The Saugeen Ojibway Nation (SON) vigorously defends the rights and interests of our First Nations and members in our Traditional Territory. The SON is the only Indigenous group that has treaty rights in the lands and waters of our Traditional Territory, except for those agreed-upon boundary areas where our Territory overlaps with that of other First Nations. We stand firm against the Crown, project developers, and other groups asserting rights that could conflict with ours.
The Chiefs have sent to the group known as Historic Saugeen Metis (HSM), who have been asserting rights in SON’s Traditional Territory. We believe HSM’s claims are in error, have notified them of our opinion, and invite them to prove their claims in court, as SON has done, many times. The text of the letter follows. You can access the signed letter here.
Letter from Chiefs, Saugeen Ojibway Nation, September 2018
The Saugeen Ojibway Nation (SON) is made up of the Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation and the Chippewas of Saugeen First Nation. SON’s Traditional Territory is bounded on the south by the Maitland River system from Goderich to past Arthur, on the west by the Canada/USA border in the middle of Lake Huron, on the north by a line along the midpoint of the channel between the Saugeen (Bruce) Peninsula and Manitoulin Island, and on the east by a line down the middle of Georgian Bay. The SON also asserts our Aboriginal title over that portion of Lake Huron and Georgian Bay within our Territory (Figure 1: SON Territory). Our connection to this land runs deep. Our ancestors have fought and died protecting our Territory. Our Traditional Territory has defined and sustained us as a people since time immemorial and is central to who we are as a Nation.
We the SON have exclusive Aboriginal and Treaty rights to the entirety of our Territory (Figure 1: SON Territory), with some specific exceptions noted below.
It has come to the attention of the Joint Chiefs and Councils of the SON that a group known as the “Historic Saugeen Métis” (HSM) is making claims of rights and territory overlapping those of SON. In a recent article about HSM in the Owen Sound Sun Times newspaper (see August 12, 2018), the following language was used to describe the significance of twelve strings of shell (wampum) beads – the so-called “Piché Wampum”:
“… in 1818, the local Ojibwe exchanged it with Saugeen’s first known trader Pierre Piché, striking an agreement between the Métis and Ojibwe to share and protect the resources of the land and jointly inhabit the traditional Saugeen territory.”
HSM’s claims to the public, to industry proponents, and to provincial and federal government agencies are serious misrepresentations of indisputable historical fact. SON feels it is important to clarify the historical record regarding the alleged “treaty” made between SON and HSM with the “Piché Wampum”.
The significance and chain-of-ownership of the twelve strings of wampum is recorded by its last private owner (Frederick Lamorandiere) in the Ontario Minister of Education’s 1904 Annual Archaeological Report:
- About 1818 the fur trader Pierre Piché married a woman from Saugeen. They had no children.
- Mrs. Piché was cared for, later in life, by Mrs. Augustine Grandeville, a Red River Métis woman who had relocated to Saugeen. In gratitude for this end-of-life caregiving, Mrs. Piché gave Mrs. Grandeville the strings of wampum, saying the wampum strings would entitle her to Mrs. Piché’s one share of Saugeen lands.
- Mrs. Grandeville, in turn, gave the wampum strings to her youngest daughter, Mrs. Benoit.
- The widow Mrs. Benoit married Frederick Lamorandiere from Cape Croker (now Neyaashiinigmiing).
- After her death, Lamorandiere gave the wampum strings to the Ontario Provincial Museum as “a memento of the old times”.
The strings of shell beads were simply personal possessions passed between individuals from Mrs. Piché (the original Saugeen owner) to Mrs. Grandeville to Mrs. Lamorandiere. Since there never was an exchange between Aboriginal groups nor did the Pichés have any Métis children – there is no genealogical connection between fur trader Piché and his Saugeen wife, and today’s self-identifying Métis.
Aboriginal land rights are collective rights and can only be surrendered by a collective decision of the entire community. Further, since the Royal Proclamation of 1763, Canadian law has maintained that Aboriginal land rights can only be surrendered to the Crown.
Based on the above information, this exchange was not a treaty or formal agreement between the SON and HSM, and does not justify HSM’s claims to shared territory or a treaty with SON. Also, while HSM is free to self-identify as they wish, this group’s claim to Métis Aboriginal rights under section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 has not been legally tested or validated.
In contrast, our Aboriginal and Treaty rights in our Traditional Territory have been recognized by the courts multiple times, including in the important Jones decision (R. v. Jones, 1993 CanLII 8684) and the more recent Hayes case (Saugeen First Nation v. Ontario (MNRF), 2017 ONSC 3456).
SON holds exclusive Aboriginal and Treaty Rights across the vast majority of the lands and waters of our Traditional Territory. We recognize shared rights near Goderich where our Territory overlaps with the territories of the Aamjiwnaang First Nation, Bkejwanong Territory (Walpole Island First Nation), and the Chippewas of Kettle and Stony Point. We are also willing to recognize shared rights near Collingwood where our Territory may overlap with the territories of the Beausoleil First Nation, the Chippewas of Rama First Nation and the Chippewas of Georgina Island. Apart from these areas of shared interests, however, SON considers itself the only rights-bearing Aboriginal group in our Territory.
Please keep SON’s exclusive rights and interests in mind in any dealings with Indigenous groups or organisations within the SON Traditional Territory. Contact the Saugeen Ojibway Nation Environment Office if you have any questions about the information provided in this letter.
Chief Greg Nadjiwon Acting Chief Randal Roote
Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation Chippewas of Saugeen First Nation