Manitoulin Treaties

Part 2

Originally published by the
Manitoulin Expositor
Part 1: The Treaties of 1836 and 1862

Part 2: Sheguiandah after the Treaty of 1862

Part 3: Seeking the Native Perspective

Part 4: The Impact of the Manitoulin Treaty

Sheguiandah after the Treaty of 1862

by Shelley J. Pearen

SHEGUIANDAH ---In 1862 Sheguiandah was a thriving native settlement. Its 70 residents lived by the seasons, migrating to hunt, fish, pick berries and make maple sugar. Sheguiandah's residents lived in wigwams, traveled by canoe, and raised corn, potatoes, turnips, beans, and squash.

Following the 1862 treaty, surveys were made and the local superintendent began assigning natives to their lots. The bands were surprised by some details of the treaty. One of its nine clauses said that lots "contiguous" to water could be reserved for mills and villages, or sold. Every band was sitting on a potential mill or village site. The government wanted to merge settlements, but most of the natives wanted to remain where they were.

In 1863, Charles Dupont was appointed the superintendent of Indians for Manitoulin. Dupont was a 26-year-old opportunist who was inexperienced with natives. The Indian department was depending on him for a fresh start with Manitoulin's residents. His primary job was to settle the natives on their lots. At first, mergers and relocations looked promising.

Dupont reported to his superior, William Spragge, in December 1863 that the Manitowaning band wished to select land at "Shegwaindawh Bay."

"Impress upon them," replied Spragge, "the fact that they must be content to take a lot although but a portion of it may be fit for cultivation, and that the sale of the lands in a manner beneficial to them will depend upon their leaving for sale a sufficient quantity of land of good quality to induce white settlers to become purchasers." "Shegwaindawh Bay" did not refer to the existing Sheguiandah settlement along the bay. Its residents were to be removed from their water and garden lots, and gathered together south of Bass Lake to make room for mills and a village.

Dupont was determined to create three reserves based on religious affiliation. First, he tried to settle all the Protestant natives at Sheguiandah, but the Little Current band refused to move and Manitowaning's residents were hesitant. Then he tried to persuade Sheguiandah's residents to move to Manitowaning. His superiors intervened, insisting that he could not compel the band to move. Dupont was unable to settle the reserve location question before non-native settlement began officially in June 1866. By fall he presumed that Manitowaning would be vacated by everyone. He discouraged the Church of England from establishing an industrial school there, and recommended moving the Indian department's headquarters from Manitowaning to Little Current. He claimed that very few families wanted to continue living there, although his own list recorded 13 Manitowaning families who had not selected permanent locations.

In early 1867, Dupont requested permission to purchase 400 acres of land in Manitowaning, Assiginack Township. Land agents were forbidden by law to purchase land, and Assiginack Township was reserved for natives. He claimed that only four or five "mostly Catholic" families remained at Manitowaning, and that the Church of England mission was leaving. He proposed that the $200 he had spent repairing his house - coincidentally the value of 400 acres - be credited to him for the land.

This request immediately drew suspicion to Dupont's four years of land negotiations. Rev. Jabez Sims, the Church of England's Manitoulin missionary, publicly accused Dupont of desiring the natives' land. Subsequently, 20 settlers and 43 natives petitioned the Indian Department to remove Dupont.

By 1867, the land issue had become so contentious that most of Manitowaning's residents joined the peaceful Sheguiandah settlement and formed a village of 129 residents.

Rev. Sims moved his family to Sheguiandah in 1867 and secured land for the mission on the southwest corner of the Bay. He reported that the natives "would never have left Manitowaning but for the tyrannical and unjust conduct of the Superintendent of Indian Affairs who coveted their clearing."

Dupont's conduct was investigated, and in May he was released from his duties. William Plummer, a middle-aged former mine manager who replaced him, investigated Dupont's land sales. He reported that Mr Dupont and his friends had claimed more than 1,000 acres of land at Manitowaning - everything but the narrow strip of shore where the department's and Indians' houses stood. They had also accumulated extensive acreage at Little Current.

Although he was inexperienced in native affairs, Plummer tackled the reserve and land sale problems with sincerity and integrity. In 1868, superintendent Plummer conducted a census in order to assign land. He recorded 51 names or 129 people entitled to 3,850 acres in Sheguiandah. He noted that a very large proportion of the land was nothing but rocks and stones. (At Manitowaning he recorded 10 names or 64 people who were entitled to 1,250 acres.)

Rev. Sims conducted his own census to insure the Sheguiandah band received the acreage to which they were entitled. His January 1869 list was almost identical to Plummer's; in fact, Sims probably provided Plummer with names and details.

Sims begged the natives to supply names of absent or census- shy band members. By July 1869 he had collected 69 names entitled to 4,950 acres, 1,100 acres more than the earlier count. Sims wrote to Plummer on behalf of the Sheguiandah natives to obtain their location papers. In the end, the Sheguiandah native settlement remained near where it had been for 10,000 years. Other bands, without vocal advocates did not fare as well.

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