Debajehmujig Storytellers to occupy disputed lands in Manitowaning

MANITOWANING—A letter to Assiginack council, received on September 17, informed the municipality that it has been granted permission to occupy and utilize the vacant reserve lands in Assiginack Township by both the United Chiefs and Councils of Mnidoo Minising and the Wikwemikong Unceded Indian Reserve—and the town couldn’t be happier.

“Debajehmujig has been fantastic,” said Reeve Brad Ham. “They have drawn hundreds of people into the town with the things they have been putting on, and they have been at it for quite a little while now.”

“They are good corporate citizens,” agreed Assiginack CAO Alton Hobbs. “They have used that area before, as has the OCF. It is a great place to put things on.”

The land in question lies just over the hill in Manitowaning on the left hand side of the road heading down to the Manitowaning waterfront, Burns Wharf Theatre and the S.S. Norisle Park. About four acres of land has been under the administration of Public Works Canada, explained Mr. Hobbs.

The property had been once been home to a Department of Indian Affairs hospital as well as several homes, all of which have been torn down now, leaving the property vacant. Historically it was the site of the signing of the Manitoulin Treaty of 1836 (that had promised all of Manitoulin for First Nations’ settlements) and, in 2011, a ceremony recalling this event was held at the same location, marking the 175th anniversary of the event.

Wikwemikong has long asserted that the lands are part of their land base and there are currently negotiations underway between the band and the federal government, but none of that impacts on the municipality’s concerns.

Michael Erskine