It’s time to speak up for our Lake, the Nbisiing fishery & our rights from it’s biggest threat.

nbisiingfisheryThere are a few people around here that think they are back in the 1970s and 1980s fighting for Anishinaabeg fishing rights. They’ll post videos and messages that will trick you into thinking that they are the last free band of Indians fighting for their rights and freedom.

But it’s just not the case.  In reality, these misguided few are acting out of greed demanding their individual rights above all else.

They speak of “inherent rights” and “treaty rights”.  But what they’re really demanding is their individual rights above their fellow band members, above their grandchildren, above the Lake and above the fish.

Well let me tell it like it is.

These Nbisiing fisherman… or let me rephrase that… these “Nipissing-Indian-Band-status-card-holders” are fishing illegally! They’re certainly not acting like real Anishinaabeg.

They are, in fact, the biggest threat to our Lake, our fishery and our rights.

More reality…

  • The right to harvest fish is a collective right.  Period.  It belongs to me, you and our compliant commercial fishers.
  • The right to an indigenous fishery also means we have the right to regulate ourselves. Nipissing First Nation, our elected Chief and Council is doing just that with the help of the MNR.
  • My unborn grandchildren, your grandchildren, even their grandchildren and seven generations of future Anishinaabeg also have a right to fish.  They most certainly have a right to harvest walleye.
  • The fish have a right to survive as a species on our lake.
  • We have a right, responsibility and obligation to adhere to our most sacred of Anishinaabeg teachings: to look after all of Creation as stewards of the land and water… to speak for all those creatures who cannot speak for themselves. The Lake Nipissing walleye.

Do those fishing illegally care about these rights??  Of course not.  They are on the wrong side of the rights fight.

Our research… yes, Nipissing First Nation research which includes accepted scientific data, methods and analysis, clearly indicates, unequivocally, that the walleye fishery is in severe collapse.  The MNR’s data shows the exact same thing.  Our commercial fishery is not sustainable. That’s why our Chief and Council have closed the fishery.

You argue that the numbers aren’t right. Well you got us on that one!  They’re not right because you hide your real numbers in your freezers and coolers strewn about your front yards.  If we had more accurate numbers from you, the data would certainly show the fishery is far worse shape.

By your actions, you are saying “F*CK YOU” to the rest of us, to responsibility and to the collective rights of us Nbisiing Anishinaabeg.  You wrap yourself in a phoney cape of a “rights crusader” and continue to take-take-take.  That’s all you know.  Take-take-take.

You claim to be harassed by the MNR.  Well, for the first time in history, the MNR is on our side.  Nipissing First Nation signed a Memorandum of Understanding that enables them to help enforce our fisheries regulations.  They’re lifting your nets because we want them to.  The MNR and our fisheries department are working in partnership to stop you from fishing illegally in order to protect our fishery.  This is a good thing.

With all due respect, if it was my choice – you’d not only lose your nets.  You’d lose your boats, trucks, and ATVs too.

You don’t offer any new ideas to help the situation that you’ve helped create.  How will you help protect our fishery?  How will you ensure the sustainability of our fishery?  How will you protect the walleye that had fed us for millennia?  Instead you call your little meetings, talk sh*t about our Chief and Council, our fisheries program and accepted science, and wail on about standing up for indigenous rights.

Well boys and girls, the right to take-take-take is NOT Anishinaabe.  To disregard me and your fellow band members is NOT Anishinaabe.  You teach your children to disregard the fish, the science, regulations and the rest of your fellow Nbisiing Anishinaabeg.  If you continue on this course the walleye fishery in Lake Nipissing will be extinct.

Our ancestor’s signed the Treaty, created this way of life and fought for these rights for the benefit of seven generations into the future.  Not just for you.  Not just to take-take-take.

Here’s my call to action:

ACTION:  My fellow Nbisiing Anishinaabeg, I’m asking you to speak up.  It’s time to stand up and protect the lake, the fish and our right to a future fishery.  I’m asking you to stand up and speak out against those who threaten our fishery.  That’s not the MNR, our fisheries officials or our Chief and Council.  The real threat are from those who are fishing illegally, pretending to be the righteous, who disregard what is right.



