Wednesday, 10 April 2019 13:12

Ardoch’s Harold Perry passes

Harold Perry, who died last week, was born at Ardoch. He left for Toronto as a teenager but returned to Ardoch as an adult, and lived the rest of his life on Canoe Path Lane, on a section of the Mississippi River that is called Mud Lake.

He experienced discrimination because of his Algonquin heritage when he was young, in Ardoch and in Toronto.

Nonetheless, he embraced the teachings and connection to the land that he learned as a child. He also developed a very strong and unwavering set of political understandings that have influenced indigenous activists locally and across the province in profound ways. He also was a master canoe builder and country music guitarist. He was proudly inducted into the Land O’Lakes Traditional Music Hall of Fame in 2016.

Harold also helped to manage a patch of wild rice, that was transported to Mud Lake by his mother from Rice Lake near Peterborough. And that patch of rice was responsible for a chain of events that changed Harold’s life and many others, and helped spark the re-birth of Indigenous culture in Frontenac and Lanark Counties and beyond.

In the late 1970’s, the province of Ontario granted a license to a rice harvesting company to collect the rice from Mud Lake. Harold was a well-established builder, woodworker, martial arts instructor, and musician at the time, headed towards retirement age, when he saw that the rice patch that he had been stewarding for most of his life was about to be harvested.

He approached North Frontenac Community Services, which had a community legal worker on staff at the time (a position that eventually led to the formation of its own agency – Rural Legal Services.)

That worker was Bob Lovelace, who spent most of his time representing clients of the Oso Township welfare office, who were having trouble accessing funds from the township.

When Harold and Bob met, both of their lives changed.

“I knew from when I was a kid that I was part Indian,” Lovelace said when contacted this week at his home on Canoe Lake.

“I was mainly focussed, at that that time, on the local welfare system. Harold came to see me one day about what he could do about the rice.

Harold and Bob and a host of other community members worked on what were dubbed locally as the ‘rice wars’ for a couple of seasons and eventually the company was forced to withdraw.

The entire episode sparked a bit of a renaissance in Aboriginal culture in the region.

“Local people kept their culture to themselves before that. They kept it within their extended families, but at that time they started to feel they no longer wanted to be ashamed of their identity, they wanted to come together in public.”

A number of cultural and political groups developed throughout the 1980’s in the Ardoch and Sharbot Lake areas, and Harold and Bob formed a friendship and political alliance.

Lovelace, who is a university lecturer at Queen’s, a community educator and political activist, said “I like to tell my students that Harold Perry taught me everything I know about aboriginal culture and politics.”

In the 1980’s, Harold became a central figure in another legal battle, over hunting rights for non-status people of Aboriginal heritage.

“He thought it was important to establish hunting rights, and he said he thought it would take longer than his lifetime to do it, but we had to make a start. It was a shorter fight than he thought.”

It turned out that it was Harold himself who supplied the test case, when he was arrested for shooting a duck without first obtaining a hunting license.

Harold fought the case on his inherent right to hunt as an aboriginal person, and won. The case was later overturned in an appeal court, based on some of the comments that the judge made during the trial, but the government of Ontario has never re-visited the issue, being content to establish harvesting agreements with First Nations to this day rather than challenging Aboriginal hunting rights.

In the late 1980’s the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation and Allies (AAFNA - later renamed the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation) had been formed, and Harold was elected as Chief through a vote of the family heads council.

AAFNA was approached by Kirby Whiteduck from Golden Lake (now know as Pikwakanagan First Nation) to join in the Algonquin land claim process, and they agreed to participate.

“After about a year Harold realised that the non-status communities were only going to be used and he encouraged the family heads council to have AAFNA step back from the process, and they agreed.”

AAFNA, and Harold, became harsh critics of the land claim process, never yielding in his opinion that it would lead only to the diminution of Aboriginal rights. This led to more than a little bitterness within the local community that is still echoed to this day.

The Shabot Obaadjiwan First Nation, based now on White Lake, and the Snimikobi Algonquin First Nation (based in Eganville) remained within the process, and AAFNA has remained opposed.

In 2007, a uranium exploration company began doing testing on Crotch Lake, using an old mine at Robertsville as an access point from Hwy. 509. Crotch Lake and the region surrounding it are the traditional territory for both AAFNA and the Shabot Obaadjiwan First Nations.

In spite of the schism between the two groups, who share territory and family connections, the two First Nations worked together and occupied the site, saying they would not permit drilling on their ancestral territory. It was an uneasy alliance that frayed pretty quickly, but the occupation held for several months.

