| Jul 20, 2006


Feature Article - July 6, 2006

Back toHome

Feature Article - July 6, 2006

Letters to theEditor

Regarding the Algonquin Land ClaimThese letters were referenced in the July 27, 2006 edition of the Frontenac News, but due to space constraints we were unable to publish them in our newspaper. Please find them here for your interest.

Re: Letters to the editor by David Bate and Robert Lovelace

Mr. Bate informed the readers that “we have never been conquered by military action.” We believe the Algonquins were defeated in war and lost their lands in the Iroquois (or Beaver) Wars of the 1640’s and 1650’s.

The Iroquois wanted to get control of the fur trade routes in Southern Ontario . They wanted furs to trade for needles, cloth, kettles, knives, hatchets, blankets, muskets, powder, ball, and shot from the Dutch and subsequently the English at New York. All of these items were European made and highly desirable. They attacked and slaughtered the Hurons, Petun, Neutral, Nipissings, and the Algonquins.

Those few Hurons, Petun, and Neutrals that survived, were assimilated by the Iroquois. Others became refugees. Some fled north and west while others (Algonquin and Nipissing) fled to Quebec , settling in Trois Rivieres under the care of the French Government.

The Iroquois maintained military control of Southern Ontario until the late 1690’s when they were finally pushed out by the Ojibwas. Thus the Ojibwas (Mississaugas, Ottawas, and the Chippewas) came to occupy all of southern Ontario except for the area east of the Gananoque and Rideau Rivers.

The proclamation act did not give land to any particular Indian group nor did the act give land between the proclamation southern boundary line and the Ottawa River as outlined by the boundaries of the Algonquin Land Claim.

In fact, after the British defeated the French in 1759-60 in Canada , the Proclamation Act in 1763 was passed, resulting in the formation of the Government of Quebec.

The act stated “And We do further declare it our Royal Will and Pleasure, for the present as aforesaid, to reserve under our Sovereignty, Protection, and Dominion, for the use of the said Indian, all the lands and Territories not included within the Limits of Our said Three new Governments.”

The southern boundary of the Government of Quebec was described as “to the South end of the Lake Nipissim ; from whence the said Line, crossing the River St. Lawrence ..” Note that this southern boundary was not the Ottawa River it was south of the Ottawa River . The “Government of Quebec” at the time included both sides of the Ottawa River .

After the proclamation Act was passed, three conflicting claims of ownership to the land south of this line emerged.

The Iroquois claimed all the land in Ontario as far north as the Ottawa River by “right of conquest.”

The Ojibwas made claim by conquest over the Iroquois all of Southern Ontario west of the Rideau and Gananoque Rivers .

The Algonquins claimed ownership and have appealed to the government of the day since 1772.

Letters

When the Crown needed land for settlement in Ontario , however, they negotiated with the Ojibwas (Mississaugas) who occupying the land and who had claimed it by right of conquest over the Iroquois. The Treaty that affected North Frontenac was Treaty 27 May 31, 1819 and Treaty 27 , November 28, 1822. These treaties included the townships of Barrie , Clarendon, Palmerston, Millar, South Canonto, and part affected by this surrender included Renfrew, Carlton , Lanark, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington, and Hastings . The total area surrendered was some 2,748,000 acres “more or less.”

The government of the day obviously did not recognize any Algonquin claim.

In 1991, the Governments of Ontario and Canada determined that the Algonquins’ claim should be considered. At the present time, the negotiators for the Algonquin First Nation, Ontario , and Canada are working hard to come to an Agreement in Principle. Also at the present time, all Crown or Public land is owned by our Governments of Ontario and Canada and is subject to the laws of Ontario and Canada .

Breaking the law does not help your cause, BBQs are not going to gain you public support or sympathy for your cause. You have failed to convince the public that your actions, in destroying the environment on Pine Lake , were justified. The Land Claim negotiating process is well underway. Why are you not involved in the process?

If the Canadian Government, which really is the citizens of Canada , owns the Crown Land , how can you say that this is a Canadian Land Claim. After all, are you not simply asking for consideration and compensation for land that you used to “own” and lost militarily? This would then make it, an Algonquin Land Claim.

