Proposed Algonquins of Ontario treaty could threaten First Nations land rights

OTTAWA — The Iroquois Caucus held a press conference in Ottawa declaring “resolute opposition” to the Agreement In Principle proposed capital funding and lands treaty sought by a group of Algonquin nations.

The Algonquins of Ontario (AOO) are seeking to establish a land base for nine of the 10 nations they represent. There are more than 117,000 acres of land in the proposed treaty/land claim. However a large portion of these lands are also part of the traditional land base of Iroquois Nations.

Iroquois Caucus says they have raised concerns with the AOO, Canada and the province but have not received conclusive responses to those concerns.

A memo from the Algonquin Nation Secretariat (ANS), representing the communities of Timiskaming, Wolf Lake and Barriere Lake, obtained by the Two Row Times states that the AOO list of voters who are deemed eligible to vote on the ratification of the proposed AOO Agreement In Principle contains approximately 7,714 individuals of which only 663 are registered as having Indian Status.

The remaining voters, over 7,000, say their indigenous identity is linked to a “root ancestor” of Algonquin identity. In many cases, the claim of indigenous ancestry goes back to one person in the voter’s genealogy in the 17th century.

“Algonquins who are relying on these root ancestors have had no intermarriage with anyone of Algonquin or Nipissing ancestry for at least 200, and in some cases, more than 300 years. By our count, this category of individuals makes up 39 per cent of the entire AOO voters’ list,” they write.

The Chiefs of the ANS released a joint statement opposing the AOO and say the proposed treaty AIP is a violation of their member’s rights.

“The AOO claim has reached the Agreement in Principle (AIP) stage and is now being voted on, despite years of protests by other Algonquin First Nations. The Chiefs of Kebaowek (Eagle Village), Timiskaming, Kitigan Zibi and Barriere Lake joined together to express unity in opposition to the AOO claims process. They are also carrying this message on behalf of the Algonquins of Wolf Lake.”

Six Nations Land Rights Worker Phil Monture said if the treaty is approved it will have far reaching affect for indigenous land rights across the board.

“My issue is that they’re letting a lot of the non-natives to come in and decide what native people are going to be allowed and not allowed,” said Monture. “That’s a bad precedent to be setting for native rights. After all of our court battles have gone on to finally put us in a somewhat level playing field to assert our own rights for our own people the way we want and that’s best for us — they’re basically giving the non-native population up there the ability to vote in their own [native] settlement.”

Six Nations Elected Councillor Terry General explained that he doubts references such as genealogical identification and blood quantum are being used.

“The government is leaving it wide open, and we don’t know the rules of their vote,” said General. “I never seen their voters list criteria, so we don’t know and nobody has seen it.”

General said the proposed treaty also potentially puts Six Nations land claims at risk.

“Right now their land claim overlaps our land claim. We have a land claim in Hawkesbury and Innisville, one’s near Barrie and the other is up near Ottawa and our land claim is in the books already as validated by the government. If they go ahead with their land claim it’s gonna overlap ours and nobody’s talking about which one Canada is gonna deal with first,” said General.

Monture said the Hawkesbury claim for 4000 acres was recognized in the 1990s. “There’s been no negotiations on that, and here they are on the other end of the spectrum, negotiating away rights that’s gonna affect us if they’re not protected.”

“Is that the way land settlement negotiations are gonna go from now on? Are we going to be subject to the mercy of the non-native population as the whether we can get a settlement or not?” Monture asked. “But, the other issues that’s a real and major concern is that it’s gonna put a lot of lands that should be traditional lands which are crown lands, subject to taxation and it’s gonna put them under municipal control. Along with that, the Iroquoian rights for hunting fishing and trapping throughout that area. Because that’s an area we basically have gone up to the Ottawa Rivers during the Indian Wars and resolving our conflict with the Algonquins and Hurons, that’s where we entered into the Dish with One Spoon Treaty and we would share those lands. So, if they put it into the hands of non-natives are they indirectly going to eliminate our Iroquoian rights throughout that territory? And the same applies for the Algonquins of Quebec. We have more rights to those areas than certainly the diluted non-native population has. You know and I know how the Crown works, they’ll use that to extinguish our rights.”

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