“Harold, Doreen Davis (Chief of the Shabot Obaadjiwan) the Badour and St. Pierre families deserve credit for putting that coalition together,” said Lovelace, “even if it was tough.”

After the occupation ended, a court case, launched by the exploration company, culminated in a Superior Court Judge in Kingston demanding that the community representatives who ended up facing charges of trespassing, commit to staying away from the site.

In the end there were three who resisted making that declaration, which was a matter of principle more than practicality since by that time the site was back in the hands of the company and access was blocked.

The three were Harold Perry, Bob Lovelace, and Paula Sherman, all Chiefs or former Chiefs of AAFNA.

“Harold was 78 at the time, and I knew from working in the prisons that he was not in good enough health to go to prison, so we talked him into making the declaration,” Lovelace recalls. Lovelace was the only one who ended up in jail, until he was released on appeal several months later.

The company ended up leaving and the land is no longer eligible for staking, and is part of the lands earmarked in the land claim, for transfer to the Algonquins.

Harold Perry lived on at his home in Ardoch with his wife Elsie until last week.

He was an unassuming, even a shy man, but a ferocious political fighter for the rights of non-status Indigenous people, and whether they agreed or disagreed with him, no one can deny the impact he has had on Indigenous politics in this region, and beyond.

Published in NORTH FRONTENAC
Wednesday, 28 February 2018 12:33

Algonquin to Adirondack

In order to explain the relevance of the corridor of territory that links two of the larges wilderness parks in the Eastern Seabord, Adirondack Park in New York State and Algonquin Park in Ontario, the story of Alice the Moose always comes up. Alice was first identified in Rochester in New York State, and later on she turned up in Algonquin Park.

Her journey included hopping from island to island in the Thousand Islands on the St. Lawrence River. She then traversed along a corridor of lakes and wetlands in Eastern Ontario of which Frontenac Park in South Frontenac and Frontenac Parklands in North Frontenac make up the western edge, and over the Madawaska river and on to the park. The corridor through which Alive travelled encompasses an area of ecological diversity that both extends the range of some species, and, like Alice, allows others to migrate from one rich habitat to another.

With the stress of climate change now upon us the resulting change in habitat, the corridor can be a crucial means for animals to adapt to changes.

A2A, the Algonquin to Adirondack Collaborative, is a small, partnership based organisation devoted to exploring and maintaining the vibrancy of this corridor.

David Miller is the Executive Director of A2A, and he made a presentation at the Annual General Meeting of the Friends of Frontenac Park last weekend about A2A.

The Frontenac Arch of the Canadian Shield plays a crucial role in creating the varied landscapes that make the corridor function, and A2A works on mapping the area, helping provide passage over some of the major hurdles in the corridor such as the 401 Highway, the Thousand Islands Parkway and Hwy. 2, and does a lot of work publicizing the corridor.

“One thing we do is create a great summer research job for a student, walking along the highway counting squashed critters. An average of 70 vertebrates are killed each day, and the information gathered by knowing where those animals cross the road, helps us work with the MTO [Ministry of Transportation] to figure out where to locate fences, where to re-do culverts to let specific species through, etc.” he said.

“There is stuff we can do when we have the correct information, relatively simple things that can make a difference, and then there are more complicated things,” he said.

One of the more complicated things is to impress on planning bodies such as municipalities that a level of landscape planning, looking at the broad regions ecological function, needs to be incorporated into local planning around proposed developments in order to keep the corridor functioning.

“One advantage we have is that there are no larger cities in the corridor, so development is not likely to create a massive impediment to migration,” he said.

A2A has been researching a number of types of plans, including municipal natural heritage strategies, park and watershed plans, and land trust/conservancy and nature conservancy plans, in order to develop a lens to provide to municipal planners so that landscape planning can begin to be integrated into land use planning.

“Land use planning tends to be reactive,” Miller said, “a development is proposed and the planning department reacts, and in that context making sure a larger perspective is taken into account is difficult to achieve.”

A2A has also done a major mapping project to create better awareness of the corridor.

Finally, an A2A trail, which makes use of existing trails and the occasional back road, has been identified.

Last summer naturalists from Algonquin Park and Adirondack Park set out from their own parks at the same time and they eventually met up in the middle point of the 650 kilometre trail.

“What the trail demonstrates is not only the beauty of the landscape but the cultural values as well, the small towns and rural properties along the route and the people whom live in them,” Miller said.

For further information, go to A2Acollaborative.org.