Did the various ethnic groups who settled in the area remain as separate communities or didn’t they assimilate over time?

Don’t all citizens in this area, regardless of ethnic background, have equal access to schools, health care, economic opportunities, freedom of speech, association, and worship?

We cannot rewrite history. Those of us who are of Irish and Scottish ancestry in this area could complain about historic maltreatment and even genocide by the British under these same Articles of the United Nations Genocide Convention?

What is a “genetic non-Indian”? If a person has some aboriginal ancestry does that make that person a genetic Indian?

What is meant by “blood quantum”? What fraction of aboriginal ancestry must a person have to qualify as an Algonquin? How can a person ignore the other part of their ancestry? After all, if a person is 1/16 Algonquin, then that person is 15/16 something else.

Can a person having no Algonquin ancestry be considered Algonquin and receive the rights and privileges of being an Algonquin? Would that person also be part of the compensation package in any settlement?

Finally, we all want to be treated fairly. We all want to see that compensation be provided, if compensation is justified.

We all want a land claim settlement with all members of all communities as well as all members of the Algonquin communities involved and satisfied with the outcome. We all want finality and closure. How can there be a settlement, finality, and closure if your particular community is not at the negotiating table participating in the process? This process has gone on long enough. We do not want a group like yours, coming back making demands on the rest of Canada , after an agreement has been signed and accepted by the other Algonquin communities. Why is your group not at the table?

- Ron Pethick

Understanding the Algonquin Land Claim

Understanding the Algonquin Land Claim is not easy. To understand the complexities of “the claim” it is important to consider history, legal and policy issues, economics and politics. It is also important to consider Algonquin culture and values. The Ardoch Algonquin First Nation has prepared a series of articles for the summer issues of the Frontenac News to provide readers with a basic understanding of the issues.

Algonquins have occupied the Ottawa River watershed and surrounding territory since time immemorial. Algonquins do not know of a time when, as a people, they lived somewhere else. This is the Algonquin homeland, tanakin Ominin There is no other place in the world where an Algonquin can find his or her roots. Since time immemorial Algonquins summered along the Great Ottawa River, KijZ trading with neighbouring peoples; the Odawa, Huron, Montagnais, Innu, Mi’kmaq and Iroquois. They wintered in family hunting territories, ascending the rivers that flow into the Ottawa and dispersing along the lakes and creeks of the backlands. Early European explorers called the Algonquins nomadic. Nothing could have been further from the truth. Algonquins used their intelligence and knowledge of the land to secure a healthy and prosperous livelihood. They harvested over 250 plant species for food and medicine. They hunted and fished in an ecologically balanced fashion and preserved an abundance of game and fish for themselves and future generations. For Algonquins there was no sense of “wilderness”. The whole of the Ottawa watershed was their home. European settlers criticised the Algonquins for not employing agriculture to produce crops. Algonquins were horticulturists; creating and sustaining a productive environment through controlled burning and replanting, selective harvesting, and succession engineering. The science of the Algonquins was far superior to the rudimentary plough methods that emerged in feudal Europe .

Algonquins made first contact with Europeans sometime in the mid 16th century. Some Algonquin traders may well have met Jacques Cartier but more certainly many were witness to the free-enterprisers, who reported to no Monarch, and had preceded Cartier in the St Lawrence by decades. The privateers dominated European trade in the St. Lawrence until the arrival of Samuel Champlain in 1606 at what is now Quebec City . Champlain asserted French authority in the St. Lawrence region with regular visits by French gunships. The affect of European trade during the 60 or so years between Cartier and Champlain were devastating for the Aboriginal peoples of the region. Disease, warfare, alcoholism and the destruction of the environment had drastically reduced the Aboriginal population of the St Lawrence lowlands. When Champlain arrived he had two purposes; he would colonise the devastated environment of the St. Lawrence, replacing the dwindling Aboriginal population with French peasants, and secure trade with the westerly Algonquins and Huron.

