A lawsuit filed on behalf of 40 Indigenous hunters and fishermen in the North Bay area could have wide reaching implications.
It claims the Robinson-Huron Treaty of 1850, which covers much of northeastern Ontario, is invalid, because the people who signed it had no right to give away someone else’s homeland.
The suit was filed earlier this month on behalf of Algonquin hunters from the Sturgeon Falls area and commercial fishermen from the nearby Nipissing First Nation.
The hunters were charged by provincial conservation officers in years past for hunting outside of their traditional territory, which under the Robinson-Huron Treaty, belongs to the Anishnabek or Ojibwa people.
The fishermen were also charged by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources last year under an agreement between the province and Nipissing First Nation.
It says that anyone who doesn’t follow the commercial fishing rules set out by the Nipissing chief and council will be turned over to the MNR to be charged under Ontario laws.
Those fishermen contacted lawyer Michael Swinwood, who was already representing the Algonquin hunters.
He argues that all of the Indigenous people in the area covered by the Robinson-Huron Treaty are really Algonquin and descended from the people of what was once known as the Amikwa Nation, which stretched from what today we call Sault Ste. Marie to the Atlantic Ocean.
“It fits into the story of divide and conquer when you’re able to say no, this tribe isn’t connected to that tribe, but it just isn’t so. They’re all of the same root and they’re all one,” he says.