By: Kai Kai Kons
“”Father, If you white people forget your transactions with us, we do not. The Lands you have just now shew to us belongs to you. We have nothing to do with it; We have sold it to our Great Father the King, as was well paid for it. Therefore make your mind at easy. There may be some of our young people who do not think so; They may tell your people that the Land is ours but you must not open your ears to them, but take them by the arm and put them out of your houses.” – Chief Yellowhead, Coldwater – Narrows Reserve In Response to Land Sold for Military Roads in and around Barrie to Penetang
A History of the Chippewas of Lake Huron and Simcoe Research from Department of Anthropology University of Western Ontario
There have always been divisions in our Anishinabek Communities regarding the broken promises that our “Leaders” have accepted with the Crown. In the mid 1700’s Anishinabek Odawa War Chief Pontiac organized an Intertribal campaign to rid Turtle Island of the British as a result of their broken promises. Pontiac’s people agreed to give up arms under the 1764 Niagara Covenant Chain belt which proclaims each Nations right to Sovereignty.
This belt since its foundation has been broken many times by the British Crown however our Indigenous Nations who accepted it continue to assert its peace and alliance that it embodies but fails to uphold our own Sovereignty which the belt also represents.
Today just as in the 1800’s history seems to be repeating itself. I am one of those youth just as in the past who feel that these lands that we were displaced upon including our Sovereignty is not for sale.
COLDWATER NARROWS RESERVE BACKGROUND
“The Coldwater Narrows Experiment was established in the 1830’s by the Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada, Sir John Colborne, in an attempt to create a self-sustaining farming community for the Chippewas of lakes Huron and Simcoe.
Between 1830 and the 1832 the three Chippewa First Nations settled on the reserve. Two of the First Nations under Chief Yellowhead and Snake settled at Coldwater near Lake Huron. The reserve was approximately 10,000 acres in size and ran in a narrow strip of land, approximately 14 miles long by 1.5 miles wide, along an old portage route between Lake Simcoe and Matchedash Bay on Lake Huron.
Over the next six years the First Nations constructed a road which ultimately came to be Ontario Highway No.12. The community cleared the land and prospered as farmers. They built schools, houses, barns and mills.
The Chippewas of Coldwater Narrows lobbied for six years in an attempt to secure title deeds and self management of their lands. Although they were not successful in obtaining deeds, arrangements were made in 1836 to transfer management of their reserve and ownership of the property.
During the same period the Coldwater Narrows Reserve was allegedly surrendered by the Chippewas for sale by the Crown to non Aboriginal settlers. A surrender document was signed in Toronto on November 26, 1836 when Chiefs were tricked into signing the document they thought was for Land Title and Self Government.”
– Fact Sheet Coldwater Narrows Specific Claim http://www.ainc-inac.gc.ca/al/ldc/spc/nws/cnfs-eng.asp
AN OFFER HAS BEEN MADE
In a Press Conference regarding this Claim held in May 2011 the Government of Canada, the Chippewas of Rama , the Chippewas of Georgina Island , the Beausoleil First Nation and the Chippewas of Nawash announced they have reached a major milestone in talks to resolve the outstanding specific claim in south-central Ontario.
Canada has tabled a settlement offer and the four First Nations have agreed to take this offer to their members for a vote. The proposed settlement includes approximately $307 million in financial compensation to resolve the claim.
The First Nations also have to right to purchase 10,000 acres on a willing seller, willing buyer basis. The fourth First Nation was added as a beneficiary when Canada researched that a small number of people left Coldwater and amalgamated into the Nawash Band located near Wiarton Ontario.
The Coldwater-Narrows specific claim was originally submitted by the CTC on November 4, 1991. After this submission was rejected by Canada, the CTC asked the Indian Claims Commission (ICC)* to hold an inquiry. The ICC has been facilitating discussions between the parties since that time.
Subsequently, the CTC revised its allegations, additional historical research was undertaken, and Canada conducted a review of the revised submission and new evidence. Canada accepted the CTC’s claim for negotiation under the Specific Claims Policy on July 23, 2002. Consultants have been working on this for 30 years.
DIVIDE AND CONQUER
Divide and Conquer has always been a tool used by Colonials who employ greed and power to create divisions. Divisions are always a part of our communities however on this offer we are already seeing divisions.
If our communities decide to accept this offer some of the funds from the settlement will rightfully have to go to loans that the First Nations had taken out to pay for consultants and lawyers. In the offer the communities can purchase up to a total of 10,000 acres of land on a willing buyer and willing seller basis. The process of this settlement and its distribution of funds along with adding lands to a reserve will be governed by Canada’s oppressive Indian Act.
– The financial compensation that will be distributed will be split up between the four reserves. So the pay out to individual community members from each of the four First Nations will vary in amounts due to each reserve’s population numbers which is creating bitterness amongst the people.
– Chief and Council of these First Nations suggest putting aside some funds to benefit future generations. The majority of community members want all the “people’s money” to be distributed and feel they can be responsible themselves for their own future generations share of the funds. There is animosity towards leadership on this is suggestion.
– A small minority from these communities reject this offer because they feel the offer does not respect and honor their Nation’s Sovereignty. Their Independence was also taken away along with those lands and retaining their Autonomy has not been addressed in this offer. This minority does not give authority and chooses not to be represented by Indian Act Band Leadership but wishes to represent themselves as Sovereigns and reestablish their right to be an Independent Nation.
Utilizing Canadian judicial system and other institutions that are not neutral grounds for a Nation to Nation relationship in this settlement does not exercise their Sovereignty and creates an unbiased outcome.
