Land Claim Negotiations

By Bruce W. Hodgins



Land claim index












Photo: Rally for the Teme-Augama Anishnabai at Queen's Park

                    Brian Back/Earthroots

Rally for the Teme-Augama Anishnabai at Queen's Park.















Members are the status Indians, under the Indian Act, living on and off Bear Island reserve.


 Members include not only status Indians of Temagami, but those living off the reserve, and those who have lost their status, or are descendants of Temagami natives (ie. non-status and Métis). This group was created to settle the land claim.












Association of Youth Camps on the Temagami Lakes
DIAND Department of Indian and Northern Affairs
ONAS Ontario Native Affairs Secretariat
TAA Teme-Augama Anishnabai
TFN Temagami First Nation
TLA Temagami Lakes Association

Bruce is a member of the Committee of Lake Stakeholder Groups for the negotiations, president of Camp Wanapitei and co-author of The Temagami Experience.

OCTOBER 17, 2001 — Negotiations on the land settlement have moved into high gear and taken a recent twist, one which requires considerable background to understand.

The Supreme Court of Canada in 1991 found that the Teme-Augama Anishnabai (TAA) and/or the Temagami First Nation (TFN) had, over the decades after the 1850 Robinson Treaties, transferred their aboriginal rights and title to their vast traditional lands to treaty rights. Even though they had not signed the treaty, they had, over the years, passively adhered to the treaty and were now bound by it. But the "crown" (old British Imperial to 1867, then federal or provincial, but probably mainly provincial pubic lands) had failed in its "fiduciary responsibility" to the TFN-TAA, especially with regard to land. The court was pleased that this failure was in the process of rectification through political negotiations. So the native people both won and lost.

These negotiations reached a draft agreement in 1993. It was ratified overwhelmingly by the large TAA (includes all status and non-status Indians and Métis) and rejected overwhelmingly by the smaller TFN (formerly the federally recognized Temagami band of status Indians) of which basically only those living on Bear Island could then vote.

This draft agreement involved, among other things, the transfer of 112 square miles bordering deeply along the eastern and northern shore of Lake Temagami to native ownership under the laws of Ontario. This is the amount of land based on the number and size of the traditional families, which they should or would have received under the treaty. In drafts presented by Canada in the 1880s, this would all have been bordering on Lake Temagami. This is what nearly all native voices have insisted upon. This native land could not have been alienated or sold beyond the TFN-TAA and its members. We were all told that, except for a mainland village (perhaps on Shiningwood Bay), nearly all of the Skyline Reserve would be protected, even though it would be under native ownership.

    MAP: Set Aside Lands

For a time during the negotiations, the native quest for land ownership had been on the McLean Peninsula and the Austin Bay areas. McLean Peninsula would have been made into an island or proclaimed, like Wanapitei, an honorary island. Cottage and other careful development, for construction, operation or long-term lease would have been permitted. When this peaked, there was a quiet uproar from a majority of the Temagami Lakes Association (TLA) board (but not myself, who was on a canoe trip) and many others who knew about it. There was a quick brief against the McLean Peninsula prepared and presented to Ontario Native Affairs Secretariat (ONAS). The peninsula was withdrawn.

The substitute was most of the eastern mainland of the lake, involving a deep coastal strip, stretching around Ferguson Bay to include the Cynthia Peninsula — all subject to the Skyline Reserve apart from a mainland village, and perhaps the old Friday's site north of the Hub. This was acceptable to the TLA Board — though nothing formal was admitted concerning Shiningwood Bay, etc. I was there; I know this to be true.

By then the TLA was committed to help foster a "just and equitable" solution to the land claim. The draft agreement had clearly involved freehold ownership of the Set Aside Lands.

When preliminaries to renegotiate began again in late 1999 and early 2000, the Set Aside Lands were again front and centre.  They were to be made available to the TFN-TAA, although "quality" (presumably in part elsewhere) could be substituted for "quantity," and Ontario insisted that a final settlement had to provide for economic opportunities. There was also a provision for smallish plots of land throughout N'daki Menan for the traditional families. But there was to be no co-management of Crown land such as would have existed under the former Wendaban Stewardship Authority (of which I had been a member). But there would be a mainland village.

