Dr. David Shanahan

Dr. David Shanahan

Letter to the Editor of the North Bay Nugget (published August 27, 2013)  Re:  Residents remain opposed Aug. 8, 2013  http://www.nugget.ca/2013/08/08/residents-remain-opposed

After waiting for almost two hundred and thirty years, the Algonquin Nation is on the verge of achieving an agreed treaty with the Crown. In 1784, the British authorities entered into treaties with the Mississauga and Mohawk peoples, which led to large tracts of land between the Saint Lawrence and the Ottawa rivers being ceded to the Crown. Unfortunately for the Algonquin, many of these treaties were signed with the wrong First Nations, leading to the loss of the traditional Algonquin land base throughout the Ottawa river watershed, stretching as far south as the South Nation river.

Instead of receiving any compensation for the loss of this huge area of land, the Algonquins in Ontario were actually reduced to a small reserve at Golden Lake. Ever since, they have been trying to get the Crown to acknowledge their rights to the larger area, and to come to an agreement with them regarding their losses. Negotiations were started some years ago, and the Canadian Government accepted the land claim area set out by the First Nation. This has now led to a draft treaty agreement between the two sides.

It has always been part of the process that third party interests are protected, as they are in all land claim negotiations. This means that land owners cannot be dispossessed in favour of Indian claims, and some other form of compensation has to be found. In the case of the Algonquins, there will be a sizeable transfer of money, as well as small parcels of Crown lands throughout the claim area. Complaints from a number of people living beside some of these parcels are based on a misunderstanding of history, and ignorance of the sacred trust the Algonquin people feel regarding the land. They will be good stewards and protectors of the environment, and fears  of ecological degradation or abuse need to be dispelled quickly through discussion. It is important for the Algonquin community to reassure these landowners, and dispel any misunderstanding that may exist about their plans for these properties.

For the Algonquin people, there is the prospect that their long campaign to have their traditional lands acknowledged by the Crown will finally be successful after more than two centuries.

Dr. David Shanahan,

Treaty Researcher

Ottawa