Missanabie Cree First Nation recently concluded a negotiated settlement with the federal government over a Treaty Land Entitlement Claim for reserve land promised under Treaty No. 9 more than 110 years ago. The settlement includes about $150 million in financial compensation and the ability to add up to 3,200 acres to their reserve land base.
“We brought it to the community for ratification and we came back with an acceptance rate of 99.3 (per cent) — everybody is pretty happy,” says Missanabie Cree Chief Jason Gauthier. “We’ve been spread out all over but demographically the highest population of Missanabie Cree (citizens) is in Sault Ste. Marie. It was a long process getting the land transferred over — I think it was agreed to in 2011 and then implemented in 2018 so it took some time for it to be transferred over also.”
Missanabie Cree received a reserve land base of 9,618.038 acres in 2018 under Canada’s Additions to Reserves/New Reserves Policy. The reserve, which includes the mines and minerals for the use and benefit of Missanabie Cree First Nation, is located between Chapleau and Wawa.
“We’ve already done a per capita distribution, one of the largest per capita distributions in the history of Ontario to individual (citizens),” Gauthier says. “We also have invested a lot of (the $150 million in financial compensation) into different parts of the market from bonds and equities.”
Gauthier says Missanabie Cree has been working on surveying the land and developing housing policies for their future community.
“We own a lodge up there but we’re working on getting land cleared and surveyed and ready for building housing,” Gauthier says. “We have a lot of lakeside property — I think (our citizens) are more focused on moving into areas lakeside and … we’re doing our best to accommodate that.”
Gauthier says the community suffered in a variety of ways due to not being provided with a reserve for more than 110 years.
“There was a significant loss of culture,” Gauthier says. “There was a lot of resource development in the traditional territory, and, number three, we don’t have any fluent Cree speaking (citizens) of our community left. A lot of them have passed away since then and we haven’t been able to revitalize the language because we haven’t had a reserve in order for us to work together. We’ve done a lot of programming in language but we’re still working to get more fluent Cree speaking (citizens).”
Gauthier and Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett announced the negotiated settlement on Oct. 26. The settlement, which was signed by Missanabie Cree in August 2019 and the federal government on April 24, creates new opportunities for Missanabie Cree to invest in community and economic development for the future benefit of the community.
“Today we are demonstrating what can be achieved through partnership and dialogue,” Bennett says. “This settlement honours an outstanding treaty obligation to the Missanabie Cree First Nation, helping to right past wrongs and creating new opportunities for the community. Together, we are taking a historic step along the road to reconciliation to renew our nation-to-nation relationship and build a better future based on a true spirit of respect and partnership.”
Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler congratulated the chief and council, past leaders, Elders, youth and ancestors who played important roles in achieving the settlement.
“We join with the leadership and citizens of Missanabie Cree to celebrate this historic settlement to secure land they rightfully should have received more than 110 years ago,” Fiddler says. “This agreement concludes the outstanding treaty obligation of the federal Crown and helps right this historic wrong. Reclaiming their home after more than a century of effort with the federal government is a historic achievement that all citizens can be proud of.”
Missanabie Cree was incorrectly considered part of the Moose Cree First Nation and did not receive recognition as a separate First Nation until the 1950s.