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History of the County of Bruce, Ontario, Canada
The Surrender of the Indian Title


"To the lands in this Province acquired by conquest, the British Crown has invariably waived its right until what the Crown has been pleased to recognize as the Indian title has been extinguished by a treaty of surrender." —Mr. Justice Gwynne.

During the period which has elapsed since the red man of this continent came first in contact with his pale-faced brother, he has experienced at the hands of the latter a process whose general trend has been toward the extinction of his race and the spoliation of his territories. To-day we find that his numbers are largely reduced, and his lands, both forest and prairie, have passed from his possession. At times it has been the bloody hand of war that snatched from the Indians their ancestral inheritance. At others this process of divestment was as effectively, but more peacefully, accomplished while sitting in conference at the council fire, smoking the pipe of peace with white men sent to treat with them; there, yielding to plausible and beguiling arguments, the simple-minded Indians have by treaty surrendered their territories for a comparative trifle. Four centuries ago, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, this continent formed the hunting ground of large numbers of Indian tribes. To-day, owing to the causes above recited, supplemented by the ravages of disease and "firewater," the Indians have been dispossessed of their lands, while their reduced numbers find ample accommodation and provision in the reservations that have been set apart for them by the governments of Canada and the United States. The British Government in its dealings with the Indians has always manifested a liberal and honorable spirit, as well as a fair regard for their treaty rights. -The result of this has been that Canada has known no merciless and bloody Indian wars, and the Indians who live under the British flag, although diminished in numbers, have made fair progress in the path of civilization, entertaining meanwhile friendly feelings toward the whites.

Our knowledge of the Indian tribes who have resided in the territory now comprised in the county of Bruce and adjacent thereto commences with the advent of the French explorers and the Jesuit missionaries in the early part of the seventeenth century. At that time a branch of the great Algonquin family of Indians inhabited the Manitoulin Islands, with scattered bands to be found in what is now known as the Saugeen peninsula; these bore the tribal name of the Ottawas. To the south and east there dwelt the Tobacco nation, or Wyandottes, whose territories extended from the Blue Hills, near Nottawasaga Bay, to the mouth of the Menesetung, or Maitland River. Yet further east dwelt the Hurons, in the district north of Lake Simcoe, a tribe whose memory is perpetuated by the broad lake which bears their name, but who as a nation were almost exterminated by their inveterate foes, the Iroquois. This nation, after their victory over the Hurons, proceeded to occupy all the lands in the peninsula between Lake Ontario and Lake Huron. How the Iroquois were in turn dispossessed by the Ojibways, ["Ojibway" is the correct name of this tribe, but "Chippawa" is that most generally used. It is of this tribe that Longfellow writes in " Hiawatha."] or Chippawas, is here given, in the form of a condensed extract, from a book written by one of that nation: ["The Traditional History of the Ojibway Nation." By George Copway, or Kah-ge-ga-gah-bowh, Chief of the Ojibway nation. Published in 1850. See also " History of the Ojibway Indians," by Rev. Peter Jones, for statements substantiating Copway's account.]

"The Ojibways, who, prior to the extirpation of the Hurons and Wyandottes, dwelt in the Lake Superior country, annually sent some of their number to trade with the French at Quebec or Montreal. A party of these were waylaid and killed by the Iroquois. Threats of reprisals were treated by the latter with scorn. After a second party had been similarly attacked and slain, a council of the nation was held, resulting in some of their chiefs being sent to confer with the Iroquois. The meeting was held at Saugeen, and resulted in the Iroquois agreeing to pay a bale of furs for each man that had been killed, and in addition granted permission to the Ojibways to pass peaceably on trading trips to Montreal. This treaty held good for three years, when bands of Iroquois waylaid simultaneously several parties of Ojibways, returning from a trading journey. This happened in the fall of the year, too late in the season to commence warlike operations; so the war decided upon was put off until the following spring. In the meantime, runners were sent to the various allies of the nation, dwelling in the region between the west end of Lake Erie and the head-waters of the Mississippi, to join them in the coming war. In the month of May following, the combined forces gathered in two parties, one at Lake St Clair and the other at Sault Ste. Marie, seven hundred canoes being there assembled. This latter party divided into two bands. One advanced on the enemy by way of the Ottawa valley, while the other proceeded to Penetanguishene. The Lake St. Clair division at the same time came up the east coast of Lake Huron to the mouth of the Saugeen River, where a fierce battle was fought with the Iroquois, who ultimately gave way and fled before the savage onslaught of the Ojibways."

