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An Algonquin History 

 

Provided by Bob Lovelace

The 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.

 

Land 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.

 

By 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. 

 

At 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.

 

During 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.

 

Federal 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.

 

In 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.

 

The 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.

 

For 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 past.

 

In 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 Claim.

 

In 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.

No 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 years ago.

 

Hunting 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.

 

Throughout 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 “Claim”.

 

The 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.

 

The 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”.

 

To 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 follow.

 

 


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Ardoch Algonquin First Nation Banner created by Kevin Wight.