“The Promise/Broken Land: mediatation on Treaty Three” by Shane Rhodes

Chippewa wigwams, ca. 1872–1875

Chippewa tipis, ca. 1872–1875. Photographer unknown. Library and Archives Canada, C-004092

Chippewa (Ojibway and Saulteaux/Anishinaabe) peoples in Ontario and part of eastern Manitoba signed Treaty 3 with the Crown in October 1873. As with other treaties, this involved the ceding of land to settlers, in conjunction with promises of security and resources.

Much like Rhodes’ other treaty poems, “The Promise/Broken Land” engages with the imagery and language of land and resources tied up in treaty negotiations. In this case, he uses the imagery of cartography, a practice central to the negotiations. As Rhodes notes at the bottom of the poem, he shaped the treaty to “the outline of a map taken from … the Canadian Lands Survey” (presumably the Dominion Land Survey), a major colonial cartographic enterprise that charted the landscape for resource and population management.

The Promise/Broken Land: mediatation on Treaty Three by Shane Rhodes


  1. Divisions: How does the poem reflect the title? What was promised and what was broken?
  2. Readings: How does the layout of the words prompt the reader to choose different reading paths? What is the significance of this split reading process?
  3. Settler-Indigenous Relations: How does reconfiguring the treaty as a map illustrate some of the social relations the treaty reinforced? What does this poem say about the relationship between promises, settler values, reserves, and the land upon which they are inscribed?
  4. Typography and Cartography: What is the importance of the bold, seemingly handwritten terms that surround the words taken from the treaty? Whose voice might these words reflect? Why are the words in a style that contrasts with the typography of the treaty?

Works Cited

  • Rhodes, Shane. The Promise/Broken Land: mediatation on Treaty Three. Canadian Literature 210–11 (2011): 96. Print. (Link)