Further details of the conflict carried on between these two Indian nations would be foreign to our subject. Suffice it to say, that the Ojibways succeeded, after several fiercely fought battles, in driving the Iroquois south of Lake Ontario, and retained possession of the territories obtained by their victories until surrendered by treaty to the Crown.

The treaty by which the Indian title was surrendered to that tract of land comprising the original county of Bruce, viz., the townships of Saugeen, Arran, Bruce, Elderslie, Kincardine, Greenock, Brant, Huron, Kinloss, Culross and Carrick, was concluded by Sir Francis Bond Head, at Manitowaning, on August 9th, 1836, the consideration given to the treating tribes being "twelve hundred and fifty pounds per annum, as long as grass grows or water runs." The treaty itself is such an interesting document that it is here given in full:

"My Children:—

"Seventy snow seasons have now passed away since we met in Council at the crooked place (Niagara), at which time and place your Great Father, the King, and the Indians of North America tied their hands together by the wampum of friendship.

"Since that period various circumstances have occurred to separate from your Great Father many of his red children, and as an unavoidable increase of white population, as well as the progress of cultivation, have had the natural effect of impoverishing your hunting grounds it has become necessary that new arrangements should be entered into for the purpose of protecting you from the encroachments of the whites.

"In all parts of the world farmers seek for uncultivated land as eagerly as you, my red children, hunt in your forest for game. If you would cultivate your land it would then be considered your own property, in the same way as your dogs are considered among yourselves to belong to those who have reared them; but uncultivated land is like wild animals, and your Great Father, who has hitherto protected you, has now great difficulty in securing it for you from the whites, who are hunting to cultivate it.

"Under these circumstances, I have been obliged to consider what is best to be done for the red children of the forest, and I now tell you my thoughts.

"It appears that these islands on which we are now assembled in Council are, as well as all those on the north shore of Lake Huron, alike claimed by the English, the Ottawas and the Chippewas.

"I consider that from their facilities and from their being surrounded by innumerable fishing islands, they might be made a most desirable place of residence for many Indians who wish to be civilized, as well as to be totally separated from the whites; and I now tell you that your Great Father will withdraw his claim to these islands and allow them to be applied for that purpose.

"Are you, therefore, the Ottawas and Chippewas, willing to relinquish your respective claims to these Islands and make them the property (under your Great Father's control) for all Indians whom he shall allow to reside on them: if so, affix your marks to this my proposal.

"F. B. Head.
"J. B. ASSEKINACK.
"MOKOMMUNISH (totem)
"Tawackuck.
"Kimewen (totem).
"Kitchemokomon (totem).
"Pesiatawick (totem).
"Paimausegai (totem).
"NAINAWMUTTEBE (totem ) .
"Mosuneko (totem).
"Kewuckance (totem).
"Shawenauseway (totem).
"Espaniole (totem).
"Snake (totem).
"Pautunseway (totem).
"Paimauqumestcam (totem).
"Wagemauquin (totem).

"Manitowaning, 9th August, 1836."

Note - "Totem: Some natural object, usually an animal with which the members of a clan or family connect themselves. Thus, among the Algonquin Indians, the name Bear, Wolf, Tortoise, Deer or Rabbit serves to designate each of a number of clans into which the race is divided. A man belonging to such a clan being himself actually spoken of as a Bear, a Wolf, etc., and the figure of these animals indicate the clan in the native picture writing." (Ency. Dictionary.)

"To the Saukings:

"My Children,

"You have heard the proposal I have just made to the Chippewas and Ottawas, by which it has been agreed between them and your Great Father that these Islands (Manitoulin), on which we are now assembled, should be made, in Council, the property (under your Great Father's control) of all Indians whom he shall allow to reside on them.

