Experience of the Attawapiskat Cree to Ojibwa in relation to the Canadian Government
The Attawaspiskat Cree and Ojibwa are a first nations group living in parts of Canada, mainly northern Ontario. The main languages spoken by these first nation groups are Mushkegowuk Cree and Ojibway. I will compare and contrast the experience of the Attawapiskat Cree to Ojibwa in relation to the Canadian Government. This will include analyzing the treaties introduced by the government towards the Cree and the Ojibwa: in particular, treaty 9 will be discussed. In addition, to these treaties the government has divided the first nation community into two different groups: status-Indians and non-status Indians.
Within these two groups further division has been accomplished by the allocation of lands know as reserves to status-Indians and independent ownership for non-status Indians. This allocation of lands in reserves for status-Indians and independent ownership for non-status Indian is based on the policies developed through dependent and independent tenure. The laws permitting only status-Indians to live in reserves have fragmented the community and changes in culture and traditions have been rapid since the arrival of the government.
The arrival of the Canadian government in the early nineteen-hundreds was the last major encapsulating factor the Cree and the Ojibwa were to face after the Hudson Bay Company and the church. The methods adopted by the government were aimed at changing the social, economic, political and religious practices held within these societies. One of the first efforts undertaken by the Canadian government was to legalize any action it would take in the regions occupied by the Cree and the Ojibwa. Therefore, in 1905 and 1906 treaty 9 was signed with the people of Cree and the people of Ojibwa.
With the introduction of treaty 9, logging, hydroelectric development, minerals, construction of road and railways started. This treaty also introduced new land policies, which allowed non-Indians to exploit the resources used before only by the Indians. Commissioner Scott who represented the government promised the Indians that treaty 9 would not affect the way of living for the Indian people, rather the government would help in times of need: “There will not be any legislation governing trapping, hunting animals and hunting birds and fishing, if you are in favour of the treaty.
If something happens to you as to sickness or need of help the government will help you, all the people from Albany, Attawapiskat, Winisk, Fort Severn, will have this help” (Cummins 2004, 36). However, during the famine of 1909, 1928, 1930-31, 1934-36 and 1946-48 in Attawaspiskat, assistance from the government was little or non-existent. Therefore, the main reason for the treaty was to extinguish aboriginal rights and to take away the land owned by the Indians. Following treaty 9 many different treaties were introduced by the government which further deteriorated the economical conditions present within the Indian community.
These treaties had assured for the Cree and the Ojibwa, that provision would be made for the supply of seed, cattle and agricultural implements as these nations had exhibited an interest in starting farming for economic interest. Additionally, some other treaties had guaranteed distribution of fishing nets, net twins, guns and ammunition so as it can enable the Indians to hunt for subsistence activities, with participation with the new economy. However, the government provided insufficient amenities which were unable to economically improve the position of the Cree and Ojibwa.
In addition, federal legislation – especially the Indian Act – teamed with federal and provincial policy and actions, rendered it arduous for Aboriginal people to undertake other economic interest. (http://www. ainc-inac. gc. ca/ch/rcap/sg/sh45_e. html). It is essential to define the terms land tenure and land use in order to understand how these systems are used as an encapsulating factor for the Ojibwa and the Attawapiskat Cree. Land use is the physical exploitation of land, where as land tenure are the policies which govern the use of land and is based on social, political and exploitative patterns of a group.
Example of social, political and exploitative patterns would include the ways of accommodation, such as living in micro or macro bands and occupying a river drainage or a good fishing site; notion of land ownership; and hunting patters, respectively. Since the incursion of Euro-Canadians in all aspect of Indian life, there have been changes in the traditional land tenure policies held within these societies for centuries. The government has divided the Ojibwa and the Cree into two different categories: status Indians and non-status Indians.
Status Indians are those individuals who according to the Indian Act appear on the governments list of registered Indians. Status-Indians are solely dependent on governmental aid and live on lands turned into reserves by the government; they are also exempted from any provincial or federal programs such as income tax and property tax. Non-status Indians are those who have lost their Indian status by governmental enfranchisement. These people cannot live on reserves; land setup by the government for status-Indians, but they can independently own land and must pay taxes.
