2013 and 2014 mark the 250th anniversary of the 1763 Royal Proclamation and the 1764 Treaty at Niagara respectively. The Treaty at Niagara ratified the terms of the Proclamation, establishing a Nation-to-Nation constitutional agreement whereby all lands and resources would be shared. William Johnson commissioned runners of the Nipissing and Algonquin Nations, asking them to carry a printed copy of the Proclamation to all the Indigenous Nations located in the larger Great Lakes region. Along with the Proclamation the runners also offered strings of white wampum as a gesture of inviting them to the peace treaty at Niagara.
As an Algonquin Anishinaabe-kwe I am proud of the Algonquin Nation’s role in this foundational Treaty. Regardless of this peace treaty agreement, two centuries of oppressive colonial rule has taken its toll on the Algonquin as Canada has refused to recognize its Constitutional beginnings as Nation-to-Nation with Indigenous Nations and has monopolised all our land and resources.
Within this context of colonial rule, the process where some non-status Algonquin began to call themselves “chiefs” and refer to the people they keep informed about the Algonquin land claims and self-government process as “First Nations” requires clarity. After they were selected, and then so-called elected, to sit at the negotiating table with the provincial and federal governments of Ontario and Canada these non-status Algonquin began to call themselves “chiefs” and the group of Algonquin that they keep informed as “First Nations”. In this way they are not really chiefs and not really leaders of a First Nation. After all a colonial process is not the process by which someone becomes a chief, and for that matter it is not the process by which a group of people become a legitimate community let alone a First Nation.
Further to this, the really peculiar thing is that these so-called chiefs sitting at the land claims and self-government table do not change. This is due to faulty election processes and a lack of participating Algonquin in that many Algonquin are apathetic to the real issues or they are too busy to be actively involved, women more so as they are busy raising children and dealing with other issues the western model of society has imposed. In addition many Algonquin have walked away entirely because they know it is a colonial process. As a result, these so-called chiefs are there for life of the so-called negotiation process.
The Algonquin land claims and self-government process, as all land claims process are, is nothing more than a job creation project where a handful of people – Indigenous and non-Indigenous – collect a salary to facilitate the self-termination of the nation and nothing more. The recent Algonquin offer tabled by the provincial and federal governments of 1.3% of our traditional territory and a $300 million one-time buy-out, if ratified, is a sure indication of this, and will surely bring shame to the nation.
This is how the Canadian government works, by manufacturing Indigenous complicity in their termination. This is hardly reconciliation or anything to be proud of. The Algonquin are far better off as a Nation without a land claims settlement.
Also see this link: Algonquin Genocide
Dr. Lynn Gehl is an Algonquin Anishinaabe-kwe from the Ottawa River Valley. She has a section 15 Charter challenge regarding the continued sex discrimination in The Indian Act, is an outspoken critic of the Ontario Algonquin land claims and self-government process, and recently published a book titled Anishinaabeg Stories: Featuring Petroglyphs, Petrographs, and Wampum Belts. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org and see more of her work at www.lynngehl.com
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