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Treaties and Land Claims

100 years of the Williams Treaties in Ontario: Anishinaabeg perspectives

December 1, 2023

Agreements between First Nations and Canada in southeastern Ontario are considered ‘among the worst’ treaties in Canada by some. Their legacy cannot be forgotten

Anglers from Curve Lake First Nation on Pigeon Lake, in the vast southeastern Ontario region that falls under the Williams Treaties of 1923. Photo: Fred Thornhill / The Canadian Press

The Narwhal: This article was originally published on The Conversation Canada.

One hundred years ago this November, the governments of Canada and Ontario signed treaties with First Nations of the Chippewa of Lake Simcoe (Beausoleil, Georgina Island and Rama) and the Mississauga of the north shore of Lake Ontario (Alderville, Curve Lake, Hiawatha and Scugog Island).

The Williams Treaties (1923), also known as the Williams Treaty (named after Angus S. Williams, the provincial negotiator) pertained to over 20,000 square kilometers of land in exchange for a one-time cash payment of $25 per person.

Since then, the signatories have shared how they were forced to sign the treaties, without lawyers, during one-day negotiations, and never were told about the loss of hunting and fishing rights.

Oral histories from treaty educator Maurice Switzer, and former Alderville chief and community historian Dave Mowat now consider the Williams Treaties as being among the worst treaties in Canadian history.

2018 agreement between the Williams Treaties First Nations and the governments of Ontario and Canada settled litigation about land claims and harvesting rights in the region. But the seven First Nations continue to grapple with the legacy of empty promises and ongoing questions.

Map showing treaties in southeastern Ontario, centred around the Williams Treaties
Williams Treaties areas seen in periwinkle blue colour, extending from the left side of the map, at Georgian Bay, and from the bottom of the map, at Lake Ontario. Map: Government of Ontario
Treaties area includes some Greenbelt lands

Click on the following link to read the complete article in the Narwhal:


PUBLISHED BY: Jackson Pind

Jackson Pind is a mixed Settler-Anishinaabe Historian of Indigenous education who focuses on the history of Indian Day Schools in …

Jack Hoggarth

Jack Hoggarth is a ceremonial leader, a member of the Midewiwin, and an academic. He currently holds the position of Chair of Anis…This article was originally published on The Conversation Canada.