canoe2SAULT STE. MARIE (September 9, 2016)–A gathering of the Chiefs and beneficiaries of the Robinson-Huron Treaty is underway at Whitefish Island, Sault Ste. Marie.  The event entitled, “Honouring and Remembering our 1850 Treaty”, is intended a commemoration, information and planning session.

The celebration kicked off with a canoe crossing from the Marina in Sault Ste. Marie Michigan to Bellevue Park in Sault Ste. Marie, ON. There were 22 occupants on the Montreal Style Canoe accompanied by 6 individual kayaks and boats. The vessels were greeted by local First Nations leaders as well as National Chief, Perry Bellegarde. Participants were smudged or “cleaned”  and welcomed to the territory.

The Robinson-Huron Treaty between the British Crown and the Ojibways of Lake Huron was entered into on September 9th. 1850.  A canoe crossing of the US/Canada border via the St. Mary’s River is planned to kick start the event and to commemorate the First Nations’ right to freely cross the border as set out in the Jay Treaty of 1794, another treaty that provides rights to First Nations citizens.

The Chiefs have invited elders, historians, legal experts and citizens to educate people about the meaning of the treaty, discuss the treaty’s history, and learn about Anishinabek law and to celebrate the Anishinabek way of life.  The National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations Perry Bellegarde, has confirmed his attendance.

The Chiefs of the Lake Huron Ojibways, who, on September 9, 2014, collectively filed a court action against Canada for its failure to properly implement the annuity augmentation terms of the Robinson Huron Treaty of 1850 are anticipating discussions and negotiations with the federal and provincial governments to explore a negotiated settlement of the claim rather than pursuing court action.

Chief Duke Peltier of Wikwemkong Unceded Territory stated, “The Trudeau Liberal Government has promised a renewed nation-to-nation relationship with Indigenous people based on recognition, rights, respect and a true partnership, particularly treaties.  We have yet to see any action coming from that promise.  We hope the promises are not empty ones as we have seen with previous governments.”

The Chiefs have also asked the federal government to implement and fund a treaty relationship process where ongoing meetings could result in positive and long-awaited changes to the relationship that’s been defined by the Indian Act.

Chief Dean Sayers of Batchewana First Nation stated, “This has been a long-standing issue for the Robinson-Huron First Nations.  First Nation leaders, since the mid 1800s, have been fighting to have our grievances dealt with.  It is time for the federal government to step up to work at resolving our treaty issues.”

The gathering is taking place on Whitefish Island in Sault Ste. Marie on Friday, September 9th and Saturday, September 10th, at the original location where the treaty negotiations took place in 1850. A press conference will be held on Friday, September 9 at 12:00pm.