The following article first appeared in The Echo of Cantley Volume 27 no 11, June 2016. This article is made available for the enjoyment of others with the express permission of the Echo of Cantley.
Part 1 10,000 BCE to 1800 AD
"There is no history of mankind, there are only many histories of all kinds of aspects of human life. And one of these is the history of political power. This is elevated into the history of the world" (Karl Popper, 19451). History is not monolithic.
In April, I wrote about the original settlers on Cantley's land, the Anishinabe/Anishinabe2. I described their history up to about the time of the fur-trade proxy wars between the French and the English.
You may have noticed that up to this point in our school history books, the Anishinabe and Huron were nice people and the Iroquois were evil. Then magically around 1760, the Iroquois became nice; they were good farmers and saved us from the evil Americans during the War of 1812.
In fact the cultures of war were about the same for all the Indigenous Peoples in our area (and a lot less blood-thirsty than the European wars of the time). The difference was that starting in 1534 the French wrote our history. But from the Conquest in 1760 on, the English wrote our history. According to George Orwell, in war, "History is written by the winners".
That Nasty Philemon Wright
Early in the French regime, the Anishinabe had clear land rights in our area. After the 1763 Royal Proclamation to establish the basis for the English government in North America, the English took on essentially the same agreements as the French and generally respected First Nations title. This is why the Royal Proclamation is called the Native Magna Carta. With the Constitutional Act of 1791 forming Upper and Lower Canada, a problem showed up. The Imperial ministry responsible for First Nations affairs, the Indian Department in London, had an agenda of political stability with First Nations and thus respected the Royal Proclamation. However, the Lower Canada ministry responsible for settlement, wanted, well, settlers.
And in came Philemon Wright from Woburn, Mass. Shortly after his arrival in 1800, according to his memoirs, a delegation of Iroquois and Anishinabe (friends at this point) paid a formal visit. In Wright's opinion, he settled their land claims for 30 dollars. In the view of the First Nations, this was probably part of a gift exchange to establish positions. We cannot speak of Wright's actual attitudes, but according to various sources, Americans as a group were generally much more hostile to indigenous people than we were.
19th Century Re-locations
After the Great Peace of 1701 in Montreal, the Anishinabe and Iroquois of our region settled in a large community at Lac-des-Deux-Montagnes, Oka. In the 19th century, they slowly worked back to their own territories. The Anishnabeg from Maniwaki, for example, established their current reserve, Kitigan Zibi in 1850.
The Anishinabeg and Nippissing lodged continuous protests with the Indian Department. These would be transferred to the Lower Canada government and ignored. The Indian Department even collected rents from the settlers on Ottawa River islands until 1820.
According to Speck, the Anishinabeg family band structure gradually broke down due to missionary work, the loss of territory and disease. The Dumoine Band was all but obliterated by the Spanish flu and the survivors re-established themselves at Wolf Lake in Abitibi. Cantley's native inhabitants would have moved to Wolfe Lake, to Kitigan Zibi or stayed in Oka.
Chief Antoine Pakinawatik 1854-1874
Chief Pakinawatik made three trips by canoe to Toronto and overtures were made to the Government to have this area set aside. The Indians were impatient at the delay encountered in the land surveyed and boundaries established.
Bishop Guigues of Ottawa supported the Indians and credit has always been given to him for having obtained the reserve for the Indians. No doubt he did intercede on their behalf, but probably because it would be to the clergy's benefit in having the Indians close by, eliminating the long trips that were required to bring religion to the Indians.
The missionaries then appealed, through Bishop Guigues, to have this reserve put in their trust, but the Indians objected very strongly, no doubt remembering that life in Oka had become unacceptable to them for that very same reason. When the land was finally surveyed and the reserve created, the Government respected the wishes of the Indians.
We often think of the history of Cantley beginning with the Wright settlement in 1800 or the first settlers in 1829. However, it started 12,000 years ago! The Algonquin Nation had and may still have a claim to the land.
The historical record shows that when Samuel de Champlain - recognized as the founder of Quebec and by extension, Canada - landed in New France in 1603, the Anishinabe occupied a vast territory along the Ottawa River basin up to the Saint-Maurice River. They allied with the French, fought wars against the Mohawk and were often displaced from their territory, but the Anishinabe maintain that they never gave up rights to their land. Similarly, they kept their rights as the sovereign Algonquin Nation under New France, and when the British defeated the French in 1760, their land rights remained intact.
In 1997, the Supreme Court recognized the legitimacy of a similar land claim in British Columbia. This ruling implies that the Algonquin land rights under New France were not extinguished under the British.
According to Jean-Guy Whiteduck, chief of Kitigan Zibi, "We the Algonquin Nation never signed a treaty giving up our lands. There was no time we ever signed anything that extinguished or gave up our rights to our lands even though we were forced onto reserves."
1See complete references.
2Algonquin is the Malecite word for "our allies". Anishinabe is what they call themselves in their own language. It means "spontaneous people". I will use the term Anishinabe in this article.