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by firstname.lastname@example.org » Tue Oct 12, 2004 5:06 pm
by wayne george » Wed Oct 13, 2004 11:13 am
email@example.com wrote:On the 150th Anniversary of Treaty 72, October 13, 2004"We have been left out of so much in the past 150 years."by Vern Roote, Chief, Chippewas of Saugeen and Ralph Akiwenzie, Chief, Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First NationOn October 13, 1854 our ancestors signed a treaty with the Crown in Canada. By that Treaty we lost some 500,000 acres in the Bruce Peninsula but reserved land, including lands still home to the Chippewas of Saugeen and the Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation. Treaty 72 was negotiated by threat, and signed in deceit. Government negotiators had threatened our ancestors with the loss of all their land if they did not sign. That was a bitter meal to chew, for the identity of indigenous people to the land is so close that it is said there is no separation. Indeed the phrase “all our relations” refers to all the beings who share the land and the water with us. The word we use for ourselves, Anishnabe, is translated by one of our elders as “Good of the Earth”. As another elder told the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, “When I go into the bush I go to the hardware store, the grocery store, the pharmacy and to church.”And so, the ancestors never, by that treaty or by any other treaty, gave up our rights to hunt and fish and gather in our traditional territories. Neither did we give up that part of our traditional territories that lie under the waters of Lake Huron and Georgian Bay.Clearly the Crown figured we owned the land, or they would not have beseeched us to sell it and then agree to protect what was left to us. Just as clearly, our ancestors knew they had the authority to sign the Treaty, for the Anishnabek had inhabited the Great Lakes Basin for thousands upon thousands of years. In our legends are stories of giant beavers, rivers reversing direction and new lakes being formed. According to research, some of being it done in this area, these stories are accurate reflections of biological and geological events that took place about 10,000 years ago. We have been here a long time. Now, as we struggle for survival in our own homeland, is it so surprising that we seek redress for events that have caused us and our lands harm? Is it so surprising that we now work to defend the environmental integrity of our traditional territories?Treaty 72 is flawed. Crown negotiators threatened to proceed regardless of the wishes of our ancestors. They significantly misrepresented the benefits of the Treaty for our First Nations. They claimed they were unable (or unwilling) to protect Native lands from encroachment by settlers and therefore urged us to surrender our lands.And so, we seek compensation in land and money for the harm this Treaty has done to our people, our communities and the land itself. In 1994, we filed a claim in the courts that would return land that was never sold and to compensate us for an unjust loss of use of our traditional territories in the Bruce Peninsula.However, we never gave up the land and waters of Lake Huron and Georgian Bay that form part of our traditional territories. So, in December 2003, we filed another court case, an aboriginal title claim to those lands and waters. We take these actions without joy: litigation is a path of last resort. We tried to negotiate fair settlements with the Crown on some of the issues the courts will now have to adjudicate. However, the Crown did not take these negotiations seriously. We take these actions with determination to see that our people survive in their own land; not only survive but thrive, as they once did, with a viable economy to sustain them and a larger say in what happens to the land and the waters we all now rely on so heavily. We have been left out of so much in the past 150 years. Our fishing rights were severely curtailed -- illegally, as an Ontario court found in 1993. The Crown (remember, in law, this is the same Crown that negotiated treaties with us) has left us out of the planning of major projects in our traditional territories. Douglas Point and the evolution of Bruce Power and waste management, the Bruce National Park and Fathom Five Marine Park, are examples. The economic benefits that have accrued to others in our traditional territories have scarcely touched our people. It seems we have always had to fight, even for the things that are due to us for having signed the treaties in the 1800s. There seems no end to this fight. Recently, representatives from the National Park came to a meeting of our Joint Council and informed us that if we practice our rights to hunt and fish in our traditional territories in the Park, we will be prosecuted. We informed them that we have never surrendered our rights to hunt and fish for ceremony, for food, or for commerce in any of our traditional territories, including the area of the National Park. How can anyone be told they must give up their rights? How would you react if you were told you could not get your medicine or provide food for your family or attend the church of your faith? If we are driven into the courts to defend our rights again, we will go -- without joy but with determination, and thinking that this is not the relationship Canada promised when our ancestors signed Treaty 72, 150 years ago.
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