  1. Les Couchi says:

    Well said Bob. I am disgusted that a few members think we as a community have no rights, but yet they have. I think your comments reflect the feelings of many community constituents. Thanks.

  2. Dan Audet says:

    I am non status and from a different tribal heritage but wanted to applaud your wise words. The only offering in addition is one that I was raised with. If I ever wish to claim rights of harvest, mom insisted it was done in the traditional manner. Not using modern technology. Make a net. Hunt with made archery gear. Walk the lands, no driving. Modern technology facilitates the simplicity of decimation of resources. Traditional rights used in the traditional ways. At least, if I do not want a heavy hand from the mother…..

  3. Roger Major says:

    What a great message. If this does not hit home nothing will. Let us not kid ourselves here because the reason they continue to set nets and over fish is because people are buying the fish. People other than natives also have a responsibility to do their share to save the fishery for those who actually sport fish.

    • Bob Goulais says:

      Well, not that fast, Roger. You’re absolutely correct. Using your words, people other than natives also have a responsibility to do their share to save the fishery. As you know, there are multiple sides to every problem, and the sport fishery is one of them. I think it’s also time that the sport fishery closes and that Lake Nipissing becomes a catch-and-release only lake. At least until the fishery stabilizes. We all need to bear some of the pain and burden for the sake of the fish.

      Our people have wisely and voluntarily chosen to close the First Nation commercial fishery. Do you think OFAH, the sport fishing association or cottage association would ever call for the same thing? Would MNR ever have the courage to do what our community has done?

      Somehow it’s still politically correct to point the finger at First Nations. Racist comments and attitudes are still targeted at our people, and are everyday banter for the small-minded minority.

      All sides need to take decisive measures to protect the fishery. It’s just doesn’t make sense to point at First Nations, blame us, and load up your boat or snowmobile and fishing gear.

      • Normand Roy says:

        Well said Bob, I’ve been saying for years this had to be done and we need to be the examples, it has to start somewhere if the Walleye are to survive.

  4. Arthur O'jeek says:

    I agree BOB, the lake has to be shut down to everyone. There are differing opinions on both sides and all OUR PEOPLE see is US being blamed and told to stop. Are there any fish hatcheries in operation today with plans to re-stock the lake, I don’t know? But I do know the non-native hatchery was shut down. Is OUR hatchery still in operation or has it been shut down too? ALL OUR PEOPLE WANT, IS TO SEE THE NON-NATIVES now do something to show US that they too are responsible for the state of the FISHERY. WE have never fished out LAKE NIPISSING, although, THE NON-NATIVES have, during the WAR YEARS. WW1 that I’m aware of and I only have hearsay to go on about WW2. And as far as I know, none of OUR PEOPLE have a COMMERCIAL LICENSE, so I have no idea where that accusation comes from. ONE member had one previously, but hearsay again says he no longer has one.

    • greg commanda says:

      how about i take yous all out there next spring and show you who is not telling the true here c’mon wake up they been doing this the whole time that they existed the mnr that is just like in 1990 they told us there was only 8 moose on the rez yeah well me and 2 buddys shot over 10 moose that year and theres still moose in our bush they are doing this all over weather its pipelines fishing tobacco etc not just here wake up its been 7 years now that we dont go out there spearing or netting in the spring but its ok to point the finger at your own ppl

      • Steve Turner says:

        Who needs 10 moose!!!!? A family of 4 or 5 can be fed on one moose a year, and you and 2 guys shoot 10! Just by writing this proves Bob’s point about overuse of Nipissing’s resources. I used to fish Nipissing commercially between real jobs with my nipissing friends and could not believe that everyone was selling filets for the same amount of money that there were selling at 30 years before… wonder some of your people are killing your lake, since the cost of living went up, you need to take more fish to pay for boats and gas! My only issue is that some nipissing will start going onto other’s traditional territories to do the same damage.

        • Bob Goulais says:

          As he points out, Greg and others do a lot for their extended family many of whom are unable to hunt. I do like that. He takes care of his Elders.