The reserves are created by the Indian Act as, “the minister may, when he considers it desirable constitute new bands and when a new band has been established from an existing band or any part thereof, such portion of the reserve lands and funds of the existing band as the minister determines shall be held for the use and benefit of the new band”. (Driben 1986: 114). Therefore, to create a reserve there must be, a new band who has requested the government to be turned into a reserve.
Hence, if approved the government would allocate an existing reserve or some land. Once designated as a reserve, individuals cannot have the title to the land and cannot exercise the freedom to move fluidly in different areas or groups. One major set back by the government to the Ojibwa people living in Aroland are the economic government policy adopted towards them. In 1971, the provincial plan for economic development was revealed, which concluded that land and resource development should take place only in places which demonstrate a potential for growth.
Therefore, the problem arouse when Nakina, a town less than 25 kilometres from Aroland became the centre of growth, this has shifted any incentives from private and government sectors to economically invest in Aroland. The government of Canada has introduced two types of land tenure for the Cree and the Objiwa, dependent and independent land tenure. In dependent land tenure two aspects must be fulfilled, first that region must be made into a reserve, and second, the people occupying the region must be status-Indians. Once the region has become a reserve it falls under the jurisdiction of the ministry of Indian Affairs.
Therefore, by the Indian Act, the ministry has the authority to possess land, prevent the transfer of land between bands, and to allocate land as they see fit. The economic impact of the dependent tenure has its benefits and disadvantages. These benefits include that the ministry of Indian affairs will provide aid for economic development. Such aid can be in forms of loans to bands, groups or individuals. Moreover, the Indians are not required to pay property tax or income tax on the money they earn by working on the reserves.
A disadvantage would be that the reserved land cannot be sold or leased unless it is surrendered to the government, and once the land has been surrendered to the government, it is controlled and owned by the government not the Indians. The social impact of dependent tenure is the segregation caused by the subdivision of Indians into status and non-status Indians. Therefore, to choose dependent tenure would segregate the community into one group, that comprising of status-Indians only. By the Indian act, non-status Indians are considered to be trespassers if they enter a reserve and can be fined and imprisoned for doing so.
On the other hand, Independent Land Tenure is a more euro-Canadian form of land policy. Indians in independent land tenure can buy property. But if the people opt for Independent Land tenure they cannot form any kind of reserve. Since Independent tenure is regulated under provincial government, the federal government would not be involved. Once the provincial government sells the people the land they occupy, the individual will get the title to the land and also some benefits as stated by the minister, “ Firstly, a surface right, which permits a landowner to enjoy the current use of his land.
Secondly, a productive right, which allows an owner to make a profit from the current use of his land. Thirdly, a development right, allowing the owner to improve his property. Fourthly, a pecuniary right, whereby a landowner benefits financially from development value both effectively granting the right not to develop and sixthly, a disposal right, allowing an owner to sell or will his land” (Driben 1986: 105). The economic advantage of independent tenure is that Indians can participate in government programs, can be endowed with equity that can be employed to obtain mortgages and loans from banks and other financial institutions.
Additionally they can have provincially tax-supported services such as fire protection, construction of roads, as well as other provincial benefits. In conclusion, the arrival of the government in the early nineteen-hundred marked a beginning which has rapidly cause change and encapsulated the Ojibwa and the Cree. Treaty 9, also known as the James Bay treaty, has let the government occupy two-third of northern Ontario from the Indians. An encapsulation method adopted by the government was to divide the Indians into different groups; this was done by dividing the people into status-Indians and non-status Indians.
Further, physical sub-division was accomplished by the government through dependent and Independent tenure. Laws forbidding non-status Indians to enter reserves were strictly enforced and any economic incentives approached by the Indians were tentatively dealt with. Therefore the nineteen hundred has been a drastic change for the Ojibwa and the Cree, and it has transformed them from a simpler life of hunting for subsistence to that of trading and has made them conform to the external pressure to acculturate.
BIBLIOGRAPHY Cummins, Brian D. 2004. Only God Can Own the Land. Toronto: Pearson Education Canada Inc. Driben, Paul. 1986. Aroland Is Our Home – An incomplete victory in Applied Anthropology. New York: AMS Press. Martin, Calvin. 1978. Keepers of the Game. Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press. Schmalz, Peter S. 1991. The Ojibwa. Toronto, Buffalo, and London: University of Toronto Press. Krech, Shepard. 1981. Indians, Animals, and the Fur trade. Athens: The University of Georgia Press. .