Treaty Day opens old wounds

Wasauksing First Nation Chief Wilfred King collects his treaty money last Wednesday at the Wasauksing Complex as set out in the 1850 Robinson-Huron Treaty.  Parry Sound North Star Photo

By Sarah Bissonette
Parry Sound North Star

WASAUKSING – Treaty Day at Wasauksing First Nation last Wednesday didn’t include a line-up of people clambering for their $4 from the federal government.
The miniscule amount that four staff members of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada hand out with the support of both a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and Anishinabek Police irritates some Wasauksing residents and has First Nation chiefs preparing to take the federal government to court.
Wasauksing residents receive an annuity under the 1850 Robinson-Huron treaty. According to an extract from the Indian Treaties and Surrender document, 1906, and republished in 1970, the agreed-to payment is $4 each a year.
Former Wasauksing Chief and current Grand Council Chief John Beaucage said that between 1850 and 1876, the treaty monies increased annually before being capped at a British pound, or $800 in today’s money.
He, and other First Nation chiefs, believe that the annuity should have continued to increase.
If the monies has continued to increase, he said that, “we wouldn’t have difficult getting money for health, education, road, or any service on First Nation reserve.”
“Our ancestors did not sign treaties so their decedents would be forever poor, they were thinking they’d benefit off the resources they were giving up,” said Mr. Beaucage.
Mr. Beaucage said that First Nation Chiefs are working on what they call the annuities claim against the federal and provincial governments and he expects to see it in Ontario’s Superior Court within the next year.
Wasauksing Chief Wilfred King is one on a committee of native leaders working on the annuities claim and said that he, like many other members of his community, only collects the treaty payment ever few years so that it adds up and makes the collection worthwhile.
“You will find that most of my community members feel the gesture is like an insult to us,” said Mr. King, about the $4 and the staffing required to hand it out.
Gail Restoule, manager of Land and Trust services with the Canadian Ministry of Indian and Northern Affairs, said that having three staff members, a member of the RCMP and Anishinabek police during the two hours the cash is handed out is policy.
When asked why it couldn’t be mailed she said that wasn’t what was agreed to in the Robinson Huron Treaty.
“People can request it be mailed out to them, but the Robinson-Huron Treaty states cash will be paid out to each member of the First Nation,” said Ms Restoule.
As for the amount of the treaty payment, Ms Restoule said that was the amount agreed to in the treaty.

Area Treaty Days

Treaty Day for each of the First Nations covered in the Robinson-Huron Treaty, including Parry Sound District, Sault Ste. Marie and North Bay, is held between May and early September. Shawanaga First Nation’s treaty day was in May, she said.
Marian Anderson collected her treaty payment Wednesday morning for the first time in seven years for a total of $28.
“I think I’m going to frame it,” she joked. “ I can hardly buy two loafs of bread with ($4). I have to eat special bread because of my diabetes, let along milk, for my calcium.”
As far as the Treaty Day itself, Mr. Beaucage said it is a good reminder that the treaty is still a legal document.

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