June 01, 2005 09:39 ET

Respect ‘insisted' as Anishinabek reclaim the Lakehead Territory

Attention: Assignment Editor, News Editor THUNDER BAY, ON--(CCNMatthews - June 1, 2005) - "We must begin to re-assert the sovereignty within our traditional territory," begun Grand Council Chief John Beaucage, flanked by Fort William Chief Peter Collins and the twelve First Nation Chiefs of the Northern Superior region.

These First Nations came together to deliver a strong message to the Canada and Canadians in "reclaiming" the area known as the Lakehead Territory. This traditional territory includes the greater Thunder Bay area, which is part of the Robinson Superior Treaty territory.

"This isn't about land claims, or compensation or economics," said Grand Council Chief Beaucage. "This is simply about respect and awareness of the true aboriginal title of this sacred place."

"We must insist upon respect in dealing with the resources, the land, and the First Nations people of the Northern Superior region and the Lakehead territory," said Beaucage. "Recent court cases, such as Haida-Taku (2005) state there is an obligation on behalf of the crown to consult with First Nations about all activities in their territories especially with regard to land and resources."

There continues to be significant developments that affect the Northern Superior traditional territory, including the development of a Lake Superior Marine Conservation Area, removal of First Nations harvesting cabins, challenges to the Lake Nipigon fishery, and continued with forestry allocations with little or no sustained benefit to First Nations.

"We are putting government, industry, and stakeholders on notice that steps will be taken to ensure our rights and aboriginal title to this territory are protected," said Grand Council Chief Beaucage.

"We are calling upon the Government and Canadians to recognize the treaty and aboriginal rights of our First Nations, including our underlying title and right to share in the resources of the territory," said Grand Council Chief Beaucage. "This rights-based approach will be a primary step in reclaiming our territories."

Regional Grand Chief Peter Collins, who is also Chief of Fort William First Nation talked about his most recent challenges within his territory.

"We have been constantly at odds with the government over this territory, the latest being a significant municipal tax assessment," said Collins, referring to industrial land that belongs to the Fort William First Nation that was recently assessed taxes. "We are here to make it clear that this is our territory and we assert sovereignty on these lands that we occupy and have always occupied."

There was even a strong message for the various brother and sister organizations that occupy offices, land and undertake development in the Lakehead territory.

"Other First Nations organizations have mistakenly settled or asserted authority in the Thunder Bay area," said Grand Council Chief Beaucage. "It is custom that First Nations respect each others' territory, and ask for permission to make use of these lands. In this case, the territory of the Northern Superior Chiefs."

All 42 member First Nations of the Union of Ontario Indians were represented at this meeting. All the Anishinabek Nation Chiefs are in Thunder Bay for an evening caucus meeting of the Union of Ontario Indians and to discuss Casino Rama issues.

The Robinson Superior Treaty of 1850 ceded lands "from Batchewana Bay to Pigeon River, at the western extremity of said Lake, and inland throughout that extent to the height of land." This is traditional territory of the Anishinabek Nation, and includes the Lakehead territory surrounding Mount McKay.

"In our language, this is called Thunderbird Mountain, and is said to be the spiritual nesting place of the Thunderbirds. This is a very sacred place," said Grand Council Chief John Beaucage.

The Anishinabek Nation incorporated the Union of Ontario Indians as its secretariat in 1949. The UOI is a political advocate for 42 member First Nations across Ontario. The Union of Ontario Indians is the oldest political organization in Ontario and can trace its roots back to the Confederacy of Three Fires, which existed long before European contact.
/For further information: Jamie Monastyrski
Communications Officer
Union of Ontario Indians
705-497-9127 (2290)/ IN: JUSTICE, MEDIA, POLITICS, SOCIAL

Contact Information

  • Bob Goulais, Chief of Staff, Union of Ontario Indians
    Primary Phone: 705-498-5250
    Secondary Phone: 705-497-9127 ext. 2249
    E-mail: goubob@anishinabek.ca