| May 01, 2019

“We are making excellent progress, people are starting from a more informed place,” said Maureen Bostock, spokesperson for the Lanark County Neighbours for Truth and Reconciliation.

Bostock was commenting on feedback garnered from the organization’s booth at last weekend’s Festival of the Maples in Perth where they shared a booth with indigenous maple syrup producer Richard Lalande and Mark Marsolais-Nahwegahbow, founder of Birch Bark Coffee Co.

“We were pleased to have Mark there as his company raises funds for water systems in First Nations communities and he made several contacts to sell coffee with local outlets,” she said. “We were pleased to introduce him to our community.”

One of the things the Lanark County Neighbours for Truth and Reconciliation are particularly interested in is the history of First Nations as it pertains to this area. In particular, there is the instance of Chief Pierre Shawinipinessi, who was born in 1790at Lac des Deux Montagnes, a mission set up by the Sulpice missionaries at what is now known as Kanesatake. In 1837, purchases made by Shawinipinessi started showing up in the log book kept by Benjamin Tett, a magistrate and business person who operated a mill store near Bob’s Lake.

Shawinipinessi settled on an island in the Long Bay area of Bobs Lake’s (Lot 31, Concession 9) Eastern Basin. Other Algonquin people started arriving at the north end of Bobs Lake and on July 17, 1842, Chief Shawinipinessi petitioned in Canada West for a land tract of 2,000 acres straddling the Townships of Oso, Bedford and South Sherbrooke. He argued that a land tract for agricultural purposes would enable his people to sustain themselves given the depletion of game from hunting and loss of habitat due to logging and forestry.

On March 21, 1844, an Order in Council from the government of the Province of Canada approved the application for 2,000 avres to be set aside under a license of occupation in Bedford, Oso and South Sherbrooke.

However, logging activities (timber cutting, shanty building and trespass) continued on the tract, resulting in ongoing conflict similar to that in other logging –related incursions across unceded Algonquin territory. Shawinipinessi wrote a number of letters complaining to the Department of Indian Affairs trying to convince the government to intercede with loggers and trespassers on their behalf.

Although the government did intervene, confiscating timber harvested from the tract, proceeds were retained “as part of the hereditary revenues of the Crown,” rather than being used for the benefit of the indigenous group whose land had been trespassed upon at the discretion of the Lieutenant-Governor of the Province.

Efforts by Shawinipinessi and other chiefs on the Bedford, Oso, and South Sherbrooke tracts to retain rights to the timber and even build a mill continued unsuccessfully for many years and many had moved away by 1851.

Shawinipinessi himself moved to the Piwakanagan community (as evidenced by the census of 1881 and 1882) where he lived with his daughter until his death at the age of 101.

The land that was once the Bedford tract is now the site of cottages on Bobs Lake and little remains in the area to remind visitors of its history as an Algonquin community.

However, Bostock and her organization are working to change that.

“What we’re really focusing on is permanent installations for First Nations History,” she said. “A proposal for a plaque and monument similar to others depicting exploration has been submitted to the (Tay Valley) township and a location will be determined when approved by the Heritage committee.

“It’s so gratifying to see people are becoming aware (and) reconciliation is the single-most important issue for Canada.”

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