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An Algonquin History
Provided by Bob Lovelace
Ardoch Algonguin First Nation is an Anishnabek community that is located in the
Madawaska, Mississippi and Rideau watersheds.
The Ardoch Algonquin First Nation (AAFNA) is non-status; that is, it is
not designated as an Indian Band by the government of Canada.
Historically the AAFNA communities’ roots are in the families who
wintered where these rivers come close together.
Their use and habitation of this location originates in time immemorial.
Culturally the AAFNA community is Algonquin and historically their
ancestors shared in the summer life of the Ottawa River.
They gathered on the Kichi Sìbì trading, guiding and protecting their
advantage as the People of the Big River. When
settlement began to devour land in Eastern Ontario at the beginning of the
nineteenth century other families retreated up river and sought refuge among the
Ardoch Algonquins. Mississauga
families also came to share in the traditional lifestyle that lingered in the
backlands and along the shores of the headwater lakes.
By the middle of the nineteenth century Ardoch Algonquin families could
no longer safely travel to Kanasatake where they once summered.
first reserved for Algonquin use (1844) is located at Bob’s Lake in AAFNA
territory. Ten years before the
land grant that created Kitigan Sìbì (Manawaki) and a full generation before
the purchase of land for the Golden Lake Reserve, AAFNA families had secured by
way of a licence of occupation, 2000 acres.
This early reserve was devastated by illegal logging operations in the
1850’s and the Algonquin families retreated to marginal and unsettled lands.
Poor Irish refugees were sold the forested land once the loggers were
done with it and the settlers commenced clearing the remaining woodlands.
Not only were fields cleared for cultivation but much of the hard wood
forests were felled and burned for potash, the first cash crop for starving
immigrants who had no care for the land.
the turn of the twentieth century the territory had four times the settler
population that it has today. There
were hundreds of working mines and productive farms.
There were lumber mills and railroads.
The Algonquins had become immensely outnumbered in their own homeland.
This had become the reality for all of the Algonquins south of the Ottawa
River. The racism expressed by the settler population toward Indian
people was crushing. Indian men
were denied respectable labour and women were relegated to being chore girls and
worse. In the early twentieth
century Algonquin homes were burnt and occupants forced out of settler
communities. Children were taken by
child welfare authorities and placed as indentured servants and field hands at
farms around Kingston and Amherstview. The
First World War claimed the lives of Algonquin men leaving many Algonquin women
to seek marriage outside of the culture.
the end of the first quarter of the twentieth century the settler economy went
bust. What had appeared to be
limitless mineral and forest resources were depleted.
The once productive soil had eroded and washed into creeks and swamps.
Those second and third generation immigrants with any get-up-and-go got
up and went. The Ardoch Algonquins
survived. They had adapted to
marginal farming, woodcutting, part-time trapping and tourist guiding. Their
sons and daughters became tradesmen, teachers and factory workers.
the 1930’s the Algonquins of Golden Lake became a federally recognized Indian
Reserve. Canada had purchased the
land that the Band occupied from Ontario in 1874 for the settlement of five
Algonquin families. As the land was
“government” owned other Algonquin Families were encouraged to relocate to
Golden Lake when settlers occupied their land or their means of subsistence
became tenuous. Throughout the
first part of the twentieth century the Province of Ontario had complained
bitterly that the Algonquins at Golden Lake were a federal responsibility.
At the heart of the Province’s complaint were several issues. There was
no economic advantage at Golden Lake and the Algonquins had become indigent on
Provincial relief. As a means of subsistence they were hunting their traditional
territories off the reserved lands. Ontario
had established Algonquin Provincial Park and was concerned that Algonquin
hunting pressure would undermine the economic viability of the park as a game
preserve and tourist attraction.
recognition of the Golden Lake Reserve provided structure and resources that
were desperately needed for the well being of that community.
Other Algonquin communities at Mattawa, Whitney, Lake St. Peter,
Calabogie and many other locations did not have a protected land base.
Non-Algonquins had long settled the land that had been once
“protected” for the Ardoch Algonquin families at Bob’s Lake.
These communities did not stop being Algonquin communities when they were
overrun by European settlement. They
did not stop being Algonquin communities when the trees were cut and burned or
when racism forced the people to the bottom of the social order. They did not
stop being Algonquin communities when they survived and found a measure of
prosperity on their own. Their
children did not stop being Algonquin when they went to the city to support
their families. They certainly did
not stop being Algonquin communities when the Federal Government recognized
Golden Lake as a Federally controlled Indian Band.