"I now propose to you that you should surrender to your Great Father the Sauking (Saugeen) Territory ['" The hunting grounds in those days belonging to the Saugeen and Newash Indians, extended from Meaford to the Maitland River, and in-eluded all the watershed to the Caledon Mountains, as well as the Indian Peninsula." So says Fred. Lamorandiere, Chief Interpreter at Cape Crocker, an authority elsewhere quoted.] you at present occupy, and that you shall repair either to this Island or to that part of your territory which lies on the North of Owen Sound, upon which proper houses shall be built for you, and proper assistance to enable you to become civilized and to cultivate land, which your Great Father engages forever to protect for you from the encroachments of the whites.

"Are you, therefore, the Sauking Indians, willing to accede to this arrangement; if so, affix your marks to this my proposal.

" Manitowaning, 9th August, 1836.

" Witness:

"T. G. Anderson, S.I.A.
"F. B. Head.
"Joseph Stinson, Genl. Supt. of Wesleyan Missions.
"Metiewabe (totem).
"Alexander (totem)
"Adam Elliott.
"Kaquta Bunevairear.
"James Evans.
"Kowgisawis (totem)
"F. L. Ingall, Lieut. 15th Regt., Commanding Detacht.
"Mettawanasii (totem).
"Talfourd W. Field, Distrt. Agent."

The Indians who after the Manitowaning treaty located permanently on the Bruce peninsula were largely of the Ojibway tribe, incorporated with whom were some Pottawatamies, Tawas, and a few stragglers from other tribes.

By a "Royal Deed of Declaration," dated 29th June, 1847, it is provided for these— "That the said Ojibway Indians and their posterity for ever, shall possess and enjoy and at all times hereafter continue to possess and enjoy the said above tract of land (the Bruce peninsula), or the proceeds of the sale thereof — for the use and benefit of the said Ojibway Indians and their posterity." As a result of the provisions of this deed, when the lands in the peninsula ultimately came into the market, the sale was under the control of the Indian Department, the proceeds of the sales being funded and the interest thereon paid to the Indians, instead of a fixed annuity, as it otherwise would have been, according to the generality of Indian treaties. In many ways the settlers who took up lands in the peninsula would have preferred that the lands had been sold by the Crown Lands Department, as were the other lands in the county of Bruce. The method adopted has, however, been a source of benefit, to those wards of the government, the Indians interested. All the lands in the peninsula and adjacent islands, being those mentioned in the deed above referred to, have gradually been surrendered to the Crown, with the exception of the Indian reserves. Of these reserves there is one at the mouth of the Saugeen River, one at Chief's Point on Lake Huron, one at Cape Croker on the Georgian Bay, and a reserve for hunting purposes in the township of St. Edmunds. The process of surrender has been effected under various treaties, which will be briefly referred to.

The first land to be surrendered was that part of the "Half-mile Strip" now included in the townships of Arran and Derby. This was on September 2nd, 1851. It was made for the purpose of obtaining a direct road, which the government agreed to open, between the Saugeen and the Newash (Owen Sound) reservations. The negotiations for the ceding of this small strip took a long time, four years or so. Long after the surrender the Indians complained of not receiving satisfactory compensation for the lands sold, inasmuch as a direct road was not opened until 1866.

