By Dan Smoke – Asayenes (NNNC)
FOREST – Anthropologist Joan Holmes’ testimony at the August session of the Ipperwash Inquiry Commission explained the historical context in which the September 6, 1995 killing of Stoney Point activist Dudley George took place.
Following the War of l812, the British wanted to allow settlement in Southwestern Ontario so, following the 1763 Royal Proclamation, they had to arrange a cession agreement with the Chippewas, beginning with the land north of the Thames River.
Negotiations began in 1818 with a number of councils, including Chippewas known as Chenail Ecarte from Walpole Island; the Chippewas of Sarnia located along the St. Clair River; and those
known separately as the River Aux Sable people, and the Kettle Point people along and the southeast shore of Lake Huron.
In l825, they made a provisional treaty by which the Chippewa requested land to be set aside for their exclusive use and occupation.
Taking part were between 18 to 24 chiefs who thought the reserves were just more than 23,000 acres of land. The Indian agent recorded the numbers of Chippewas, believed to be about 440. Mr. Burwell, surveying the four reserves in l826, found the total acreage amounted to under 18,000 acres which in 1827 was written into Huron Tract Treaty #29.
The Chippewas gave up 99% of their territory in return for l% set aside for the exclusive use and occupation. The Chiefs signed that treaty believing they would receive a yearly annuity, and their reserve land would be for their people’s exclusive use and occupation “into perpetuity.”
In fact, they received goods, not money, from the government. Under the Huron Tract Treaty #29, the government treated the four reserves as one band, with one head Chief, as if all their land was interchangeable, all with equal rights in each of the reserves.
During the 1880s, the River Aux Sable name changed to Stoney Point and the Kettle Point and Stoney Point Reserves petitioned DIA to let them separate from the Sarnia band because, as one chief said: “We never pull together very well.”
In l9l9, the Government, DIA, and the Deputy Superintendent agreed to the separation of the Chippewas of Sarnia band, and the Kettle Point and Stoney Point band, also splitting the funds held in trust for them.
Indian Act in control
By this time, the Indian Act of 1876 controlled every aspect of Indian life, with the Chief and council accountable to DIA through the Indian agent, not to the people who elected them. In 1927 and 1928, land surrenders on both Kettle Point and Stoney Point reserves were taken by local non-Nativedevelopers who wanted the beach front for cottages and recreation.
In both cases, the Indian agent encouraged voting male band members over 21 to agree to the surrender. Kettle Point was opposed, protesting to DIA, but the surrender of 85 beach front acres was completed. In 1927, Stoney Point surrendered 377 acres, the reserve’s entire beach front. Real estate developer William J. Scott paid the band $35 an acre for 377 acres.
In 1936, nine years later, he sold 109 acres of the same land, with no improvements, for $10,000, or slightly less than $100 per acre, a handsome profit known as a “land flip.”
(Both these land claims are now under consideration, but as yet no decision has been rendered.)
In l942 the Department of National Defense (DND) decided they wanted the rest of the Stoney Point reserve, excluding the 377 beach front acres sold to Scott, for an advanced infantry training camp. Stoney Point people voted against the land surrender so the federal government expropriated the land under the War Measures Act, forcing everyone residing at Stoney Point to be relocated to Kettle Point. The government promised to return the land after the war when DND no longer required it, but today, the land has not
“It’s the only case I am aware of, in the mid-20th century, where a First Nation lost its entire reserve,” Holmes said.
Indian people didn’t get the vote until l960, so they couldn’t get an MP to represent them, nor could they hire a lawyer without DIA approval. There was no policy, mechanism, or grievance process in place for land claims until 1974. People who had been living in two separate communities were squeezed together on one reserve, causing over-crowding and depletion of resources.
In 1936, Scott sold 109 acres of the 377-acre plot to the provincial
government for Ipperwash Provincial Park. The next year, an engineer discovered an old Indian burial ground. The band council requested, through the Indian agent, that the Provincial Government fence the burial site area.
A reply from the Deputy Minister of Lands and Forests indicated he
would do his best but, “unfortunately,” Holmes said, “we don’t see any more correspondence about that so we don’t know what happened.”
Native bones found
In l950, the Park Superintendent’s wife discovered a skeleton in the
Park. Photographs were taken, and archaeologist Wilfred July took the skeleton’s skull. Many years later, archaeologist Michael Spence, looking at photographs, determined it was likely an Ojibway adolescent. (The bones were lost in the ’50s). There are no more written records.
In 1942, the army promised to keep the cemetery inside Camp Ipperwash in good condition. Aboriginal soldiers returning from the War discovered the fence broken down and gravestones damaged provoking DIA and DND reaction. The cemetery was fenced and gravestones restored. In confidential letters to DND, Jean Chretien, DIA minister at the time, predicted frustrated Natives could resort to civil disobedience to get back their land seized during the Second World War.
“They have waited patiently for action. There are signs, however, that they will soon run out of patience,” Chretien wrote April 25, 1972 to Edgar Benson, then minister of DND.
The examination-in-chief was conducted by Commission Counsel Susan Vella, who said, “I believe that she has made a valuable contribution to the Commission and am grateful for that.”
The Inquiry resumes throughout October and November in Forest with witnesses from the Stoney Point community.
Information about the inquiry and transcripts of the hearings are available at this web site.