August and September of 1981 the people of the Ardoch Algonguin First Nation and
their allies from Alderville, Tyendinaga, Curve Lake and Hiawatha fought a
27-day stand-off against Ontario to protect their jurisdiction and
responsibility for the manomin (wild rice) which grows in the Mississippi River
near Ardoch. The wild rice at Ardoch has been shared for over a hundred and
thirty years with pickers from Alderville and Curve Lake.
It is the manomin that was preserved from Rice Lake when the Trent Canal
destroyed its habitat there. On
August 30 the Ontario Provincial Police and the Ministry of Natural Resources
invaded the Ardoch community with over 50 police cruisers. They brought boats, paddy-wagons, tow trucks and helicopters.
Hundreds of police and MNR were employed in the operation. All of this
force was used to escort one commercial airboat to the shores of Mud Lake.
Although people were threatened, arrested and pushed to the ground the
airboat never made it to the water. The
next morning on August 31 the community dug up the road entrances to the Lake
and liberated a part of the Algonquin homeland for 27 days.
Harold Perry now an Elder and the Honourary Chief of the Ardoch Algonquin
First Nation led the battle and the subsequent court cases that followed.
In 1982, Alan Pope the Minister of Natural Resources admitted that there
was an unsettled question of jurisdiction and that the Province had no right to
impose its authority over the manomin. No
subsequent Provincial government has threatened to lay claim to the rice.
Ardoch stand-off was not just a “military” or political victory.
By all estimates Ontario should have been able to crush any resistance
and win the hearts and minds of the public.
It had all of the resources to do so.
The Davis Tories were enjoying the greatest popularity of any government
in decades. There were greater
forces however; spiritual forces that would not let the manomin go.
As long as the people were unwilling to let it go the spirits of our
ancestors would protect it. Many
great warriors, men and women, Indian and non-Indian came to the banks of Mud
Lake to fight along side our ancestors. It was this struggle that gave rise to
Algonquin pride and determination. This
is why Algonquins from Sharbot Lake, Bob’s Lake, the Fall River, Eel Lake,
Eagle Lake, the Big Rideau, the Tay River, Mattawachen, Calabogie and Ottawa are
proud to claim the name Ardoch as their own.
ten years after the stand-off Harold Perry and Bob Lovelace worked diligently to
bring the community together and to research history and genealogies.
Countless meetings, countless trips in all sorts of weather, time away
from family and more enjoyable times, personal funds were the sacrifices that
they made. There were
disappointments with people who had selfish motives.
There were also many selfless people who committed themselves to the
vision of an Ardoch community. Piece
by piece it came together. In 1991
the two men attended a National gathering of Non-status Indians and realized
that Ardoch was already a leader. In June of 1992 they called together all of
the Algonquin Families of the region and established the Ardoch Algonquin First
Nation and Allies (AAFNA) upon the foundation of the work that they had done. This was not a new organization. AAFNA was the contemporary
continuance of the federation of families that had worked together in times
1991 the Government of Canada approved an application on the part of the
Algonquins of Golden Lake to begin a Comprehensive Land Claims to settle
Algonquin title south of the Ottawa River.
With almost no preparation the Chief and Council at Golden Lake began a
process that quickly spiraled out of control.
The non-Algonquin backlash was intense.
The Band entered into a hunting agreement with Ontario, which undermined
their claim to Algonquin Park resources and territory. They miscalculated or ignored the real numbers of Algonquins
off reserve and attempted to impose control by establishing puppet governments
in non-status Algonquin communities. These
“area committees” were intended to be satellites of the Reserve.
Legitimate leaders like Harold Perry tried to provide representation for
their communities and guidance to the process. Harold Perry quickly realized
that he was only a convenient figurehead for the Land Claims industry that had
sprouted at Golden Lake. Struggling
for equality and recognition for non-status Algonquins Harold Perry led the
first break with the Golden Lake Land Claim process.