Meanwhile the Municipality of Temagami had amalgamated with or annexed the lake and much of the backcountry outside the provincial parks. Set Aside Lands would now be inside the municipality and subject to mainland taxation, except, of course, any land made into an Indian reserve, which would in the narrow sense be under aboriginal control, and in the ultimate sense under federal Canadian control, as federal lands. It was assumed by ONAS and most others that the amount likely to become an Indian reserve would not exceed more than 30 square miles, if that. Divided, cut-up reserves seemed to be against Canada's Department of Indian and Northern Affairs (DIAND) policy. Such reserve lands would not be part of the municipality, not subject to the Skyline Reserve, etc.

Then early this spring it all changed. At a meeting of the lake's group with Ontario Native Affairs Secretariat and TFN-TAA representatives at Temagami Lodge, two women from federal Indian Affairs were in attendance at ONAS's urging. On questioning, they casually announced that all the 112 square miles could become an Indian reserve if the TFN wished it, and if Ontario would acquiesce. That is how it would have been in the 1890's, if only Ontario had then agreed. The large reserve would have been in the south end of the lake. If it had, there would have been no land claim, which has been going on seriously since 1972. Canadian Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald (Conservative) said yes. Ontario's Premier Sir Oliver Mowat (Liberal) said no. Ontario won. Canada and the TAA lost. I think we lost too.

This was before Father Charles Paradis had squatted on Sandy Inlet (1891) with the approval of the Roman Catholic Bishop of Peterborough (take note), but after A.P. Ferguson had prospected and secured freehold tenure to much of the top and cliff of Ferguson Mountain on Ferguson Bay. All mainland.

We were all, including the Ontario representatives, very surprised by the federal announcement. Remember that the Wanapitei lots are surrounded on three sides by the Set Aside Lands, including most of the beach and stretching back to the Red Squirrel Road. Remember that the Navaros [cottage owners] look back to a full shore, which is part of the Set Aside or Proposed Settlement Lands, and looking northward, the Schneiders [cottage owners] are in the same position. Wanapitei, surrounded on three sides by such lands, was never worried about native private land under the laws of Ontario. Sandy Inlet would be better that way than the way MNR has not administered or cared for it —each year worse than the year before, as to garbage, human feces and toilet paper, overuse by houseboats and no legal charges laid. The skyline would be as secure as before, and the beach's land approach and its camping regulated with fees collected by the TFN-TAA.

    WEBSITE:  Ontario's Land Claim site

The federal proposal for the possibly very large Indian reserve did worry most of us for a few weeks. We worried that this could mean open season on mainland development. Now we have been told that strict regulations can and would be agreed to among Canada, Ontario, and the TFN-TAA before any transfer. And the native leadership seems quite willing to enter into a permanent, legally-binding arrangement to preserve nearly all of the Skyline Reserve. It does, however, seem clear that they would prefer that most or all of the lands be an Indian reserve.

They would regulate and enforce cleanliness on the 20 or more campsites and charge camping fees, which would be under their ownership and control, and they guarantee right-of-passage etc. over traditional and recent trails, and portages on their lands — whether private lands under the laws of Ontario or Indian reserve lands. In the future, perhaps a joint lake-wide and backcountry authority, with two functioning committees, could administer the campsites in the municipality (under a land-use permit) and the Indian reserve.

I see no cause whatever for alarm, but a great need for vigilance, friendship and support for the process.

For the TLA (or the AYCTL), etc. to demand or politic in an attempt to remove our friends from ownership or control of the eastern Skyline would be seen as a double-cross and a violation of all our commitments. They have been dedicated Lake Temagami people for many more generations that we have. An attempt to take away the eastern Skyline would violate our commitments to ONAS's  chief negotiator. It would clearly be seen as anti-aboriginal, perhaps class-based and bordering on blatant racism.

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