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Political Science Canadian

The Queen at the Council Fire

The Treaty of Niagara, Reconciliation, and the Dignified Crown in Canada

by (author) Nathan Tidridge

Dundurn Press
Initial publish date
Jun 2015
Canadian, Pre-Confederation (to 1867), Post-Confederation (1867-)
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    Publish Date
    Jun 2015
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    Jun 2015
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In the summer of 1764, Sir William Johnson (Superintendent of Indian Affairs) and over two thousand chiefs representing twenty-four First Nations met on the shores of the Niagara River to negotiate the Treaty of Niagara — an agreement between the British Crown and the Indigenous peoples. This treaty, symbolized by the Covenant Chain Wampum, is seen by many Indigenous peoples as the birth of modern Canada, despite the fact that it has been mostly ignored by successive Canadian governments since.

The Queen at the Council Fire is the first book to examine the Covenant Chain relationship since its inception. In particular, the book explores the role of what Walter Bagehot calls “the Dignified Crown,” which, though constrained by the traditions of responsible government, remains one of the few institutions able to polish the Covenant Chain and help Canada along the path to reconciliation. The book concludes with concrete suggestions for representatives of the Dignified Crown to strengthen their relationships with Indigenous peoples.

About the author

Nathan Tidridge teaches Canadian history and government and was awarded the Premier’s Award for Teaching Excellence (Teacher of the Year) in 2008. In 2011, he received the Charles Baillie Award for Excellence in Secondary School Teaching from Queen’s University. Nathan was one of six Ontarians in 2012 presented with the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal by His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales.Nathan lives in Carlisle, Ontario, with his wife Christine and daughters.

Nathan Tidridge's profile page

Editorial Reviews

Offers a settler’s narrative of a personal journey through history, constitutionalism, and Settler-Indigenous relations, as well as a discussion of the divergent views and expectations of the Crown in Canada.

Anishinabek News

Nathan Tidridge draws the reader into an important story about a little known and often complex subject.

Heather George, Cultural Coordinator of Chiefswood National Historic Site

It is my privilege as a lieutenant governor of Ontario who was deeply involved in Aboriginal matters during my term to strongly recommend Nathan Tidridge’s latest book, The Queen at the Council Fire. [It] is a must-read for anyone wanting to understand the history of the relationship between the Crown and Indigenous peoples and why that relationship is crucial to Canada’s future relations with First Nations.

Honourable David C. Onley, O.Ont., 28th Lieutenant Governor of Ontario

Nathan Tidridge has given us a richly textured account of the historic meeting of First Nations with Sir William Johnson, the British Monarch’s personal representative, at Niagara in 1764. The Treaty of Niagara is Canada’s first Confederation, Tidridge’s book is must reading for understanding Canada’s constitutional foundations.

Dr. Peter Russell, Professor Emeritus of Political Science, University of Toronto

The Queen at the Council Fire: The Treaty of Niagara, Reconciliation, and the Dignified Crown in Canada is a thoughtful examination of the relationship between the Crown and Canada’s First Nations.

Constitutional monarchy is usually discussed in terms of principles. This account demonstrates that when the subject is First Nations, it is the practices of the Crown in its long relationship with Indigenous peoples that are of paramount concern. Through the prism of the Crown, Nathan Tidridge offers a unique perspective on a subject of fundamental importance

Dr. David Smith, author of The Invisible Crown: The First Principle of Canadian Government

In The Queen at the Council Fire, Nathan Tidridge demonstrates the link between Canadian federalism and the First Nations, debunking the assumption that ‘Indians’ are simply an issue for Ottawa. Mr. Tidridge encourages us to look beyond the stereotypes and appreciate the mutual interest of both orders of government in collaborating with the First Nations through the unique institution of the Canadian Crown.

D. Michael Jackson, CVO, SOM, CD, author of The Crown and Canadian Federalism

Author Nathan Tidridge…presents a compelling argument for why the Treaty of Niagara should receive more attention than it has. It could even make you rethink what Canada is all about; less a union of provinces than a relationship between two very different peoples — settlers and original inhabitants — living side-by-side in peace and co-operation.

Canada’s History

The Covenant Chain is a metaphor for alliance between the Crown and various Indigenous nations. Long ago, the representatives of the Crown let go their end of the belt and quit coming to the council fire to ‘polish the chain.’ In this book, Mr. Tidridge offers a re-telling of the ‘talk’ from a modern-day Canadian perspective. Mr. Tidridge is not a passive witness, but is an active participant and thus has made a valuable contribution to advancing the dialogue amongst the Canadian population in order to ‘smooth the path’ between settler population and the Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee peoples.

Alan Corbiere, Anishinaabe Cultural Historian, M’Chigeeng First Nation

This is a beautiful, clear, and well-written book. Thanks to Nathan Tidridge for producing a great piece of scholarship, research, and good feeling. I definitely recommend this book.

Professor John Borrows, Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Law

With The Queen at the Council Fire, Nathan Tidridge has gifted us a concise, sharp, and detailed account of one of the most important events in Canada’s history, a moment all too often ignored in the history books. The Treaty of Niagara offers a path for healthy relationships much needed in a modern culture built on the 1763 Royal Proclamation, the British North-America Act, and a long spectrum of violent, genocidal Indian policies. Tidridge reminds us of the hope embedded in our collective past and how we continue to be shaped by it in important and seminal ways.

Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair, Assoc. Professor, Dept of Native Studies, University of Manitoba

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