Billings to make annual re-committment to 1990 Friendship Treaty

Township of Billings

KAGAWONG—Billings Township council has reaffirmed its commitment to the Manitoulin Friendship Treaty, signed by municipalities and First Nations on Manitoulin Island in 1990.

“As everyone will recall if they have been on Manitoulin Island for a long time, in 1990 the municipalities, through the Manitoulin Municipal Association and the UCCM (United Chiefs and Councils of Manitoulin Island (now Mnidoo Mnising), signed a Friendship Treaty in 1990,” said Ian Anderson, mayor of Billings Township at a council meeting last week. “Now more than ever, with the finding of First Nation children’s bodies found in unmarked grave sites on residential school properties and other issues First Nations are dealing with a lot on their plate.” 

Mayor Anderson pointed out that is why he brought forward the Friendship Treaty pledge and asked council to consider the township reaffirming its commitment to the pledge. The Friendship Treaty reads,  “We pledge to love and to protect this island and its waters. To speak plainly of our hopes and to take time to understand when we cherish different dreams. To comfort each other in our times of need. To play together as we want. To work together as we must. To rejoice and respect our differentness. To find strength to face our common goals. To keep harmony by our respect, for each other’s ways.” The treaty pledge was drafted by Blaine Armstrong. 

Mayor Anderson said, “with the pandemic and issues relating to residential schools, I thought it would be a wonderful idea to reaffirm our commitment to this pledge. And I wonder if this could be put on our (township) website, and every June 21 at the council meeting closest to this date publicly read this out at our meeting, as part of National Indigenous Peoples Day.”

“I think this is a great idea,” stated Councillor Sharon Jackson. “I recently pulled an article from 1990 on the Friendship Treaty Agreement being signed. Local song writer Jane Best put the Friendship Treaty pledge to music and made a song of it,”  she said, indicating she is in favour of the township reaffirming its pledge to the treaty. 

“I think this is a great idea and I definitely support it,” stated Councillor Sharon Alkenbrack.

Councillor Bryan Barker said, “I definitely support this idea. In the collaborative meetings our municipalities have had with First Nations on the Island dealing with issues around COVID-19 we have developed and strengthened our good relationships. This would move this forward even further, and demonstrate as an Island we are one community. I fully support this commitment, it’s a great idea.” 

Council passed a motion affirming the municipalities commitment to the 1990 Friendship Treaty.