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Government Commitments to Truth and Reconciliation

Robinson Huron Waawiidamaagewin gathering full of teachings, activities

September 5, 2023

Robinson Huron Treaty Chiefs gathered in Sudbury, Ont., with federal and provincial governments on June 17. – Photo by Marci Becking

NationTalk: ARDEN RIVER — A Treaty Renewal Ceremony is being held on Sept. 9 at the GFL Memorial Gardens in Sault Ste. Marie as part of the Robinson Huron Treaty 1850 Gathering. Held by the Robinson Huron Waawiindamaagewin and the Robinson Huron Treaty Litigation Fund, the Sept. 7-9 gathering begins with two days of teachings, presentations, workshops and activities at the Garden River Community Centre and a Main Stage, Teaching Lodge and Nogdawindamin Cultural Corner set up on the centre’s grounds.

“It’s Treaty Day — on Sept. 9, that’s when the treaty was signed in 1850 — that date is very significant to the people on the north shore of Lake Huron and Lake Superior, so on that day we are commemorating and acknowledging the settlement agreement that was negotiated on the past compensation for the (annuity) claim,” says Mike Restoule, chair of the Robinson Huron Treaty Litigation Fund. “This is half of the claim towards the court, because the claim was for losses for the past and on a go-forward basis how the treaty annuity will be acknowledged and augmented from time to time.”

Restoule says federal and provincial ministers, Gary Anandasangaree, minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, and Greg Rickford, minister of Indigenous Affairs, will be attending the gathering along with other dignitaries.

“When the Crown gets together with the representatives of the First Nation, it is considered a treaty renewal,” Restoule says. “In this case, all three parties, Ontario, Canada and the First Nations, acknowledge the treaty and they renew their intentions in the treaty.”

The Robinson Huron Treaty Litigation Fund leadership and representatives of the governments of Canada and Ontario announced a proposed out-of-court settlement in the outstanding litigation around the 1850 Robinson Huron Treaty on June 17.

The proposed settlement includes $5 billion from both Canada and Ontario, for a total settlement of $10 billion for past losses, for the First Nations claim that under the Robinson Huron Treaty the collective annuity to the First Nations and beneficiaries should have increased over time as resource revenues within the treaty territory increased. The annuity increased only once, rising from about $1.70 per person to $4 per person in 1875.

“Every year, our Litigation Management Committee, which is the committee that works with our legal team, partner with the Robinson Huron Waawiindamaagewin to put on a commemoration of the Robinson Huron Treaty,” Restoule says, noting that the gatherings are held in different areas of the Robinson Huron Treaty territory with information on treaties, history and the Anishinabe way of life. “There’s teaching lodges and all these kinds of things — we try to pack as much as possible into these gatherings so that when people come there they’ll have a good variety of interesting things that they can see and do.”

Restoule says the upcoming gathering, which includes a Drum Social on the evening of Sept. 7 and Entertainment by Roger Daybutch and Crystal Shawanda on the evening of Sept. 8, is aimed at citizens of the 21 Robinson Huron Treaty First Nations as well as the general public.

“Canada exists only by the treaties that they signed with First Nations people, and that’s why in our territory it’s important for us to commemorate that because the Crown made some promises to the First Nations when they asked for use of the land,” Restoule says. “The Anishinabek people need to know about this, they need to know as much as possible about their treaty and about their relationship with the Crown, and the non-Native people need to know about this as well because they have to know that Canada exists in our land because of treaties that were signed with the First Nations.”

By Rick Garrick