Published in NORTH FRONTENAC

There were lots of smiling faces, full bellies and nimble fingers last Saturday at the Crow Lake School House for the Ardoch Algonquins holiday gathering. The event was co-sponsored by Apagadiwag Omamawi'ininiwag (Algonquin) Community development circle. This group is a cultural arm of the Ardoch Algonquin first nation that works with both heads of family and on multi-community initiatives such as this gathering which included a shared meal, turkey and ham raffles, song sharing, pouch-making for Tobacco and an explanation of the Apagadiwag Needs assessment project.

“Our focus isn’t on divisive political entities, we had people from Ardoch Algonquin, from Shabot Obadjewan, from Smiths Falls here today. Our focus is how to recover culture, language, ways of being. These things are needed in order to heal.” Said Paula Sherman, who will be spearheading the research part of the needs assessment. The group received a Trilium grant for the next year do this project.

They are looking to hear from people about their knowledge and also their needs. Figuring out what needs can be met within the community, and in what ways could social programming and medical care be more culturally sensitive to indigenous experiences, trauma and ways of being.

“We want to get a sense of who all the indigenous people are, where they are? Are their needs being met? We want the needs assessment to be less formal, more holistic we want to gather together and build relationships in a community way. We want to create a safe space for any first nations to come”. Said Rosa Barker, director/member of Apagadiwag Omamawi'ininiwag.

The room was anything but formal, it was warm from the fire and folks were visiting and nibbling around the tables. Kids ran around, finishing the pouches they had just made and stuffing them with dried tobacco.

“To me its a very special medicine, its good for you and good for the earth” 8 year old Sadie Barker-Badour shared.

“Asemaa is how you say tobacco in Anishnaabemowin” (the language spoken by the Anishinaabe people) her mother, Rosa, explained.

If you would like to participate in the Apagadiwag Omamawi'ininiwag needs assesment contact Paula Sherman This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 705-930-6226.

Published in CENTRAL FRONTENAC

Mich Cota is a two-spirit Algonquin woman living in Montreal but her roots run deep in this area. Two-Spirit comes from an Ojibwe phrase niizh manidoowag and has become an umbrella term for many Indigenous people across Turtle Island to verbalize fluid sexual orientations and gender identities. When asked about her relation to two-spirit identity, Mich recalled meeting someone at the Silver Lake Pow Wow when she was 13 or so.

“He was really forward and asked me a lot of questions that I didn’t really understand at the time but he explained to me what two-spirit meant. In Montreal and online I’ve met more two-spirit folks. It can mean that someone is both masculine, feminine or neither, or traditionally, one can be different creatures.

"The most visible concepts of two-spirit peoples are queer, transgender, and non-binary aboriginal people. But it also pushes the colonial concept of gender, encompassing intuition, empathy, respect and love for all genders, paying attention to our bodies and our emotions. In my way, I hold myself and express myself. I’ve always been sensitive, and now I see that as an asset. And it’s a quality of being a two-spirit woman."

Mich’s family has been on these lands for generations, but she grew up in Maberly. She graced the stage of the former Sharbot Lake High School Auditorium, in coffee houses, and productions with the North Frontenac Little Theatre. She moved to Perth as a teenager and then went on to pursue a creative career in Montreal, where she has been releasing solo works and albums with her former band Archery Guild.

Kijà / Care is a beautiful journey of self expression. Switching back and forth between Algonquin and English with an electronic tapestry of synthesizers, strings, drums and ethereal voices, this album has the power to transcend not only gender but also time and space. The opening song Kijà / Care is infectious, with the line “Do you see, if we don’t act now, we will lose everything” becoming a mantra. This album serves both as a departure from her earlier work, and also as a natural evolution.

“I’m feeling like I’ve finally tapped into a place in myself that is honest and joyful. I have always wanted to express myself through my ethnicity, and it took me a while to figure out how to navigate that. I first started to write in Algonquin using nature mythologies and applying them to my own life. But I was having trouble overcoming my own victimhood. I wasn’t paying attention to the beauty of Algonquin Culture. I was just looking at the darkness.

“For this album, I started writing in English. I started with the second song on the album Takokì /  Step, singing about how comfortable I felt wearing a dress; How strange it was to be hidden as a young kid. I had named myself Michelle and I told people I was a little girl. But that was overshadowed by people telling me that I lived in a fantasy. I did live in other fantasies, but this one was a reality. Now that I feel the strength of being myself, being a woman, I am also feeling more of the strength and pride in being Algonquin simultaneously.

 “I had a lot of help translating English to Algonquin from Paula Sherman and using some online resources. My method for making Algonquin poetry was not by writing sentences. Instead I put words together and let the spaces between them remain ambiguous for people, both Algonquin speakers and not, to relate to and interpret. I hope these songs will be used like incantations, like prayers, like tools for empowerment, for peaceful moments.”

