attention and popularity during the early months of the Idle No More movement, when a flurry of public dialogue and social media activity about Indigenous/Canadian treaties and relations began.
The poster appears to be targeting all settler Canadians, including those who live in Indigenous territories where settler-Indigenous treaties do not exist, such as British Columbia. It has been shared widely on Facebook and copies have also been ordered by schools, unions, and other organizations across the country. This project aims to raise awareness among non-Indigenous Canadians of their status as settlers on Indigenous territories by using humour, and parodying the Indian Act which requires Aboriginal people to have proof of their “status” as Indians. The poster also aims to reframe the current debate around treaties and Indigenous rights, by showing that non-Indigenous Canadians are part of the treaties as well, and enjoy their own special rights. The methods used in this project are simple; it is a creative visual that deals with the serious issue of settler-hood in a humorous way. The title “Settler Treaty Card” has a small TM beside it to make it appear as a trademarked item. Thus it becomes both a product with different restrictions and stipulations, and an official pass authorized by Citizenship and Immigration Canada. The fact that the card is not actually real – and possibly considered absurd by onlookers – is part of the method, making the viewer question the continued use of real Indian Status Cards.
It appears that the next steps for this project are to continue printing and distributing it throughout the country. Organizations and institutions can order copies at a small cost to put in classrooms, board rooms, and on street corners. This campaign has sparked a great deal of discussion and debate, and at times, backlash from settlers.