Chief and Council and the majority of people do not hold these people with these views as a legitimate voice for their people and visa versa for this minority. There will always be “Hang- around the Fort Indians” surrendering what little they have just as there will be a small group trying to remain free and retaining their right to be an Autonomous Indigenous People. Each group has their right to do as they see fit to be safeguards for their land, rights and future generations.
“I agree with you. If Nations want to speak on Sovereignty and getting respected as a Nation than it’s up to them to start acting like a Nation. The Mohawk Nation has been doing this for a long, long time. It’s a hard road but if you’re into your morals this is the road to go.” – CTC Lawyer Allan Pratt on exercising Sovereignty within this Claim
We have been passed on our Anishinabek Teachings through our Elders, Oral History, Ceremonies and Midewiwiin Society and through other mediums. We have been told our rights and original way of governance by our Political Leaders both by Hereditary Chiefs and contemporary Indian Act Chiefs. Warriors have also fought to protect these things. Our People have fought and died and sacrificed so much for the following values:
– To be the care takers of the Earth and Waters so that the next Seven Generations coming can enjoy these things given to us by Creator/Creation.
– We have a Clan system that we organize under and use for our Governance.
– We are our own Sovereign Nation with our own Laws and Customs where we never surrendered.
– We say we are all equal, one people and one community.
If we accept this offer for financial compensation our future generations most likely will not benefit and we may not see useful lands where we can exercise our hunting, gathering and fishing traditions. We will have surrendered to everything that makes us Anishinabek.
Remember in these negotiations we should have negotiated out of the Indian Act since our Independence was taken away when signing those fraudulent documents in the 1800’s.
Are we really living up to every thing we preach when we accept this offer?
Chiefs who preach on Sovereignty could have lobbied to negotiate on neutral grounds instead of in the Canadian System. We then wouldn’t have expensive lawyer bills to pay.
Knowing that Coldwater lands are out of the question to be replaced there is a lot of unoccupied Crown Lands in our old territories which they can transfer over and where we wouldn’t have to purchase back. It’s called negotiating.
We say we are environmentalists keeping the future in mind at every ceremony we attend or conduct. Why is it only okay to play “Indian” and dress up on weekends but wrong when a small minority wants to continue the struggle to retain who we are. The struggles are still the same as in AIM’s time and during the OKA crisis. Playing by their rule and utilizing their Courts don’t seem to be assessing injustices correctly.
If we accept this offer remember we were all one community at one time. Why is it we continue to embrace the reserve system which will create unfairness when we receive our funds. If we are all equal shouldn’t all beneficiaries get the same amount of compensation?
To most tolerance and respect of other people’s beliefs seems to be only “reserved” for those who choose a more complacent conservative colonized way of life. It’s when you start standing up against injustice and rocking the canoe that your beliefs than become intolerable to those who think we are living in Peace and Freedom. Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, American Indian Movement, Native Youth Movement, Dudley George all were people involved in fighting for our rights and land and the majority of their people had a hard time tolerating what they were doing because of fear of repercussions of the oppressors.
OPTIONS You are free to do as you please as it is your right but where is the representation and freedom for those of Sovereign Mind?
Option One: Vote yes and surrender the Coldwater Narrows Reserve and any future chance of being recognized as a Sovereign Nation without being governed by the Indian Act. This claim is in our favor to regain our Independence so in voting yes we wouldn’t have a right to bring up this issue in any future litigation. With our compensation we can purchase back stolen land which we were displaced onto in the first place.
Option Two: Negotiators working for First Nations are reporting that Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s federal government is moving to cut off specific claims negotiations, a move that one source said could cost First Nations — and at the same time save Canada — billions of dollars, due to the failing capitalist world economy.
Several negotiators say they were told that if a First Nation rejects the government’s final offer, the negotiations will be shut down and the only recourse will be to take the claim before the Specific Claims Tribunal. But the tribunal cannot award more than a total of $250 million each year for all the claims it hears. And the legislation phases out the tribunal after 10 years.
So if we vote no to renegotiate or further litigate playing by their unfair rules in their system we would loose a chance of seeing this amount of money 308 million. What the government is doing is not negotiating but still holding guns to our head but using divide and conquer and financial terrorism. If we vote no we could very much loose this amount of money and have to settle for less.
Option Three: Don’t accept any money and make it known to the Government and Chiefs that you are not accepting any money. Its ok for others to accept the offer but those who want to disband have that right to keep trying to retain those sacred agreements that founded Canada and acknowledges our Nationhood . Organize Option Three in our Sovereign Territory.
“They [the First Nations] have invested a great deal of time — in some cases, decades — getting this far in the process. And they have been promised justice. The Prime Minister himself in 2007 announced a policy called ‘Justice At Last’, which many of us are now calling ‘Just For Laughs’ in honour of the comedy program. The promises that the Prime Minister made in the summer three or four years ago are being dishonoured. And First Nations are very angry,” he said. “I can tell you that the claims community, the professionals and the First Nations who are in claims across the country, are in an uproar and outrage. I’m not going to make any predictions about what may happen, but I will remind– I would remind the federal system that when Justice At Last was announced, it was in response to a Senate committee report called ‘Negotiation or Confrontation: It’s Canada’s Choice.’ And Canada’s pushing First Nations back, away from reconciliation. And as the Senate predicted, it will be some form of confrontation that will be the result. That’s my prediction.”
– Allan Pratt CTC Lawyer and Consultant