Important and Dubious 19th Century Treaties

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the McDougall Treaty of 1862

       “Vanishing like snow before the April sun,” was Sir Francis Bondhead’s dismal prognosis for the aboriginal peoples of Ontario. His hope of keeping the native peoples isolated from white encroachment, until that “vanishing” occurred, set the stage for the Treaty of 1836. According to this Treaty of 1836, basically, the crown would make no claim on Manitoulin Island and the surrounding “fishing islands;” and the Ojibway/ Odawa owners of these lands would agree that the remaining native population of Ontario could relocate to the Island. (It was estimated that there were about 9,000 native persons in Ontario at the time.) In fact, Sir Francis had no crown authorization to make this treaty.

     The native people of Ontario did not die out, nor did many move to Manitoulin Island.  Using this failure to relocate as a pretext to nullify the 1836 Bondhead Treaty, the McDougall Treaty of 1862 opened the Island to non-native settlement.

    Actually, the Treaty of 1836 contained no clause about the requisite number of native people that would have to settle on the Island   to   make  it  valid.

The new Treaty of 1862 was also in violation of the “fiduciary responsibility” of the crown, and later of the Canadian government, who were expected to protect native rights and interests. These dubious actions have come back to haunt the federal government, in the form of numerous specific land and rights claims.

    Wikwemikong, supported by their clergy (the Jesuits, who have been present there from 1844 until the present day), refused to sign the Treaty of 1862 and so retained 20% of the Manitoulin Island land mass (and presumably the “fishing islands” which are still under contention). It is said that many of the signatories of the Treaty of 1862 signed under duress and the influence of alcohol. In fact, many of them were not from the Island, and had already signed the Robinson-Huron Treaty of 1850. Not being from the Island, they were not the legitimate representatives of the communities which were under consideration in 1862.

    Thus there are grounds for declaring the Treaty of 1862 fraudulent, along with the Treaty of 1836.

Fr. Michael Stogre S.J.

Sir William McDougall, one of the architects of the Treaty of 1862


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