Understanding the history, impacts and effects of treaty in Canada is complex.
The following sources of information are provided regarding treaty in Ontario.
Specific information on the Robinson-Superior Treaty for Thunder Bay, and the Williams Treaty for Orillia are provided.
Section 35 of Constitution Act (1982)
35 (1)The existing aboriginal and treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada are hereby recognized and affirmed.
(2) in this Act, the aboriginal peoples of Canada includes the Indian, Inuit and Métis peoples of Canada.
In the 1840's, surveyors and excavators found rich deposits of iron, nickel and copperon the shores of Lake Superior.
Access to these minerals meant wealth and local mining companies appealed to the Crown for support.
So, the government sent in William J. Robinson and instructed him to extinguish all the Indian titles to the land.
In 1850, Robinson quickly concluded 2 treaties with the Ojibway. One near Lake Huron, the other near Lake Superior. The Robinson Treaties were the forerunners for all treaties for the next century. They contained provisions for annual payments to Indian bands, freedom to hunt and fish on unused lands, and they reserved special use for the Indians only. (AANDC)
Robinson-Superior Treaty and Robinson-Huron Treaty were signed in 1850.
In speaking about the Métis during the Robinson-Superior Treaty discussions, William Robinson had this to say: “If these half-breed families are to be included in the Treaty, it would be up to the Chiefs to decide to include them by sharing the benefits of the treaty with them, but that Canada would not deal with the half-breeds as a separate group or band.” (MNO Report) (The term half-breed is a historical term, you see it’s use in historical documents. But, nowadays, it is considered a slur. One should NOT use this term when referring to Métis peoples. Although they were present during negotiations, the government did not consider them Indian, nor European - they were “half-breeds”. The Métis were provided an option for being absorbed into local First Nations which would mean giving up any rights or identity as Métis. Having declined this, the Métis were not provided any recognition or rights.)
The Robinson Treaty for the Lake Superiorregion, commonly called Robinson Superior Treaty, was entered into agreement on September 7, 1850, at Sault Ste. Marie, Ontariobetween OjibweChiefs inhabiting the Northern Shore of Lake Superiorfrom Pigeon Riverto Batchawana Bay, and The Crown, represented by a delegation headed by William Benjamin Robinson. It is registered as the Crown Treaty Number 60.
Robinson-Superior First Nations Signatories:
- AnimbiigooZaagi'iganAnishinaabekFirst Nation
- BiinjitiwabikZaagingAnishnabekFirst Nation
- BingwiNeyaashiAnishinaabekFirst Nation
- Fort William First Nation
- Gull Bay First Nation
- Long Lake 58 First Nation
- MichipicotenFirst Nation
- Pays Plat First Nation
- Pic MobertFirst Nation
- Ojibwaysof the Pic River First Nation
- Red Rock Indian Band
The Williams Treaties First Nations are the Chippewas of Beausoleil, Georgina Island and Rama and the Mississaugas of Alderville, Curve Lake, Hiawatha, Scugog Island. These seven First Nations are signatories to various 18th and 19th century treaties that covered lands in different parts of south central Ontario. In 1923, the Chippewas and Mississaugas signed the Williams Treaties and together, over 90 years later, the Williams Treaties First Nations have joined to ensure their rights to and the relationship with the land is respected (Chippewas and Mississaugas Williams Treaties First Nations).
The Williams Treaties were signed in October and November 1923 by the governments of Canada and Ontario and by seven First Nations of the Chippewa of Lake Simcoe and the Mississauga of the north shore of Lake Ontario. As the last historic land cession treaties in Canada, these agreements transferred over 20,000 km2 of land in southcentral Ontario to the Crown; in exchange, Indigenous signatories received one-time cash payments. While Chippewa and Mississauga peoples argue that the Williams Treaties also guaranteed their right to hunt and fish on the territory, the federal and provincial governments have interpreted the treaty differently, resulting in legal disputes and ongoing negotiations between the three parties about land rights (Canadian Encyclopedia).
No negotiations preceded the signing of the Williams Treaties in 1923. Instead, government officials dictated the terms that Canada and Ontario had decided earlier that year to the First Nations signatories. The reason for the governments’ haste may have had to do with the fact that Ontario was already using most of the territory in question, and therefore, officials were highly motivated to extinguish all remaining title to it. By signing the treaties, the Crown received three tracts of land the first lay between the Etobicoke and Trent Rivers and was framed by Lake Ontario’s northern shore, the second expanded north from the first to Lake Simcoe, and the third tract of land lay between the Ottawa River and Lake Huron (Canadian Encyclopedia).
- Williams Treaties Research Report (1986, INAC)
- The $1.1billion settlement for Williams Treaties First Nations
Educator resources for the teaching of treaty are also provided below.
- Robinson-Superior Treaty information is available from the Government of Canada, a research report from Indigenous and Northern Affairs,
- The Williams Treaty is available from the Government of Canada, a research report from Indigenous and Northern Affairs,
- A copy of the Royal Proclamation and information from Indigenous and Northern Affairs that describes the importance and impact of the relationship and recognition of First Nations rights as set out in the Proclamation.
- The significance and impact of treaty on First Nations provided from TVO.
- Discussion on First Nations sovereignty and treaty from the Chiefs of Ontario. COO also has a "First Nations Treaty Education in Ontario" slideshow that provides history of treaty in Ontario, hinderances and affects of treaty on First Nations, as well as links to additional resources.
- Pre-1975 Treaties in Ontario map.
- First Nations and Treaties map of Ontario is available online. The Indigenous Curriculum Specialist also has some hard copies, please ask should you need one. The map is available in English and French.
- The Métis Nation of Ontario has also provided a document outlining their involvement with the Robinson Superior Treaty. A must read!
- Métis Adhesion to Treaty Three.
- “In TreatyThree, a group of Métis at Rainy River and Rainy Lake were admitted separately into treaty by an adhesion in 1875. They were also granted their own reserve and elected their own Chief. The Métis' inclusion came about mainly at the insistence of the Chiefs who had signed the treaty” (Alison Gale, “The Métis of the Robinson-Superior Treaty Historical Report, p. 133).
- Nokiiwin Tribal Council provides some detail on their relationship with the Robinson Superior Treaty, as does the Fort William First Nation.
- Anishinabek (Union of Ontario Indians) provides quite a few online materials for teaching treaty (Treaties Matter, Treaties Matter French, Ipperwash), as well as an online lesson plans for teaching treaty which can be adapted to suit your class.
- Information on treaties in Ontario is available from Indigenous and Northern Affairs, from the Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation office, and from the Minister of the Attorney General.
- Historic Canada provides a resource for teachers, Treaties in Canada Education Guide.
- Lakehead University's Library provides a set of Treaty education sources for grades K-12.
- EDUGains provides information on treaties in Ontario with curriculum links from grades 3-12 which also aligns with the First Nations and Treaties map.
- Perspective on Treaty Making (17 min, University of Alberta)
- Alanis Obomsawin "Trick or Treaty" (1.5 hour film, NFB)
- Heritage Minute: Naskumituwin (Treaty)
- A History of Treaties in Canada (25 minutes, INAC)
Treaty Recognition Week
- Treaty Recognition Week is an annual event in Ontario that is recognized during the first week in November (click the link for more resources!).
- Treaty Week was passed in legislation in 2016.
For physical copies of the "Ontario First Nations and Treaty Map", please see the Indigenous Curriculum Specialist in the Teaching Commons.