        • greg commanda says:

          hey mr turner i have 10 brothers and sisters and they all have there wifes and kids and when you get a moose butchered theres only around 400 hundred pounds of meat and when thats all you eat because i dont eat beef pork chicken and crap like that and when you hunt with other ppl who have large familys to that meat doesnt make it very far and besides i only get 3 and bit of those moose so yeah i get around 1200 pounds thats just like buying a cow every year but like i said i dont eat that junk anyways who the hell are you to say where i hunt and fish we are all part of the same treaty and i also have buddys that are metis and there communties do this in sask manitoba the yukon and they kill around 25 to 30 moose for there ppl each year thats how every rez should hunt and give to each other but it was ok when you come here and fish thou eh

          • Steve Turner says:

            Greg, you are trying to tell me that your brothers don’t hunt for themselves, and you need to knock down 10 moose to feed them all. I call BS on that! All my relations get their own moose, and we all give some to our elders or the infirm. I do buy cow and pork because I don’t want to overharvest moose, but to me, the real crime is that I see your people coming up to my homeland and netting Temagami fish and taking Temagami moose and neither asking permission or sharing what you’ve caught with us. I would njever do that on Nipissing land, as I was taught that to violate someone else’s family territory was no better than stealing. When I have hunted or fished on Nipissing or Dokis, it was at the invite of someone from nipissing or Dokis, and I accompanied someone from nipissing or Dokis, and I shared anything caught with people from Nipissing or dokis. Some of your people do not do that. Instead, they do as the two men in the video do and say “This is our right, you can’t harm us”, and that goes against all the anishnabe teachings I’m aware of.

          • greg commanda says:

            yeah thats what im telling you they dont hunt my second oldest brother shot his first moose last year his 17 teen year old got his the year before him and my brother is 53 im slowing getting them in to it besides the point i have nothing to prove to u and so you should no that temgami didnt even exist it was only knowin to be nipissing territory and the same with dokis we split to take a land mass so the non native wouldnt take all our land no your history before you run your big mouth

      • Bob Goulais says:

        Then if the numbers aren’t as bad as the data shows, adhering to the community regulations for the season should restore the stocks then. Right? Let’s put away our gill nets for the rest of this year. Let’s look at the numbers again next year and re-evaluate. I’ll even come and buy some fish off of you if things improve.

        But I think the stronger point you make is that “you and 2 buddys shot over 10 moose that year”. Should anyone be taking 10 moose a year? It’s the same with fish, Greg. We should only be taking what we need. We should be thinking about the fish too. The walleye have provided a living for your family for many years. Let’s try to respect them during this hard time. As Indian people, we need to do things right.

        The reality is that it is our people, our harvesters, who are going out three times a week, setting and lifting their five or six sets, and getting a few dozen fish everyday. That’s probably a good day, right? It may not seem like a big deal, Greg. And I get it. It means a few hundred bucks that you need to take care of your family. But when we combine the entire catch, that amounts to tens of thousands of kilograms of fish over and above what is sustainable.

        If it is really about exercising your treaty rights, and making a statement that you “can” – by all means, put out on length of net and catch yourself a nice feed of pickerel for your family fish fry. But if you are taking fish, like you describe taking moose, that’s why we have a problem.

        Thanks for your comment, Greg. No matter what, you’ll always be my brother. Take care out there.

        • greg commanda says:

          no i fish once a week most of the time cause i get too much fish and its to hard to do all the work but they still dont have the right to take anyones stuff man scott is the chief not jugde so really they dont have no right to take anyones stuff they are breaking the law here and furthermore i take these moose for my family members both you and i no that i have alot of family that dont go out there hunting so only a few of us do that for them theres nothing wrong with doing it that way i live in tyendinaga mohawk territory and thats the way they spear fish in the spring their only aloud to take 3 fish per night so 1 family member will get in the water and take all the fish that he or she can for there family there can be up to 10 members in your family so thats 30 fish that he or she can take.this is what i eat i dont eat pork beef or chicken unless i raise this food my self plus i left here in year 2000 because the lake was hurting then so i moved on to work at rama and i never shot any moose till last year when i first came back to this area so i dont no what your trying get at but you ever think to wonder why are ppl have diabetes its the crap where forced to eat beef pork chicken pumped full of steroids and hormones

          • Bob Goulais says:

            That’s true. We should all be eating more wild food. My diabetes is u der control now but it takes a lot of discipline and eating right. It’s good to see you providing for your extended family and the community. That’s important too.

