MOOSE FACTORY - Mushkegowuk First Nations are hosting a three-day conference this week to discuss the future of Treaty No. 9.
This comes on the heels of a court challenge that has been launched by Mushkegowuk council earlier this month.
The dispute is over Aboriginal land rights and traplines in the Cochrane area where there has been increased mining activity.
Mushkegowuk is using as legal leverage a 108-year-old diary that belonged to Daniel MacMartin, the Ontario treaty commissioner who negotiated Treaty No. 9 in 1905.
Much fanfare was made by Mushkegowuk when the diary was discovered a couple of years ago. It was felt MacMartin’s diary reaffirms the view that Aboriginal leaders were duped into signing a written treaty which they did not fully understand.
“When my grandfather signed the treaty in Fort Albany in 1905, the terms as discussed and orally agreed to, were very clear,” said Grand Chief Stan Louttit.
“It was a sacred oral agreement about living together and sharing the land.
“The Omushkego (people of Mushkegowuk) never surrendered the land or the natural resources but were told their rights would be protected.”
Louttit said the “ambiguity of the treaty” lies in the fact the text was written in English and was never fully translated for the Cree-speaking First Nations.
Much of the discussion at this week’s conference in Moose Factory, will focus on one aspect of the treaty in particular.
Louttit said it is the clause in the English text giving the government the right to “take up” land as it desires.
The diary of the Ontario treaty commissioner confirms this clause was never explained to the First Nations, said Louttit.
Murray Kippenstein, the legal representative for Mushkegowuk, suggested to The Daily Press in a previous interview that government officials who negotiated Treaty No. 9 likely did not expect First Nations to still exist 100 years later.
In addition to MacMartin, the key government officials involved in the negotiations included Duncan Campbell Scott.
Scott would later make his mark in Canadian history when as the head of Indian Affairs he made residential school attendance legally compulsory for all Native children ages seven to 15. The goal of the program was to eradicate Aboriginal culture.
At least 100 delegates from the seven First Nations that make up the Mushkegowuk region are expected to attend this week’s conference which begins Tuesday.
Deputy Grand Chief Leo Friday, in a statement, said, they will be there to “discuss the next steps that we will take in order to ensure the proper implementation of the treaty.
“For example, we have an expectation that the First Nations should receive a fair share of the revenues the province collects from the mines and hydro dams in our territories.”
The theme of the conference is “Omushkego Sovereignty, Homeland and Jurisdiction” and will end with a re-enactment of the signing of the treaty as remembered through the teachings of Omushkego elders.
Mushkegowuk council is a regional organization that represents the collective interests of the Kashechewan, Fort Albany, Chapleau Cree, Missanabie Cree, Moose Cree, Taykwa Tagamou and Attawapiskat First nations in Northeastern Ontario.