Algonquin Nation: A Land Claim Webinar - theHumm March 2022

Algonquin Nation: A Land Claim Webinar - theHumm March 2022

The Algonquins have lived in harmony with the Ottawa River watershed for thousands of years. When European explorers first arrived, they brought opportunities for trade and alliances, nation to nation. A Royal Proclamation in 1763 by King George III, recognized that Indigenous Peoples were owners of this land, and any expansion of settlement required a treaty. Nevertheless, the government gradually allowed — indeed encouraged — settlers to simply overtake it for their own purposes. Despite the Algonquins’ efforts over two hundred years to establish a treaty with the federal government, this has yet to occur. Today, Algonquins of Ontario are in negotiation with the Ontario and Federal governments to develop a just resolution to this difficult problem.

On March 14 at 7pm, All My Relations will host a two-hour webinar with Councillor Dan Kohoko and Cultural Coordinator Kevin Lamarr from the Pikwakanagan First Nations Reserve near Eganville. A member of the Algonquin negotiating team, Councillor Kohoko will describe the history and the nature of the Algonquin land claim, as well as the current state of negotiations.

Dan and Kevin also generously agreed to provide some background information to Humm readers by answering the following questions:

Can you give us a brief glimpse at the nature of the Pikwakanagan community and its history? How did the reserve come to be?

Pikwakanagan is one of 10 Algonquin Indian Reserves recognised undern the Indian Act by Canada. It is the only one in Ontario; there are 9 others in Quebec. Pikwakanagan reserve includes approximately 1800 acres located on the south shore of the Bonnechere River where Golden Lake flows out.

The population is approximately 2700. There are 450 members live on the reserve and the balance of the membership is off reserve mainly in Ontario.

We are governed by a Chief and Council, one Chief and six Councillors. The Chief and each Councillor holds program portfolios, which provide services to the members mainly living in Pikwakanagan. Those portfolio areas include General Government, Social Services, Education, Sports and Recreation, Health, Public Works, Lands, Estates and Membership, Natural Resources and Economic Development.

Our Post Secondary Education program is the only program that provides services to members regardless of whether they live on or off reserve.

Under Public Works we provide municipal type of services such as roads, maintenance, waste management, and public buildings maintenance. We have a fire protection services with its own building, trucks and other equipment. We have approximately 110 homes on the reserve, most of which are privately own by members. However the Chief and Council do have a number of rental units available to those members who do not have their own homes.

We have a building for general government administration building which houses all staff and the various programs. Health has its own building which includes the Family Health Team (nurses and nurse practitioners) as well as visiting doctor who is there one day a week.

We have a number of private member-owned retailed outlets providing fuels, tobacco products, as well as some cannabis. There is a Catholic Church named Church of the Nativity of our Lady located in the community. There is one private campsite for cabins, trailers and RVs.

This information provides a glimpse of Pikwakanagan today.

Here in Lanark County and in Ottawa at various gatherings, non-Indigenous people often acknowledge that they are living on unceded, unsurrendered and/or traditional Algonquin territory. What meaning do these lands have for you?

We are currently negotiating with Canada and Ontario for the return of part of the Ottawa River Watershed located in Ontario. This geographical area contains approximately 9 million acres, at least half is still vacant crown land or park land like Algonquin Park.

The occupied crown land is currently owned by the citizens of Ontario/Canada; early on our quest from government to return this land to the Algonquins, our early petitions endorsed the principle that we would not create a further injustice by requesting the return of these privately held lands.

Currently we have reached an Agreement In Principle with Canada and Ontario for the return of approximately 130,000 acres to Algonquin ownership and control. We intend to develop some of these lands for residential purposes as well as commercial economic development.

We do not believe that 130,000 acres represents a just settlement given the original size of our traditional territory at 9 million acres.

Prior to the arrival of settlers in the territory in Canada, our Indian neighbours around us — Cree to the north, Ojibway to the west and Mohawk to the south — all recognized and respected that the Ottawa Valley was Algonquin territory, owned and controlled.

The Ottawa River Watershed, our traditional territory, provided the Algonquins with the means to make a living. Moose, deer and beaver were hunted for hides and meat; the lakes and rivers provided fish, as well as our roads to travel around the territory. Our oral history tells us that we never over-harvested to cover our needs.

However, when the fur trade opportunity came along, we participated and exploited the resources for trade with our non-Algonquin neighbours.