          • Scott Krysa says:

            You reference that the chief is not a judge…

            but if a judge tells you what you are doing is wrong, his request would be in violation of your treaty rights.

            So what you are implying is that no one has the right to tell you what to do and you will continue doing whatever you want while disregarding the interests of the rest of your community.

            Make up your mind what way you want to have it.

          • Bob Goulais says:

            The Chief is not a judge but he is a law-maker. Elected officials like Chief and Council make laws to protect our resources from abuse and disregard. Band officials, the MNR and APS monitor and work to enforce these laws on behalf of our people. We don’t just have the right to fish. We also have the right to manage our fishery. Once those laws are made, the need to be respected. If people are in violation of those rights, they should go before a judge (or our community tribunal) to answer for their offences or to defend themselves. Those are the basic principles of justice.

      • Howard Cheechoo says:

        10 moose to feed your extended family? That’s a disgusting abuse of the land. This makes my heart hurt to hear people doing this. Shame!!

  5. Ralph Daniel Cunningham says:

    I am Pembina Chippewa from Lewistown Montana direct decendent of joseph gornon Pembina warrior who signed treaty at ol crossing minnesota 1853 . We must unite as one if we dont we will all be like dust in the wind. Its not like b4 there is no abundence of anything but greed

  6. Howard Cheechoo says:

    “In reality, these misguided few are acting just like greedy ***********”

    Bob, as I agree with a lot of what you said, you should not associate our culture with blatant racism. We are better than this. The problem at hand is an internal one amongst FN. Saying these words only enables others to hate.

    And I agree, our people should be sustaining themselves as to not take from our next generations. If you’re netting for a pay cheque, that is wrong. You will drive the walleye into extinction. The people who are netting for profit are going to ruin the ecosystem. This is a problem that you will not be able to blame any one race of human.

  7. Lynn says:

    There are other factors, like predators specifically the Comarands that are eating live fish and eat quite a high number per day but since they are considered endangered they are protected. It may be time to re-evaluate they soaring population in lake Nipissing since they are not native to the area and maybe considered as an invasive species instead in order to do something about it. It is quite easy to blame one another, it is clear that we all want to do our share to make this lake viable again. Let’s all do our part, for our children and grand children’s rights.

  8. Mike O'Connor says:

    Mr. Goulais, I applaud you for taking a difficult stance on what must be done. Mother Nature doesn’t care about the squabbles, politics, excuses and justifications of people… she only cares about what is actually done to nurture or destroy her.

    For as long as ANYONE, native or non-native, supports a law or custom, is treated differently, or claims a privilege based on ancestral and cultural background, they are racist. The truth is not subject to a self-defending point of view. Please continue your good work to restore our lake and eliminate racism on both sides, thank you.

    • Bob Goulais says:

      I don’t know if I would agree with that, Mike. That kind of viewpoint (“treated differently”/”privilege based on ancestral or cultural background”) is meant to de-legitimize our inherent, aboriginal and Treaty rights. It’s one of those subtle comments that is meant to discount legal and constitutional realities and demean our rights and our people. Aboriginal and Treaty rights are a reality. They are not an opinion. They’ve been affirmed by your Supreme Court, not mine. Those rights are entrenched in your Constitution, not mine. Nor are they based on ethnicity or culture. It’s based on pre-existing rights that our Nation has had long before Europeans arrived. It’s also based on the Treaties that your ancestors signed with my ancestors. We all have ancestral and cultural backgrounds and we all belong to a particular nation. With nationhood comes the inherent rights of a citizen. You nation happens to be Canadian. Ours is Anishinaabe.

  9. Sylvain says:

    First and foremost, these comments are truthful by some people and almost to the point that it’s disgusting. Buddy is killing 10 moose for “extended family”. Give me a break !!! The problem with the system is that by the time you get to fifth, sixth and seventh generation, unless the couples were procreating with only aboriginal people, the bloodline runs pretty thin by that time. In today’s day and age, “white” men and women are getting married with aboriginals. I see that as a sign of progression and great for the world. It’s sign of acceptance. The problem is that generation 5 to 7 have almost no native in them so they probably have not been thought to respect the land, the lake and speak for the creatures that can’t — here in lies the problem. Like one guy said, they are probably the ones that take take take and abuse the system. I have some buddies that go fishing on lake Nipissing and have told me the fish bite and the bite a lot, but the problem is none of them are above the slot size so they release them all because if they get caught with an illegal fish, the charge is $400 per fish. So as far as making the lake a catch and release lake, it all ready is when you have hefty fines like this. My friends and clients use to come fishing here and now they don’t bother because of all these rules with the slot size and the rest of the mombo-jumbo. It’s crazy and it’s sad because the local businesses lose a lot of money. Anyway, my two cents worth.