Mich has been playing many shows, including a performance as part of the First People’s Festival in Montreal this summer. She played an album release show in Montreal around Halloween, and came onto the stage being held up by six white men in a dive bar with low ceilings. The room acted as a container for her expression. She stood on a table in a dance portion of her piece and pushed up against the ceiling with her head, symbolising being held captive by the room, bursting boundaries of what a concert can look like.

“My friend and collaborator Pamela Hart has suggested that I should be playing in art spaces. Performing in a concert setting isn’t difficult, but the audience doesn’t know how to react. My piece is like a meditation, a performance, exhibitionism, what kind of body do you see? What is this body allowed to do?”.

 You can listen and buy the digital download of Mich Cota’s album Kijà / Care online at Kijà / Care - or go to the  following youtube videos from the record Madjashin/Goodbye or Kija/Care

 This week is Transgender Awareness Week. It started with Monday’s Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day to mourn and honour the countless deaths by acts of anti-transgender violence.

On the subject of being Trans in Canada, Mich commented “In Canada, things are very scary, but we are fortunate that our existence is legal and not punishable by death. But the impact of ignorance through verbal and emotional abuse can really stunt trans people’s growth and lives. Everyone deserves to live and be themselves. Let’s listen and believe each other. We know who we are.”

Photo by Joel Moyer taken just outside Sharbot Lake

Published in CENTRAL FRONTENAC

The theme for last week’s Strawberry Moon Festival, the 12th annual, was beavers, ‘amik’ in Algonquin and indeed it was a busy place.

The official attendance tally was 193, the vast majority of whom were children, said organizer Marcie Asselstine.

That represents a considerable increase over last year. And they saw it coming which initiated the move to the Frontenac Arena grounds from the St. James Major schoolgrounds.

Asselstine said the festival is a “wrap up” for her program in which she visits area classrooms to teach students about Algonquin culture and traditions. Since her schedule has increased, attendance at the festival was no surprise.

“I started with two classrooms,” she said. “Now I visit nine.”

The festival draws its name from the fact that June is “strawberry month,” Asselstine said. “I start planning in May, calling my traditional volunteers and putting everything together.

“We chose amik (literally translated ‘builds with wood’) this year because the beaver represents wisdom and one of my classes built beaver lodges. It’s also the 150th anniversary of Canada and the beaver is Canada’s official animal.”

To that end, they set up six stations and the visitors travelled clockwise to each one.

The first station featured headband making, complete with beaver tails. Shabot Obaadjiwan First Nation and Chief Doreen Davis provided the materials (as well as other financial support).

The second station was a traditional snack of corn bread and strawberries. Healthy Kids Community Challenge provided the strawberries.

The third station was drumming, with Red Sun men’s drum and a gathering of local women’s hand drums.

The fourth station featured local storyteller Danka Brewer telling how beaver got his distinctive teeth. She was assisted by a host of dragonflies, which she explained are the “keepers of children’s dreams.”

The fifth station featured early literacy teacher Susan Ramsey telling how beaver got his flat tail in a teepee arranged by Shawn MacDonald of the Algonquin & Lakeshore Catholic District School Board.

The sixth station featured lacrosse, a traditional First Nations game and Canada’s national summer sport.

“A lot of us here are First Nations families,” Asselstine said. “One of my students said ‘I’m Algonquin and is it ever fun.

“This is about making it OK to share our culture and bringing people together.”

Asselstine had special praise for all of her colleagues at North Frontenac Community Services, who helped organize the event.

Use of the arena grounds was arranged by South Frontenac arena and recreation supervisor Tim Laprade.

Published in CENTRAL FRONTENAC
Wednesday, 14 June 2017 12:15

NAEC canoe trip to Algonquin

On Wednesday, May 31st, North Addington Education Centre’s Grade 11 and Grade 12 Recreation and Fitness Leadership class, travelled to Algonquin park to partake in a 4-day canoe trip.

The students prepared for the trip during the month of May during their class. They had to prepare presentations to teach the rest of the class important information about the trip. They also had to go through various amounts of training to learn proper canoe strokes and safety practices, such as canoe-over-canoe rescue, as well as how to portage efficiently over long distances.

Their trip consisted of canoeing multiple lakes throughout a day, as well as numerous portages, one being approximately 2.5 kilometres! The students successfully completed the portages in record times and kept a positive attitude during the entire trip, despite some rain and wind at times. Grade 12 student, Shaelynn Flagler commented on her experience, “The challenges were the weather, bugs and mud which made the portages and the days on the lake very difficult, but we as a group were able to conquer Algonquin Park and have a good trip.”