Champlain’s royally sanctioned intervention into the western fur trade resulted in a continuation of destructive consequences. Champlain initiated an arms race between the Algonquins and Mohawks, introducing fire arms for the first time. Soon the entire eastern woodland peoples were in mortal combat to secure furs and profits for the French, Dutch or English. Champlain’s legacy, known as the Beaver Wars, lasted for nearly a century leaving the Algonquins a diminished people. Along with warfare, diseases took the oldest and the youngest, at once robbing the people of their knowledge keepers and the strength of the next generation’s work force. For all of the destruction wrought by Champlain’s pioneer vision, the Ottawa Valley remained Indian country. The “ups” and more often the “downs” of the French economy left Champlain’s “volunteers” in a permanent state of crushing poverty and unable to develop as a viable population beyond the original settlement areas. More often than not the futile life of the “habitant” was traded for the free and healthier life of the Indians in the woods.

Champlain’s dream of New France ended with the fall of Quebec City to the English in 1759. Four years later, in 1763, King George II, issued a Royal Proclamation that intended to establish a fresh start and contain the growing separatism among American colonists. First of all, the Proclamation of 1763 established the colony of Quebec , which is the legislative and legal fore-runner of modern day Canada . In addition, the Proclamation attempted to establish a loyal aristocracy and citizenry in the American colonies by providing British military officers and soldiers with land grants as incentives to stay and make homes in the colonies. Thirdly, the Proclamation recognised the nation-to-nation relationship that the Crown has with the indigenous peoples of North America and acknowledged the Aboriginal title of their homelands. Furthermore the Crown established for itself a duty to protect Aboriginal people and their lands from encroachment and exploitation. The Proclamation is clear in stating that the Crown is honour bound in its relations with Aboriginal peoples. Interestingly, the Proclamation also imposed the right of extradition of British felons when they fled to the protection of “Indian lands”. While this imposition is arbitrary it assumes all other civil jurisdiction of Aboriginal nations was in place. The Proclamation also stipulated that individuals trading with Indians were required to obtain a licence and subject to tax. No such stipulation was imposed on Indians. King George’s vision of an American Camelot, loyal to the Crown, economically productive, free of costly wars and at peace with its Indian neighbours was embodied in the Royal Proclamation of 1763. Thirteen years later, thirteen American colonies would declare their independence from the Crown, leaving Quebec and Nova Scotia the only British colonies in North America .

In 1800, 206 years ago, there was not a town, road, damn or farm in the Ottawa Valley . The language was mininowin. Even the few English and French in the valley spoke the native language. The Algonquin population had rebounded and rebuilt its traditional presence in the Valley. Since the American Revolution the British had come north as loyalists to settle the area along the St Lawrence and the shore of Lake Ontario . Iroquois Loyalists were among these immigrants. In order to clear Aboriginal title for these newcomers the Crown purchased title from the Mississaugas through the Crawford Purchase (1783) and the Rideau Purchase (1819). In doing so the Crown included some Algonquin Land but excluded Algonquins from negotiations or compensation. This oversight would become the main point of a hundred years of formal grievances directed to the Crown by Algonquin chiefs. In 1820, Philemon Wright reported to the Legislature of Upper Canada how he had come to secure the protection and cooperation of Algonquins along the Ottawa River in 1800. Wright described a Treaty of Peace and Friendship that had been negotiated at what is now Hull , Quebec , across the River from the present day Parliament buildings of Canada . The Treaty clearly permitted Wright the use of a small portion of land for the development of a mill, farms and village. In return Wright was extended Algonquin citizenship and agreed to protect Algonquin resources, lands and titles. He recognised the needs of the Algonquin people to sustain themselves on the land. He agreed not to interfere with their economic activities and offered them fair compensation when he did. Embodied in this Treaty is an agreement of mutual recognition, mutual respect and shared benefits. While the intentions of the Wright/Algonquin Treaty were honourable and local, the development of Philemon Wright’s mill at the Chaudier Falls initiated the environmental destruction of the entire Ottawa Valley .