Today there are many more economic opportunities for us in the tourism sector as well as resource exploitation such as forestry. The Algonquins were never major farmers, although there were some small plots of land cultivated.

How can non-Indigenous folks be allies with regard to your achieving a fair land settlement with the government?

As stated earlier, 130,000 acres is a very small portion of the entire territory which comprises 9 million acres; this could be improved on immensely without harming the general economy of the territory. Ownership, management and control of provincial parks such as Algonquin Park could be added to the land package. I am confident that the Algonquins would accept the stipulation that these park lands would remain park lands for the use and benefit of the general public, going forward.

Private citizens residing in our traditional territory in Ontario could contact their political leadership at all levels of government; municipal, provincial and federal. That a return of more crown land and natural resources would improve the relationship with the Algonquins (reconciliation). It would lead to their better participation in the modern economy in the territory.

Do the people in your community experience much racism? How can non-Indigenous people be allies in helping to address this?

Racism is a problem that we face in many aspects of our life. People do not understand that we feel that our traditional territory and resources was stolen from the Algonquins.

For example, we continue to harvest moose, deer, fur and fish for our own personal needs — mostly without regard for the provincial regulations. We believe that these resources were provided for our needs when required; therefore we harvest without regard for the provincial regulations such as sports hunting and fishing. Many of our non-Algonquin neighbours in the territory comment negatively when they learn of our activities when exercising our aboriginal rights.

The single most obvious action that can be taken going forward would be to educate your children and neighbours’ children about aboriginal rights in general. Many people are set in their ways, but the children have open minds.

The general public could review Section 35 of the Constitution of Canada which recognizes our existing aboriginal rights in all of traditional territories:

“Rights of the Aboriginal Peoples of Canada”

Recognition of existing aboriginal and treaty rights

35 (1) The existing aboriginal and treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada are hereby recognized and affirmed.

Definition of aboriginal peoples of Canada

(2) In this Act, aboriginal peoples of Canada includes the Indian, Inuit and Métis peoples of Canada.

Marginal note: Land claims agreements

(3) For greater certainty, in subsection (1) treaty rights includes rights that now exist by way of land claims agreements or may be so acquired.

Marginal note:Aboriginal and treaty rights are guaranteed equally to both sexes

(4) Notwithstanding any other provision of this Act, the aboriginal and treaty rights referred to in subsection (1) are guaranteed equally to male and female persons.

Commitment to participation in constitutional conference

35.1 The government of Canada and the provincial governments are committed to the principle that, before any amendment is made to Class 24 of section 91 of the Constitution Act, 1867, to section 25 of this Act or to this Part,

(a) a constitutional conference that includes in its agenda an item relating to the proposed amendment, composed of the Prime Minister of Canada and the first ministers of the provinces, will be convened by the Prime Minister of Canada; and

(b) the Prime Minister of Canada will invite representatives of the aboriginal peoples of Canada to participate in the discussions on that item.

How does your Cultural Center demonstrate the importance of the land to Algonquin people? Does it support current Indigenous artists? Why is it closed right now, and what are the plans for the future of the Centre?

[This question was answered by Manager of Operations Naomi Sarazin]

Omamiwinini Pimadjwowin connects our members to the land through various culture- and land-based activities. Most recently we held a Hide Camp where members learned how to prepare smoke tanned deer hide, a traditional al skill that is being reclaimed and revitalized in the community. We did this at our Cultural Grounds, on the land and near the water, two very important elements to our people and Nation.

Our programming draws on the strengths and gifts of our community artists and knowledge holders. We have our artists support the learning and revitalization of traditional art skills such as beading, birchbark crafting, and even modern forms of storytelling through painting. 

The Cultural Center and Gift Shop is still staffed to offer community services and programs; however, our Manido Chiman Museum is temporarily closed the public. The Museum operated out of one of the oldest log buildings in the community, and its age was started to show and was no longer a healthy and safe workplace for our staff. However, a new Cultural Center and Museum is on the horizon. We recently launched the planning process by conducting a Prefeasibility Study with a First Nations owned architect company. We’re looking forward to the day when we can re-open our doors to visitors.

The cost for participating in the webinar is $20 per household, and proceeds go to the Pikwakanagan Cultural Center. The webinar will include a Q&A segment, and will be ASL interpreted. Reserve your spot at Tickets Please .


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