Their teacher, Mrs. Sproule, commented on her students saying, “the growth that we saw in students, both individually and as a group, was phenomenal.  Some students learned to camp and canoe for the first time on a trip while others had the opportunity to catch their first trout and eat it cooked over the campfire!” The students all agree that it was a great educational trip and a wonderful experience. They all grew closer to each other and bonded more than they ever would have in just a classroom environment.

The school and teachers hope to continue in their outdoor educational trips and are very grateful to their local sponsors for making these trips possible. Without the sponsors, they would be unable to afford the supplies and transportation needed for the trip.

Published in NORTH FRONTENAC
Wednesday, 19 October 2016 22:08

Land Claim AIP ratified at a ceremony in Ottawa

'Now the real negotiations begin", says Kirby Whiteduck of Pikwakanagan

At a ceremony in Ottawa on Tuesday morning, October 18, the Government of Canada, the Government of Ontario, and the Algonquins of Ontario signed an Agreement in Principle (AIP) regarding the Algonquin Land Claim.

The AIP is “a key step toward a modern-day treaty to resolve a long-standing land claim that covers an area of 36,000 square kilometres in Eastern Ontario,” according to a release from Flavia Mussio of the Ontario Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation.

“The non-binding AIP paves the way for continued negotiations toward a final agreement that will define the ongoing rights of the Algonquins of Ontario to lands and natural resources within the settlement area”, Mussio added.

Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs for the Government of Canada, heralded the agreement as “a momentous milestone and a significant step forward on renewing Canada’s relationship with the Algonquins of Ontario.”

Robert Potts, chief negotiator and legal counsel to the Algonquins of Ontario, said the agreement “marks a critical step forward in a journey that began almost 250 years ago when the first Algonquin Petition was submitted to the Crown in 1772.”

The AIP had been stalled since the spring, even though a ratification vote among the 7,500 Algonquin electors within the territories had yielded a strong yes vote.

However, some members of the Pikwakanagan First Nation at Golden Lake were given a chance to vote in a separate process. Most of them voted against the AIP.

The Pikwakanagan Council pulled out of the land claim process at that time and throughout the months of June and July the council met with the local community and heard a number of concerns about language in the agreement. Of particular concern was the language around self-government at Pikwakanagan.

Pikwakanagan Chief of Council Kirby Whiteduck told the News today that his council sent letters to Ontario and Canada seeking clarification of specific items and received letters in return, from each of the ministers, which were shared with the community and discussed at an open meeting in July.

“For example, some of our members were concerned that if we sign a self-government agreement, we will lose our reserve, which is not what the agreement says, but people needed more assurance. There were legitimate concerns about a lack of clarity in some of the language in the AIP that needed to be addressed, and the letters did that,” said Whiteduck.

The council asked, at the meeting in July and through a mail out, for Pikwakanagan members to let them know if they should continue with the process or end it.

“Not a lot of people responded but 95% of those who did respond, said yes, continue,” Whiteduck said.

The Pikwakanagan Council passed a motion last week indicating they were ready to sign the AIP and move on to final negotiations.

“The Chief and Council will be participating in the signing of the Draft Agreement-in-Principle in the Parliament buildings along with the Government of Canada, the Government of Ontario and the Algonquins of Ontario. This will take us into negotiations, towards a final agreement,” said a release that was posted on the Pikwanagan website late last week.

However while negotiators and politicians from the federal and provincial governments and the Algonquins of Ontario are celebrating the signing of the AIP, Kirby Whiteduck is not celebrating.

“We said to them today we are now past the AIP stage in the process. It is good to be done with the AIP, but now we are into the more important and definitive negotiations. As far as we are concerned, every thing is open to change. There are important things in the AIP, but there is a lot more to negotiate. If there was nothing to negotiate, we would all just sign the AIP and be done with it.”

Whiteduck, who has been involved in the process for over 30 years, longer by decades that any of the government negotiators, is committed to negotiating a self-government agreement for Pikwakanagan as part of the land claim.

He argues that a self-government agreement is a necessity for Pikwakanagan, in part because it will allow the local council to determine membership in the community, which would no longer be tied to the Indian Act.

“Under the Indian Act, there are two general categories for status, 6-1 and 6-2. Those with 6-2 status, and that includes many Pikwakanagan members, only pass that status on if they have children with another 6-2 status parent. Otherwise their children do not have status, and this means our community shrinks. Under self-government, we can determine status ourselves,” he said.

Further he considers a self-government agreement within a land claim treaty as more powerful than self -government under a simple Act of Parliament.