Three waves of European immigration took place in Upper and Lower Canada after the defeat of the French at Quebec in 1759. The first immigrants were American mercantilists who took over the failed economy of New France . As the Fur Trade had shifted its focus toward the North West and James Bay , these mercantilists concentrated their interests on the exploitation of pine forests and the production of potash. Potash is used in the manufacture of soap and other industrial products and is produced by rendering entire woodlands to ash. The potash and white pine timber was exported to England and Scotland and were returned to Canada as manufactured products. Following the American Revolution, Loyalists with capital, servants, slaves, stock and equipment followed the American mercantilists and began to convert the fertile land of the north shore of the St Lawrence and Lake Ontario to agricultural use. Throughout this time Algonquins were loyal allies to the British Crown and provided protection and assistance to the newcomers. However, as early as the late 18th century, Algonquin chiefs observed to Crown representatives the destruction of the environment that followed European settlement. As settlers converted indigenous environments to European landscapes entire ecosystems collapsed diminishing the diversity of both plant and animal species.

European exploitation and settlement of the Ottawa Valley took place after 1800. Within a generation of the establishment of Philemon Wright’s mill the best of the tall pines were being cut and floated down the Rideau, Mississippi and Madawaska Rivers . The immigrants who came to the Ottawa Valley were not the cultured merchants or Loyalists who were now developing civil governance for Canada but the rude, backward, poverty stricken Scots and Irish peasants, fresh off the boat. The critical convergence of these desperate immigrants and the opening of the Valley for settlement spelled the destruction of the environment and the Algonquin way of life. Within a hundred years no forests of real value existed. The soil of marginal farms had been eroded and deposited in the swamps and lakes. Surface mines that offered short term gains were exhausted leaving the toxic tailings for other generations to clean up. The settler population in the backlands of the Ottawa Valley in 1900 was 4 times greater than it is today but with the environment so over exploited and devastated the economy collapsed and most people got up and left. The Algonquins stayed close to their homeland and struggled to survive on the devastated land.

Archived records show that Algonquin people suffered the loss of subsistence occupations and were the targets of racism and economic marginalization. Algonquins were not permitted to own land and when indifferent governments permitted Indian settlement they failed to provide protection. This was clearly the case in Bedford , Oso and South Sherbrooke townships where Chief Shapenes(Sothernbird) was given a licence of occupation of 2000 acres in 1844. This was the first Algonquin reserve to be set aside in Ontario or Quebec . With a dream of establishing a sustainable community for ninety or so Algonquins, Shapenespetitioned for the protection by the Crown. Within a year, loggers from Perth invaded the reserved lands, raping the women and beating the men. When Shapenescomplained to the Crown he was told that the land had been reserved for his people, but the trees had not. When he begged the Commander of the Garrison at Perth to protect his people he was told that it was not in the interest of the Army to protect Indians but should the Algonquins harm the loggers the Army would certainly come to the area. The politics of the 19th century were confusing for Algonquins. They had begun the century as important military and political allies with a viable economy and growing population; by 1844 they were being treated as vagrants in their own land. It is important to note that in the year that Shapeneswas petitioning the Crown for a licence to occupy a limited tract of Algonquin land that Queen’s University opened its doors to the sons of Loyalist immigrants and the walls around Kingston Penitentiary were completed to hold the most unruly sons and daughters of the Scots/Irish immigrants. What is absolutely clear is that the Crown failed in its obligation to secure for itself, Algonquin title. The lands that the Crown had permitted to be occupied by European immigrants, was never acquired by a purchase or treaty. The construction of Canada ’s foundations was underway but Algonquins were ignored and their previous contributions were forgotten. While the Crown negotiated with many other Aboriginal people in Ontario , more than twenty treaties in keeping with the mandate of the Proclamation of 1763, it failed to resolve clear title to the Ottawa Valley . No amount of ignorance, racism, dominance, paternalism, violence or political blindness can change the fact that Algonquins have retained Aboriginal rights and title to their homeland in the Valley.

Other Stories this Week View RSS feed

Support local
independant journalism by becoming a patron of the Frontenac News.