  10. Colin J D says:

    I am wiisaakodewinni from Mattawa. I use the MNR system for hunting and fishing. There was a comment about “a responsibility to do their share” and I agree entirely. However that was definitley pointed at non-Anishnaabe. If you take a look at the fishing/hunting regulations it is getting harder amd harder and more expensive every year. Pickerel has been in decline for a long time on the lake. When I first started fishing you could have six in your possesion and most could be reasonable sizes. Now you can only have four in your possesion, none of which are between 43-60com and only one over 60cm. Aka really small or one decent size. Also possesion does not mean four a day. It means four, until you consume those fish. As for the moose talk its probably going to be my last year until the regulations change. You need almost ten people to have the potential to get an adult tag and the season is later in the year . So you pay close to 55 bucks for the potential to hunt an adult moose, if you do not get a tag it defaults to calfs which start oct 22nd way too late in the season, and now no overlap with deer(Also I have extended family too, but we have to make do with these regulations, to “do our part”. Lots of people who use the MNR system will stop hunting. As the fishing it is not worth the gas or time to fidh on that lake anymore. I am happy that there is discussion about monitoring the fishing on the lake, and a full stoppage for everyone or a band tag system. There are greedy people in any group who put themselves before the collective. This is true for Aninishnaabe, Wiisaakodewinni(Metis), and non-indigenous folks. We all need to work together and live Mino-Bimaadiziwin for our future generations.

  11. Richard Lefebvre says:

    I so agree with your whole presentation. I am 64 and have fished these waters for many years but have recently stopped due to the low low fish population. I am happy to see a collective management effort between the MNR and First Nations people and future generations to return the lake to its previous splendour for all to enjoy.

  12. Bob Commanda says:

    The real problem here is that the treaty has never been honored. I keep hearing words “shared responsibility”, well the treaty guaranteed that we got our share of every resource taken off of our lands, not just a simple shared responsibility with fish. Even this “shared responsibility” of the fish is a distortion of what was intended by our Chiefs. These MOU agreements only re-enforce the notion that we would give up everything for 96 cents per year. That is where we are at today, they give us 96 cents per year and we should not be so willing to accept this any longer. Pushing us toward assimilation to the ways of the people that settled on our hunting grounds and took over our waters should never be an option. That is not what this treaty was. The treaty is a document that guarantees ownership of our waters and hunting grounds forever as understood by our Ojibway speaking Chiefs. Their Supreme Court states that the oral understanding of our Ojibway speaking Chiefs hold great importance and fulfills the treaty’s promise. These Traditional Fishers have now created an opportunity for our 1850 Chiefs to be heard. Honor the treaty!

    • Bob Goulais says:

      Bobby, the issue is not about rights. The MOU is a non-binding agreement and can be cancelled by either party at any time. Under the regulations, we have the right to fish for personal and ceremonial use at any time. You can exercise our treaty rights at any time! Go for it. That’s not under attack at all.

      This is all about responsibility. We know we have the right to harvest fish. That’s been reinforced by our Treaty, the Supreme Court and the Constitution. But we also have the right to manage the Lake Nipissing fishery. But don’t we have a responsibility to look after the fish??

      For argument’s sake, let’s assume that everyone’s numbers are correct. That the fish are in complete collapse. Let’s also assume, for argument’s sake, that you win your argument and that we DO have the right to continue to fish as we always have. Woohoo!! Let’s celebrate! But after a while, we notice that our nets are coming up empty. We don’t have enough fish to supply our customers. Do we have the right to continue to fish until every fish is gone? Do your Great-grandchildren have the right to fish for walleye?

      I’m tired of talking about rights. That’s not the issue. What I’m talking about is protecting the fish. Those tasty giighoon and our beautiful Nbisiing zaagigan that has provided for our families for generations. Let’s start a conversation about that.