“A treaty brings more security,” he said.

That is not to say that the Pikwakanagan Council is willing to sign a treaty before they are happy about all of its provisions.

“We are ready to negotiate all of the issues,” he said, “and as I said we are not bound by the AIP.”

Whiteduck also indicated that there are issues between Pikwakanagan and the off-reserve communities that need to be sorted out as well, saying that Pikwakanagan and the nine off-reserve communities (which include the Shabot Obaadjiwan) are undergoing a mediation process to try to come to an agreement over beneficiary criteria under a final treaty.

Ron Dearing, the land claim negotiator for the federal government, said today in a conference call that the Algonquin land claim negotiations are unique in that the public has been privy to more detail than in any other negotiation that Canada has negotiated, and there will be further opportunities to consult with the public over the next two or three years as final negotiations take place. He said the negotiations could be finalised in about four years.

Robert Potts resisted being pinned down to a time frame and said that even if negotiations are completed within four years, legislation in Ontario and Canada will be required to enact a treaty.

“And that takes more time,” he said.

 

Published in General Interest

Land Claim AIP ratified at a ceremony in Ottawa

Now the real negotiations begin, says Kirby Whiteduck of Pikwakanagan

by Jeff Green

At a ceremony in Ottawa on Tuesday morning, October 18, the Government of Canada, the Government of Ontario, and the Algonquins of Ontario signed an Agreement in Principle (AIP) regarding the Algonquin Land Claim.

The AIP is “a key step toward a modern-day treaty to resolve a long-standing land claim that covers an area of 36,000 square kilometres in Eastern Ontario,” according to a release from Flavia Mussio of the Ontario Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation.

The non-binding AIP paves the way for continued negotiations toward a final agreement that will define the ongoing rights of the Algonquins of Ontario to lands and natural resources within the settlement area”, Mussio added.

Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs for the Government of Canada, heralded the agreement as “a momentous milestone and a significant step forward on renewing Canada’s relationship with the Algonquins of Ontario.”

Robert Potts, chief negotiator and legal counsel to the Algonquins of Ontario, said the agreement “marks a critical step forward in a journey that began almost 250 years ago when the first Algonquin Petition was submitted to the Crown in 1772.”

The AIP had been stalled since the spring, even though a ratification vote among the 7,500 Algonquin electors within the territories had yielded a strong yes vote.

However, some members of the Pikwakanagan First Nation at Golden Lake were given a chance to vote in a separate process. Most of them voted against the AIP.

The Pikwakanagan Council pulled out of the land claim process at that time and throughout the months of June and July the council met with the local community and heard a number of concerns about language in the agreement. Of particular concern was the language around self-government at Pikwakanagan.

Pikwakanagan Chief of Council Kirby Whiteduck told the News today that his council sent letters to Ontario and Canada seeking clarification of specific items and received letters in return, from each of the ministers, which were shared with the community and discussed at an open meeting in July.

For example, some of our members were concerned that if we sign a self-government agreement, we will lose our reserve, which is not what the agreement says, but people needed more assurance. There were legitimate concerns about a lack of clarity in some of the language in the AIP that needed to be addressed, and the letters did that,” said Whiteduck.

The council asked, at the meeting in July and through a mail out, for Pikwakanagan members to let them know if they should continue with the process or end it.

Not a lot of people responded but 95% of those who did respond, said yes, continue,” Whiteduck said.

The Pikwakanagan Council passed a motion last week indicating they were ready to sign the AIP and move on to final negotiations.

The Chief and Council will be participating in the signing of the Draft Agreement-in-Principle in the Parliament buildings along with the Government of Canada, the Government of Ontario and the Algonquins of Ontario. This will take us into negotiations, towards a final agreement,” said a release that was posted on the Pikwanagan website late last week.

However while negotiators and politicians from the federal and provincial governments and the Algonquins of Ontario are celebrating the signing of the AIP, Kirby Whiteduck is not celebrating.

We said to them today we are now past the AIP stage in the process. It is good to be done with the AIP, but now we are into the more important and definitive negotiations. As far as we are concerned, every thing is open to change. There are important things in the AIP, but there is a lot more to negotiate. If there was nothing to negotiate, we would all just sign the AIP and be done with it.”

Whiteduck, who has been involved in the process for over 30 years, longer by decades that any of the government negotiators, is committed to negotiating a self-government agreement for Pikwakanagan as part of the land claim.

He argues that a self-government agreement is a necessity for Pikwakanagan, in part because it will allow the local council to determine membership in the community, which would no longer be tied to the Indian Act.