He was tired of being told that his rights flowed from the Federal
Government and only a land claim would provide him with the recognition that he
needed to be an Algonquin. In his
heart he knew this was not true. He
knew that it was wrong. In the
summer of 1994 AAFNA withdrew its support for the Algonquins of Golden Lake Land
1994, at the Fall Rice Festival, Family Heads Council decided to challenge the
Ontario Government’s control of Algonquin hunting.
It was decided by consensus that AAFNA would support any member who was
charged with hunting without a provincial permit.
charges were laid that first year. The
following Fall, Harold Perry was charged with hunting after shooting a
previously wounded duck in the bay behind his house.
The case shocked the Ontario government when the Divisional Court found
that Harold and all other AAFNA members had an Aboriginal right to hunt.
The Court also ordered Ontario to negotiate separately with Ardoch to
establish a hunting protocol. Ontario
took the case to the Ontario Appellate Court on technical errors of the
Divisional Court judge where it was dismissed.
However, AAFNA members have never been prosecuted for a hunting or
fishing offence since then. The
recent Powley decision confirms what AAFNA and Harold Perry accomplished ten
and wild rice have not been AAFNA’s only interests.
In 1996 Randy Cota successfully fought a case to insure that Aboriginal
trappers could hold both a buyers licence and a trappers licence at the same
time. He challenged this
policy knowing that it might seriously jeopardize his trapping income and affect
his professional career. In 1998
AAFNA took Ontario all the way to the Supreme Court over discrimination in the
distribution of Rama Casino profits. Working
with five other non-status communities the case involved challenging the right
of Ontario to say who was an Indian and who could benefit from programs designed
to benefit Indians. Like
Corbierre-Laval, AAFNA lost the specific decision but set a standard which both
Federal and Provincial governments have had to live up to in recognizing
non-status Indian people. AAFNA has
successfully engaged in Ontario Municipal Boards and Environmental Review
Tribunals in order to protect Algonquin land and habitat.
the last ten years AAFNA has remained open to better relationships with
Pikwakanagan (Golden Lake) and productive participation in the land claim.
It seems though that whenever Ardoch takes a role in the “Claim”,
individuals become corrupted by pretentious recognition, delusions of power and
money. Clearly AAFNA has made some poor choices in the individuals who were
appointed as representatives. Twice representatives, who for individual recognition and
profit attempted to sign agreements without the consent of the Family Heads
Council, have betrayed AAFNA. The
first betrayal resulted in the creation of the Sharbot Lake Area Committee,
which later became the Sharbot Mishigaming Anishinbeg First Nation. The second was a small group of individuals who continue to
call themselves Ardoch Algonquins and continue to be members of the Algonquin
Nation Tribal Council (ANTC), a
subsidiary of the defunct Golden Lake Land Claims industry. These experiences
continue to reinforce AAFNA’s separation with the Claim and the leaders who
purport to champion it. The serious
business of Nation building has not been parallel with the Land Claim.
Tragically, a greater Algonquin confederation may be well beyond the
lives of even our grandchildren because of the hatefulness generated by this
challenge for the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation is its continued development as
a strong community that is responsive to the needs of members. Algonquin values of trust, friendship, respect, tradition,
mutual benefit and compassion for others need a community in which to be
expressed and thrive. These are a
way of life. They are not what you
wait for at the end of a “Claim”. Algonquin
values are gifts given by our ancestor not permitted by politicians or
bureaucrats. At the heart of
Algonquin culture is an abiding respect and responsibility for the land, for all
living things and for one another. The
ancestors of the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation enjoyed such a culture. Our oral traditions tell us of their struggles and
achievements. Ardoch is well on its
way to reasserting this way of life.
Ardoch community is committed to the children.
The Ardoch vision is to ensure that every person has the opportunity to
gain the fullest education and to have access to traditional language and
culture. Recognizing individual
gifts and finding a place in the community for positive contributions is
essential in building and maintaining strong Algonquin identity. Ardoch Elders tell every child, “prepare yourself to be
Chief one day”.
achieve our goals Ardoch has undertaken the initiative to build a Community
Centre that everyone can use and take pride in.
The Family Heads Council is committed to developing a scholarship fund
that will be available to all members. AAFNA
is also committed to exercising Aboriginal rights and continuing to challenge
the discrimination imposed on non-status Indians.
Beyond the exercise of our right to our homeland is our responsibility to
it. This is indeed a great path to
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Ardoch Algonquin First Nation Banner created by Kevin Wight.