A second Native road blockade of the spring began Monday, March 16 in Temagami, Ontario, this time conducted by the Teme-Augama Anishnabai and Temagami First Nation. The beginning of the blockade has consisted of stopping vehicles and handing out pamphlets that explain the land drivers are traveling across is Aboriginal owned. Drivers were also told that a band-issued permit will be required in the future. Chief Doug McKenzie of Teme-Augama Anishnabai also said that in the spring cottagers and tourists will have to buy a permit. The price is still undecided.
A Teme Augama Anishnabai member (who didn’t want to be named) said, “The government is taking their time and some action has to be done to get them to deal with us. I think it’s about time we did something.”
Temagami First Nation Chief Jim Twain said they are tired of Ontario Premier Mike Harris reneging on promises to negotiate land rights and the Band has run out of patience. Premier Harris seems to “have a low opinion of Indians and his government reflects that,” said Twain, condemning the Ontario government for its inaction.
“All we want at this point is for Harris to mandate his bureaucrats to deal with us,” said Twain. “What happens from there is yet to be determined.”
The bands say the dispute with Ontario extends back to the late 1800’s when they approached Indian Affairs for a treaty and reserve. A hundred-square-mile reserve was surveyed for them. The federal government and Temagami representatives started asking the Ontario government to give over the land surveyed.
The federal government gave up pressuring Ontario in 1971 and created the Bear Island reserve. It is exactly 100 times smaller – a mere 1 square mile.
Temagami First Nations never gave up the fight to get what they felt was rightfully theirs. They thought they had finally reached the light at the end of the tunnel in 1990 when the Ontario government offered an agreement in principle. Among the terms Ontario then offered was 115 square miles of reserve land and joint stewardship of resource and land management, with the Teme-Augama Anishnabai holding veto power. But Temagami First Nation refused to sign the deal, saying the two weeks they had to consider the offer was too short.
“We couldn’t know what we were getting or giving up in that time period,” explained Twain.
Later the Temagami First Nation and Teme-Augama Anishnabai sent the same offer back with minor changes, but the government had changed and newly elected Ontario Premier Harris withdrew the offer in 1995. Since then the Teme-Augama Anishnabai, Temagami First Nation and the Ontario government have been in and out of court.
Meanwhile, the Ontario government has told the band that the recreational hunt camp permits could become patents if the holders wished to purchase them. This has Twain upset. “They’re willing to deal with them but not us. You have to ask yourself why,” said Twain.
For more information, contact: Thomas Jolly, President of JBCCS or Lloyd Cheechoo, Executive Director of JBCCS
Telephone: 418-923-3191 Fax: 418-923-2088