Under the Indian Act, there are two general categories for status, 6-1 and 6-2. Those with 6-2 status, and that includes many Pikwakanagan members, only pass that status on if they have children with another 6-2 status parent. Otherwise their children do not have status, and this means our community shrinks. Under self-government, we can determine status ourselves,” he said.

Further he considers a self-government agreement within a land claim treaty as more powerful than self -government under a simple Act of Parliament.

A treaty brings more security,” he said.

That is not to say that the Pikwakanagan Council is willing to sign a treaty before they are happy about all of its provisions.

We are ready to negotiate all of the issues,” he said, “and as I said we are not bound by the AIP.”

Whiteduck also indicated that there are issues between Pikwakanagan and the off-reserve communities that need to be sorted out as well, saying that Pikwakanagan and the nine off-reserve communities (which include the Shabot Obaadjiwan) are undergoing a mediation process to try to come to an agreement over beneficiary criteria under a final treaty.

Ron Dearing, the land claim negotiator for the federal government, said today in a conference call that the Algonquin land claim negotiations are unique in that the public has been privy to more detail than in any other negotiation that Canada has negotiated, and there will be further opportunities to consult with the public over the next two or three years as final negotiations take place. He said the negotiations could be finalised in about four years.

Robert Potts resisted being pinned down to a time frame and said that even if negotiations are completed within four years, legislation in Ontario and Canada will be required to enact a treaty.

And that takes more time,” he said.

Published in General Interest
Wednesday, 01 June 2016 19:17

Shabot Obaadjiwan opens culture centre

The Council of the Shabot Obaadjiwan First Nation (SOFN), along with a crowd of members of all ages, gathered last Saturday, May 27 for their annual spring fish fry. But this time, instead of renting or borrowing someone else's hall for the event, they held it in their own new cultural centre.

The SOFN have been working on the centre for a number of years and it is now ready for use. It is located on 50 acres between Highway 7 and White Lake that have been occupied by SOFN under a land use permit from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Fisheries since 2007. The wooded property is included as one of the parcels of land to be transferred to the Algonquins of Ontario as part of the Algonquin Land Claim. It is adjacent to the 500 acres that are reserved for the White Lake Fish Hatchery, and one of the clauses in the Agreement in Principle to the land claim provides for that land to be offered to the AOO if the province ever decided to cease the fish hatchery operation.

“When we went to the MNR to talk about the land for our cultural centre about 10 years ago it was because we did not want to put our own community development on hold while waiting for the claim to be completed. We wanted to build a home base for ourselves, and that is what this building and this land is all about,” said Shabot Obaadjiwan Chief Doreen Davis at the opening of the centre.

The Algonquin Land Claim process seemed set to enter a new phase as the majority of the communities involved, including the Shabot Obaadjiwan, ratified the agreement in principle for the claim earlier this year. However, the majority of voters in a referendum that was held at the only reserve in the claim territory, Pikwàkanagàn First Nation at Golden Lake, voted against the agreement.

“We have all agreed to put a hold on the next phase of the process until the Council of Pikwàkanagàn is able to provide the kind of comfort necessary for those in Pikwàkanagàn who are not ready to sign on,” said Davis.

She said that work continues on many of the details of the complex agreement in the many working groups, with the benefit of participation from members of the Pikwàkanagàn Council, but the entire land claim negotiating team is not meeting to ratify any of the working group decisions until Pikwàkanagàn is ready.

“The land claim always had and will always have bumps and delays along the way, but we are working on our own community all the time,” said Davis.

The Shabot Obaadjiwan raise money through sales at smoke shops that they run in Sharbot Lake and Parham.

“We put everything we raise back into the community, and since our members are integrated into the broader community in the area, we are involved as well,” she said.

Shabot Obaadjiwan donates $1,000 each year to the snowsuit fund at Northern Frontenac Community Services (NFCS). This year, they have been working with NFCS on a snowshoe initiative and are looking forward to working on trail development on private land and some of the land earmarked for park use in the land claim. They also support minor baseball.

“We are working hard developing our cultural centre as well,” said Davis.

In addition to a new pre-fab building, insulation has been installed as well as a wood floor. A front porch has been constructed, as well as a privy.

The next stages are putting in a septic system and plumbing for the centre.

A hand-made birch bark canoe that Shabot Obaadjiwan members built a few years ago is going to be installed inside the front door of the center sometime soon, and other decorations are planned.

“This will be a location where we can live our ceremonial life, our funerals, our weddings, our celebrations,” said Davis, “but we are not trying to exclude anyone either. We will make it available for community use as well.”

