A small camp called the Oshkimaadziig Unity Camp has been set up in Awenda Provincial Park at the site of an historical counsel rock.
The organizers of the camp are from communities involved in the Coldwater-Narrows Land Claim Settlement Agreement.
The settlement is reported to be the largest settlement offer in Canadian history at $307 million. Communities involved include Rama, Georgiana Island, and Beausoliel, plus Chippewas of Nawash or the Chippewa Tri-Council.
The communities voted on the settlement in mid-April. The agreement was ratified by all communities but Nawash. That community’s voter turnout was too low and failed to meet the minimum votes required by the federal government. Nawash members head back to the polls for another attempt at the ratification vote on July 7.
According to the Aboriginal Affairs Web site, “the claim stems from events that took place over 170 years ago in relation to land known as the Coldwater-Narrows reserve. The reserve was 10,673 acres in size and ran about 14 miles long by 1.5 miles wide, along an old portage route between present-day Orillia and Matchedash Bay on Lake Huron in Ontario.”
The basis of the claim is that the land was improperly surrendered in 1836. The settlement also allows for the purchase of land, which can then be designated as reserve land. There’s a 30-year deadline to make the purchase and also ensure that any purchased lands have been through an environmental assessment and consultation.
The settlement agreement is a sore point with Beausoliel First Nation member Johnny Hawk. In a telephone interview, Hawk said, “We wanted to assert our nation-to-nation agreement and opt out of this process. So this camp is a reflection of an avenue that’s not provided to opt out of this illegal process.”
Hawk said the process is illegal because, “in 1764, our ancestors developed a nation-to-nation agreement, which is the 1764 Niagara Covenant Chain.
Through the Oshkimaadziig Unity Camp, Johnny Hawk and co-founder Richard Peters are trying to educate others about treaties and agreements that precede modern day settlements and treaties with the Crown.
Not only is there the 1764 Niagara Covenant Chain, there are other agreements, said Hawk.
“We also have other wampum belts, such as the One Dish, One Spoon, the Ojibway Friendship Belt with the Six Nations Confederacy, which are intertribal agreements. We have to consult with our other nations, and by nations, I mean our sovereign nations, not these Indian Act governed communities.”
Richard Peters stands with Hawk.
“I don’t agree with the Coldwater Settlement because it’s asking for an absolute surrender.”
Peters also has very personal reasons for participating in the camp.
“I grew up being assimilated and not knowing the teachings. Just in the last three years, I’ve been inspired to become more Anishinabek, to learn these teachings. So, when I got asked to participate in this, it was about keeping the culture, teachings and spirituality alive.”
Hawk said he doesn’t know how long the occupation will go on at the Oshkimaadziig Camp, but he’s expecting it will be up for quite some time. He said they will be organizing music and teaching events, along with various cultural activities.
“Oshkimaadiziig,” Hawk said, “means the New Life People. Oshkimaadiziig in the Anishinabek language refers to the New People of the Seventh Fire Prophecy who will pick up the many things left on the trail to ensure humanity’s survival in the Eighth Fire.”
Hawk added, “We’re trying to assert these nation-to-nation agreements that these Indian Act leaders claim to uphold.”
Chiefs from Nawash, Beausoliel and Georgiana Island could not be reached for comment. However, a spokesperson for Rama First Nation Chief Sharon Stinson-Henry said the chief declines comment until the outcome of the next vote from Nawash has been learned.
Hawk wants the leaders to know, “We’re not trying to jeopardize the settlement offer by doing what we’re doing...this is not only a four communities issue. It’s happening across Canada, that communities are accepting to use the Specific Claims policy. We’re trying to unite our traditional alliances and all other communities.”