Aamjiwnaang citizen Alphonse Aquash (left) taking an after-work swim at the fishing pier with his nephew Warren Joseph, supports the idea of limiting fishing and swimming rights to his community.

By Colin Graf

AAMJIWNAANG – Citizens of Aamjiwnaang First Nation are asserting their rights to fish along the two Kilometre stretch of the St. Clair River in their territory.  An influx of recreational fishers from the adjoining city of Sarnia has made it difficult for community members to enjoy their shoreline – so much that Chief Joanne Rogers says Council must take measures to limit fishing to her membership.

Chief Rogers tells the Anishinabek News that an increase in use by outsiders and a spate of bad manners by them has prompted the new policy, which is now being enforced by new security staff and officers from Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR).  Visitors have been leaving litter along the riverbank, and driving vehicles up and down the boat launch driveway without need, she claims.

Aamjiwnaang citizens are being crowded out by the visitors, especially at peak fishing times on summer evenings.  They can’t find a place to park and can’t even get down to the river, that helps connect Lakes Huron and Erie, north of Detroit, MI, Rogers explains.

Seniors have been unable to get on the First Nation’s fishing pier and are being forced to throw a line from a group of large rocks – an area Rogers says is unsafe for them.   There has been an incident of pushing and shoving between one resident and a visitor, while a visitor was also seen trying to enter someone else’s vehicle, she says.

But the “turning point” for Rogers occurred when an Aamjiwnaang parent took a child down to fish and nobody would give them a spot on the fishing pier, forcing them onto the rocks.  By the end of the experience the child didn’t want to go fishing any more.

New signs have recently gone up describing the policy and security staff are visiting the area to explain the changes.  The MNR officers are looking for people fishing without a licence or those with more fish than allowed in a category.  So far there have been no problems with enforcement, and the security staff “are being nice about it,” she says.

The community is now seeing some positive results, says Rogers.

“Our people are back fishing.  Now they have their pier,” she says.  While the first priority is Aamjiwnaang citizens, the new fishing policy is not set in stone.  “Things may be changed again in the future,” Rogers adds.  “We’re not done looking at this.”