The site itself is also under development, as it is transformed from deep bush to a location that can host community ceremonies. Perhaps in time it will host an Algonquin nation gathering, similar to one that was hosted at the Sharbot Lake beach three years ago.

“It takes time, and it takes funds and volunteer labour to do all these things, and we can only do things as we can afford them,” she said.

Published in CENTRAL FRONTENAC
Wednesday, 23 March 2016 19:17

Algonquin Land Claim Hits Snag

If the Algonquin Land Claim were a train, you might say it went a bit off the rails last week, just it was rounding the corner towards its destination after a long, arduous journey.

The snag that caused the Council of the Pikwàkanagàn First Nation to “take a step back” from the process, in the words of a press release last Thursday (March 17) were the results of a referendum that was conducted earlier this month.

When asked if they supported the Agreement in Principle for the Algonquin Land Claim, which was negotiated by their Chief and council, and the representatives from nine off-reserve communities, 246 members voted in favour and 317 voted against the agreement, 56% against to 44% in favour.

Pikwàkanagàn Chief Kirby Whiteduck said, “Our members ... are currently divided on the proposed AIP and some do not have the level of comfort to move forward at this moment. As a result, our council requires further discussions and consultations with Canada and Ontario to clarify certain issues, to address the concerns of our members and to bridge the divisions in our community.”

For their part, the Algonquin Nation Representatives and the land claim's Principal Negotiator Robert Potts are prepared to give Pikwàkanagàn Council the time it needs to bridge those divisions.

“We are all supportive of the Algonquins of Pikwàkanagàn as they take the necessary steps to pursue discussions with Canada and Ontario ...” said Clifford Bastien Jr. ,the Algonquin Nation Representative for the Mattawa/North Bay community.

Among the communities in the Mississippi and Madawaska watersheds, the Shabot Obaadjiwan (Sharbot Lake) recorded a 114-5 vote in favour and the Snimikobe (formerly Ardoch Algonquins) recorded a 98-0 vote in favour. The total among the nine off-reserve communities was 3182 in favour and 141 against.

The issue that came up at Pikwàkanagàn in the run-up to the vote was concern over the implications of the AIP as regards self-government, which was a surprise, according to Robert Potts.

“We held extensive meetings throughout the territory and at Pikwàkanagàn after the draft of the AIP was released, and at that time the self-government issue was not raised. It was only in the few weeks preceding the vote that the concern, which was based primarily on misinformation, came up and had an impact on the vote,” he said.

Although he could not completely hide his disappointment about the results of the ratification process, Potts said that the vote was always intended as a non-binding process aimed at identifying issues that need to be addressed, and in that sense it was successful in revealing that the “comfort level among some at Pikwàkanagàn is not where it needs to be. Chief Whiteduck and his council can now address that.”

The other issue that Potts identified as being of concern in Pikwàkanagàn is beneficiary criteria.

“That is something that will have to be finalised before we get to the treaty stage,” said Potts.

While the concept of direct descent from an Algonquin relative, in addition to a connection to an identified Algonquin community, has been used to determine the voters list that was used in the ratification vote, who the ultimate beneficiaries of the claim will be has not been determined.

He said that when a final vote on a land claim treaty is taken, the voting and beneficiary criteria will be identical.

“It will be the beneficiaries who will vote,” he said.

As far as sorting out the issue of self-government at Pikwàkanagàn, Chief Whiteduck indicated last week in an article published in the Eganville Leader, that whether it is tied to the land claim or not, self-government is a priority for his council.

According to research done by Pikwàkanagàn staff, as members inter-marry with non-Algonquins, Pikwàkanagàn will cease to exist within 60 - 70 years because none of its members will have Aboriginal status.

“It would be helpful to further explore self-government and see if we can negotiate and get support for our own constitution under a self-government agreement and determine our own citizenship criteria,” Whiteduck told the Leader.

In an article published in the Frontenac News on March 3, 2016, Greg Sarazin, a former Land Claim negotiator for Pikwàkanagàn now representing a group that opposes the AIP, said that his group is afraid, based on language in the AIP and the statements of federal negotiators, that self government will lead to Pikwàkanagàn losing some of the tax advantages it has under the Indian Act.

“My reading of the AIP, as well as a number of the statements made by negotiators, leads me to be concerned that a commitment to enter self-government negotiations has already been given by Chief and Council and that the terms committed to will extinguish Pikwàkanagàn members' rights and bring an end to Pikwàkanagàn,” he said.

With one side claiming that self-government is the only way for their community to survive, and the other claiming it is a death sentence for their community, it could take some time before a land claim process that is associated with self government to get back on track.

Published in General Interest
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