The next, and by far the largest surrender made of lands, was that of the Saugeen peninsula, effected by a treaty bearing date October 12th, 1854. [See Appendix A for a copy of this treaty.] This was negotiated by Laurence Oliphant, a man whose reputation as an author is widely and well known, who at that time was Secretary to Lord Elgin, the Governor-General, and also Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs. Assisting him on this occasion were James Ross, M.P.P., of Belleville; Charles Rankin, P.L.S., of Owen Sound, and Alexander McNabb, Crown Lands Agent, of Southampton. The negotiations were conducted in the church of the Saugeen band of Indians. As an inducement to the Indians to make the surrender, Mr. Oliphant offered, "That the lands when surveyed should be sold by auction, and that separate titles to farm lots should be granted to the Indians within their own reserves." The non-fulfilment of this last clause was a cause of complaint for many years by the Indians. This was not the only trouble and dispute over this treaty. A more serious one arose regarding the boundary between the Saugeen Reserve and the village of Southampton. The Indians claimed that "Copway's Road" was the boundary agreed upon, while the treaty describes it as "a straight line running due north from the river Saugeen," starting at a given point. This disagreement, the result of a misunderstanding, issued as follows: The survey of the town-plot of Southampton, north of the river, was commenced early in May, 1855, Charles Rankin, P.L.S., having the contract therefor. He sent on a party under Mr. George Gould, [Afterwards, an for many years, clerk of the county of Bruce.] who had no difficulty with the Indians until the survey entered on the lands lying north of the Copway Road, the wording of the treaty warranting the survey of these lands. The Indians, thinking otherwise, manifested opposition. The stakes and posts set up to mark the survey were removed and threats were freely uttered. Mr. Gould, of course, stopped the survey, and the matter was reported to the Government. The Indians meanwhile called a council, which appointed a deputation consisting of four chiefs, to be accompanied by the Rev. C. Van Dusen, a minister of the Methodist Church, to wait upon the Governor-General, to lay their version of the dispute before him. On the arrival of the deputation at Quebec, they were informed by Lord Bury, at that time Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs, that they must first obtain a letter from their local superintendent, Capt. T. G. Anderson (who resided at Cobourg), before they could see and interview His Excellency. The deputation, not having such a letter, failed to obtain a hearing, and returned home much disappointed. Throughout the tribe feeling ran high at the insult— for so they interpreted the reception given their chiefs in Quebec. The more hot-headed were for donning their war paint and proceeding to extremes. Mr. Fredk. Lamorandiere, Indian Secretary at Cape Croker, has furnished the writer with a description of the conference by which an amicable settlement was arrived at, which is here given in his own words, as follows: "Without loss of time Lord Bury came to Owen Sound (June, 1855) with a staff of officers, cited the Saugeen Indian chiefs to appear before him there, sending a special courier to personally deliver the message. The chiefs, however, not being in good humor, flatly refused. A second message more conciliatory in tone was dispatched, but to no effect. At last, after long parleying, it was agreed that each party come half way, to the 'Flood-wood Crossing,' as the place was then called, now Allenford, where a regular Pow-wow was held in full Indian style, commencing with a feast. After this was disposed of, Capt. T. G. Anderson, [Capt. Thos. G. Anderson was connected with the Indian Department for over forty years, retiring on a pension in 1858. In the War of 1812-13 he specially distinguished himself. An interesting account of his life is to be found in " Papers and Records," Vol. VI., of the Ontario Historical Society.] the Indian Superintendent of the District, an old, wily Indian trader, who knew the Indian character and the means to please them, conducted the proceedings by dancing the pow-wow in a circle around the Council-fire. A lot of young braves followed. Immediately after this exhibition the conference began, that led to the 'pipe of peace' being smoked by everyone, by which good feeling and friendship were restored where a few days before discord reigned supreme." The conference dissolved upon Lord Bury promising the Indians that justice should be done and their grievances redressed. [See Appendix B.] On this they consented that the surveyors might proceed and complete the surveys.

The Colpoy's Bay Reserve of six thousand acres was surrendered to the Crown, August 16th, 1861. This surrender affects the county of Bruce, however, only as regards that part of the town-plot of Wiarton, lying toward the south-east, the rest of the reserve being now included within the county of Grey.

The Saugeen Pishing Islands, along with those lying adjacent to Cape Hurd, were surrendered October 7th and 15th, 1885. This, with the later surrender of the large islands at the entrance to Colpoy's Bay, has placed in the hands of the Crown all lands not included in the reservations, and extinguished the "Indian title" thereto. One more treaty of surrender, and that but a small one, has to be recorded. It is as follows: The interests of the public required the making into public highways of two trails or roads lying within the Saugeen Reserve. One was that which connects the village of Southampton with what is known as the Owen Sound Road. The other, going north, is called the French Bay Road. These required road allowances were surrendered September 30th, 1899.

As it may interest some of my readers to know the present condition of the Indians residing in the reservations within the county of Bruce, a Schedule (see Appendix C) has been compiled by the author from Government Reports, for the year ending the 30th June, 1900. It shows a highly satisfactory state of affairs, complimentary to all who have worked for the uplifting and civilization of our native tribes on these reservations.


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