SUDBURY – 40 members of the Batchewana First Nation travelled to Sudbury Monday, to witness the final arguments for the Robinson Huron Treaty (RHT) Annuity case.
Batchewana is one of the 21 Anishinabek Nations with annuitants under the RHT. The case has been ongoing since September 2017 and centres around the annuity provision of the RHT where the First Nations were promised an increase to their share of revenue from the sale of the natural resources from their lands. The annuity is currently set at $4 per year and has not increased since 1874 from the original amount of $1.60 per person.
Batchewana has always been an advocate of the RHT starting with the ‘Mica Bay incident’, a celebrated story that is still told by the Indigenous Elders and commercial fishers of the First Nation.
It begins in the summer of 1849 where Chiefs Nebenaigoching and Shingwauk, accompanied by fellow leadership, borrowed a cannon (a remnant of the war of 1812) from Sault Ste. Marie and made their way up to the Mica Bay mining location on the shores of Lake Superior.
The action was spurred by the First Nation Chiefs after an incident with the Quebec mining company. It was alleged that the company had illegally established mining operations in violation of the Royal proclamation of 1763 and Indigenous law. The Royal Proclamation set out that the lands in question were in the care and control of the Indigenous people and that in order to develop or extract anything, there needed to be Treaties or agreements in place.
The First Nations leadership utilized the canon and fired one successful volley, stopping the illegal extraction. This incident was the culmination of an ongoing feud between the First Nations and miners in the area and led to the Governor General instructing William Benjamin Robinson (member of the colonial legislature) to begin negotiations and discussions towards a Treaty.
Olaf Bjornaa, an Elder from Batchawana Bay shared his recollections, “As a child and growing up on the lake, my dad would take my brothers and I to the spot where the cannon lays. We could see the cannon by using an old stove pipe and placing it on the top of the water and peering through.” The cannon still sits there today in its final resting place where it was dropped off by the First Nation Chiefs on their return from Mica Bay.
The Mica Bay incident eventually led to the signing of the Robinson Huron and Robinson Superior Treaties of 1850 which led to the settling of the central Great Lakes area including what is now Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury, Parry Sound, Thunder Bay, and many other towns in between.
Batchewana’s Chief Dean Sayers commented, “Our ancestors along with the 30,000 annuitants/beneficiaries have been waiting for justice to many facets of the treaty relationship. The annuity issue is one. We’re optimistic about the outcomes and look forward to the day when the entire spirit and intent of the Treaty relationship will come to fruition for the benefit of not only the Anishinabek but everyone living on our lands.”
The Annuities trial is scheduled to wrap up by the end of June with a decision expected by December 2018