By Johnny Hawke
The Rendez-vous Champlain 2015 Festival currently being planned is generating excitement within historic Huronia, two hours north of Toronto. The Festival will commemorate the arrival of French colonist Samuel Du Champlain as well as the displaced so-called Huron Nation and the 400 years of French occupation in Traditional Wendat-Huron Territory. The local Anishinabek communities who play a very significant role in the area’s history which mostly goes unrecognized choose not participate in the celebrations.
Beausoleil First Nation, an Anishinabek community within Huronia whose ancestors were trade allies with the French and Huron and who defended the area from Haudenasaunee encroachment also claims the area as their traditional territory. The Huron who call themselves the Wendat Nation after fleeing the Haudenasaunee in the mid 1600’s fled to Quebec and parts of what is now known as the United States.
In a recent Beausoleil First Nation community meeting on Christian island, Chief Roland Monague announced the Council’s decision to not participate in the event. The Council along with the Union of Ontario Indians perspective on this event is not the same as the mainstream where First Nations see it as celebrating colonialism and the introduction of Christianity to this area. Chief Monague told community members that they were approached by a planning committee to participate but denied the offer. The Chief also informed the community that the Huron Nation has been contacted by the Champlain committee and will participate in the celebrations.
On August 1st, 1615, after spending time with the Nippising Anishinabek, Samuel de Champlain, Governor of New France, landed at the Wendat village of Toanche on what is known today as the Penetanguishene Penninsula. In the fall of 1615 Champlain and the Wendat went to wage war amongst Haudenasaunee peoples and then spent almost a year in Huronia, securing French interests in the Fur Trade. The Wendat who are also distant relatives of the Haudenasaunee were also their traditional enemies however before European influence conquering and exterminating each other for territory was non-existent amongst Turtle Island Nations. After dispersing the Wendat from their traditional territory the Haudenasaunee expanded their campaign of gaining control of the fur trade for their European allies into the Anishinabek Nation. Some of the ancestors of Beausoleil First Nation eventually pushed the Haudenasaunee back to their homelands and reaffirmed an ancient Resource Management and Peace Treaty known as the One Dish with One Spoon Wampum Belt. The Anishinabek eventually came to occupy the former Wendat territory in protection of Indigenous interests where even today they were a huge part protecting the area’s waters in the Site 41 initiative.
Although Beausoeil First Nation leadership does not want to participate in the celebrations this does not prevent community members who wish to be involved.
“As a result of Champlain and the Fur Trade our Intertribal Trade Alliances, Economies, Spirituality, Territories began to face oppressive colonial policies that still exist today. This Celebration has a responsibility to bring together the Wendat, Haudenasaunee and Anishinabek Nations to re-establish these traditional alliances, empower us as Sovereign Nations, support our rights and reflect all sides of history.” Explains Kaikai Kons of ACTION and who is also from the community of Beausoleil First Nation.
ACTION is a union of Indigenous Communities and Camps established to remerge Indigenous Institutions in assertion of Indigenous Sovereignty. ACTION has established a Unity Camp which is a sacred gathering site known as Council Rock in Awenda Provincial Park. It is also located at one of the Five Embassies within the Haudenasaunee and Anishinabek Alliance Agreement. Kaikai Kons claims those lands were never ceded to the Crown and were to be reserved for members of Beausoleil First Nation. It is also the Wendat Village site where Champlain is believed to land.
“I am currently attempting to collaborate with the Champlain committee to include our side of history which is so often marginalized where Champlain, the Jesuits, the French and Huron take precedence. It is my goal to organize such a gathering and I am open to working with anyone who is interested.” Says Hawke