Teme-Augama Anishnabai oppose Metis claims

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was originally published on September 21, 2023. This updated version includes a comment from the Metis Nation of Ontario in response to the position of the Teme-Augama Anishnabai (TAA) and the Temagami First Nation (TFN) on a cabin constructed in N'dakimenan without consent of TAA and TFN.

Up to 30 members of the Teme-Augama Anishnabai and the Temagami First Nation gathered outside the North Bay office of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) on September 18.

They were there to protest the ministry’s support of a cabin built on N'dakimenan, the territorial land of the Teme-Augama Anishnabai (TAA).

The cabin construction is supported by the Metis Nation of Ontario (MNO), and builders of the cabin claim membership in the MNO.

The TAA and Temagami First Nation have now issued an eviction notice to the MNO and to the two men who constructed the cabin.

TAA Second Chief John Turner related in a telephone interview he is a descendant of the original occupants of the land where the cabin has been constructed at Pond Lake, south of Lake Obabika.

He said the cabin is within "our indigenous territory which we defended and went to court over."

He explained that the Teme-Augama Anishnabai have been working to identify all descendants of the original peoples of the N’dakimenan (Our Land).

Turner said he and other descendants of the original occupants of the area where the cabin is now sitting would know if there had been a Metis settlement in the area in the early 1900s.

"I understand there's other First Nations having similar issues," he noted.

The people who constructed the cabin have been contacted and asked to provide evidence that they are Anishnabai relatives, but to date that information has not been provided, he said.

He expressed the unfairness of the fact that, in the past, descendants of the people who had lived on the land prior to colonization had been jailed for fishing and hunting on the land.

TAA trappers also had to register their traplines on N’dakimenan, he continued.

He said it was a humiliation to have to go before court in the past to prove that they had the right to their land, and having the judge comment that the First Nation person they were addressing had a white mother.

"By today's standards that was very racist," said Turner.

"Today the Metis say 'I'm Indigenous,' and the MNRF say 'Okay, build.' It looks like the MNO and the MNRF are in cahoots, honestly."

Temagami First Nation Chief Shelly Moore-Frappier stated in a press release that “N’dakimenan is the recognized homeland of the Teme-Augama Anishnabai. We are the only Indigenous People of N’dakimenan and the only bearer of inherent rights. Our established inherent rights come from continuous occupation over thousands of years. These are recognized facts. By contrast, the MNO was created in 1993 as an Ontario corporation and looks to the Governments of Canada and Ontario for recognition.”

“This is our land and the MNO has no business building a cabin and hunting on our land. There are no Metis and there never was a Metis settlement here in N’dakimenan,” said Teme-Augama Anishnabai Chief Michael Paul in the release.

“We are Teme-Augama Anishnabai. N’dakimenan is our homeland. I know I am right and those so-called Metis are squatters here,” he said.

Turner said in the release that “In the case of the Teme-Augama Anishnabai and later the Temagami First Nation, we have thoroughly documented our history through oral tradition and early trade and church records. Further, anyone who could be described as 'Metis' was naturalized and adopted by the Teme-Augama Anishnabai exercising inherent jurisdiction. The MNO is riding on the coattails of colonial law to assert false claims to land rights and manufactured Indigenous identity, with the backing of Ontario and Canada.”

The Teme-Augama Anishnabai and Temagami First Nation say they have applied to join the Wabun Tribal Council’s court challenge “to stop Canada’s Bill C-53, an Act respecting the recognition of certain Métis governments in Alberta, Ontario and Saskatchewan, to give effect to treaties with those governments and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.”

The MNO responded to the situation by stating in an email, “The MNO stands by the Métis communities we represent and the recognition of their harvesting rights in this area, but incidental cabins are a distinct issue. As we have noted previously, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry has a process to allow the establishment of incidental cabins. One of the requirements is that such a structure must clearly be for community use, because Indigenous rights are communal rights. The MNO is undergoing an internal review to determine if this structure meets that requirement. Should our review determine that this structure does not meet the requirement, we will not hesitate to take corrective action. The MNO does not support the construction of structures that are not for communal use. As the fall harvesting season is upon us, I want to remind all Métis harvesters to stay safe and abide by our Harvesting Policy.”

Darlene Wroe, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Temiskaming Speaker