Huron County acknowledges Treaties Recognition Week

·5 min read

HURON COUNTY – “We are all treaty people” is a phrase used often during discussions about Indigenous land and the fight to get the Canadian government to uphold their side of the “bargain.”

The Huron County Museum hosted a virtual talk with guest speaker Randall Kahgee. He is well versed in the relationship between Indigenous people and the federal and provincial governments.

Kahgee is senior counsel with Olthuis Kleer Townshend LLP and specializes in Indigenous rights law, emphasizing community-based processes and government-to-government negotiations. He served as Chief of the Saugeen First Nation for four consecutive terms from June 2006 to June 2014.

Kahgee has worked with First Nation governments across Canada and participated in significant agreements between First Nation communities and provincial and federal governments on energy matters, including issues relating to the development of nuclear facilities, transmission lines, wind energy projects, as well as environmental matters.

“We live in very interesting times right now and there really is a lot of talk and emphasis on reconciliation,” Kahgee said.

“What does that mean in the context of the Crown/Indigenous relationship, what does that mean to everyday Canadians and Indigenous People across Turtle Island?

“There really is a weakening of conscience, I think, in everyday Canadians to want to understand more about that relationship and to learn more.”

Kahgee spoke about the significance of finding the children and the dark history of residential schools.

“In this country, and certainly the history you were taught in school is a very, what I’ll call, romanticized view of Canada’s history, but as we’ve learned and continue to learn, Canada has a very dark chapter, a very dark history and none more so in the context of it’s relationship with Indigenous People,” he said.

Kahgee spoke about the gathering momentum, partly because of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s work and the 94 Calls to Action, and the overwhelming question – where do we start?

“For me, it starts with reaffirmation of that treaty relationship and understanding that we are all treaty people and we all have an obligation to uphold those treaties and to ensure that relationship remains intact. That’s the obligation we all carry today,” he said.

He spoke about the fact that these things are not taught in schools and that there is still a lot of confusion about what a treaty is and is not.

Kahgee recalled a memory when he was speaking to a Grade 3 classroom about this subject and how he broke it down in the context of how the students could understand what a treaty is.

One of the students had a cool pencil, and Kahgee told the student that he liked the pencil and that he would be willing to share that pencil with him in exchange for something.

The student and Kahgee agreed upon payment of five dollars.

“The whole time I talked through that discussion about treaties I purposely held that pencil, and he (the student) watched intently the whole time,” Kahgee said.

“Finally, at the end, he’s raising his hand, he said, ‘When am I going to get my five dollars, and if I’m not getting my five dollars, can I have my pencil back?’

“And right there, he understood.”

The webinar went on to talk about treaties in Huron County, followed by a question and answer period.

Curator of Engagement & Dialogue from the Huron County Museum, Sinead Cox, told the Wingham Advance Times, “We had positive feedback after the talk from attendees, and some follow-up from folks who are doing work now to know what Treaty area they live in, and what their governments at different levels are doing as Treaty partners.

Cox confirmed that the event was well attended, saying, “Highest attendance was 94 logged in at a time.” However, an accurate count on a webinar is difficult.

The treaty that applies to North Huron is called Treaty 45 ½.

Established in 1836 and negotiated with the Crown. SON agreed to open up 1.5 million acres of land for settlement in exchange for economic assistance and protection from settler encroachment “…upon which proper houses shall be built for you, and proper assistance given to enable you to become civilized and to cultivate land, which you Great Father engages for ever to protect for you from the encroachments of the whites.”

They were to receive the proceeds from all lands to be sold, to be held in trust, and the remaining reserve land would be protected from encroachment.

You can find out more information on Huron County Treaties at https://www.saugeenojibwaynation.ca/treaty-history.

The following is an account of treaties up to 2019, using information from the Saugeen Ojibway Nation Environment Office.

1851 – Half Mile Strip Treaty No. 67

Negotiated with the Crown. Surrendered over 4,000 acres for a road to join Owen Sound and Southampton.

1854 – Saugeen Peninsula Treaty No. 72

Negotiated with the Crown. Interpreted by settler governments as the surrender of the Saugeen Peninsula in exchange for reserves – certain tracts of land set aside – and proceeds from the sale of the land “…agreed that it will be highly desirable for us to make a full and complete surrender unto the Crown of that Peninsula known as the Saugeen and Owen Sound Indian Reserve, subject to certain restrictions and reservations to be hereinafter set forth.”

1857 – Owen Sound/Nawash Treaty No. 82

Negotiated with the Crown. A 10,000-acre Nawash Reserve to the northwest of Owen Sound was surrendered, with residents moving to Cape Croker, although many did not want to.

1861 – Colpoy’s Bay Treaty No. 93

Negotiated with the Crown. The Colpoy’s Bay Reserve (6,000 acres) was surrendered. Some residents moved to Neyaashiinigmiing and Saugeen, but the majority moved to Christian Island.

1885-1899 – Islands

The Fishing Islands, Cape Hurd Islands, Griffith Island, Hay Island, and White Cloud Island were surrendered.

1968 – Return of Islands

Approximately 90 fishing islands in Lake Huron were returned to the Saugeen Ojibway Nation.

1994 – Treaty 72 Claim

Argued that Treaty 72 is not equitably valid, Crown breached its duty to “for ever to protect for you from the encroachments of the whites.”

2003 – Aboriginal Title Claim

Claiming Aboriginal Title to parts of the Lake Huron and Georgian Bay waterbeds.

2019 – Treaty 72 Claim in Court

Start of the Treaty 72 Land Claim being seen in court.

Cory Bilyea, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Wingham Advance Times

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