The First Nation community of Abitibiwinni in Northern Quebec has set up an intermittent blockade of Highway I 11 to raise awareness and support for their land claim.
The Abitibiwinni are protesting their land allocation under Treaty 9, which they say is not being respected. The Abitibiwinni reserve is home to approximately 500 Algonquins and is located just outside of the municipality of Amos.
According to Abitibiwinni band council member, Bruno Kistabish, when the treaty was forged back in 1906, “it guaranteed that every family should have a square mile for a family of five people, now we have a square mile for over 130 families.”
Though Treaty 9 is synonymous with Ontario’s troubles, the Abitibiwinni First Nations were actually included in the treaty, giving them grounds to take up their land claims with the government. “We did not get anything since those 100 years ago, this is why we are protesting,” said Kistabish.
The blockade was not intended to completely block traffic but merely to slow it down and hand out pamphlets.
At the time that we spoke to Kistabish, one day prior to the event, he was expecting a turn out of at least 200-300 of the reserve’s inhabitants.
In 2006, the community celebrated the centennial of Treaty 9 with the other Algonquin communities that surround Lake Abitibi by sending the treaty back to the government with a message that the treaty is not being honored. Though a representative from Indian Affairs was present at the 100-year anniversary “celebration,” the community did not receive any response from the government. “Nothing at all, not even any word as to whether they had received the documents,” said Kistabish.
In trying to establish their point, the community of Abitibiwinni has appealed to various local groups, says Kistabish. “We have gone to the Amos Chamber of Commerce and we did the same thing in La Sarre. We are doing what we can for the people, to let them know that the government does not move, they don’t say anything and this is not right.”
For the time being the community is planning on keeping their protests peaceful and has no intentions of stepping up their actions to the levels seen in Caledonia over the past year.
“So far there is not even anything put aside from us with the land, there is nothing that has been done, the 30 square miles, nothing has been put aside for us, nothing,” said Kistabish.
At the same time he expressed a great deal of hope as already to date the community is feeling the support of neighboring communities. “Most of the people, the white man, they are supporting us in the Amos region.”