Letter: Canadians urged to continue to be open minded

Expand your understanding of the treaty partnership

To the Expositor:

On the heels of September 30 and Truth and Reconciliation Day, we encourage Canadians, settlers and Haweaters to continue to be open minded and willing to expand the understanding and history of their treaty partners. We need and ask you to acknowledge the existence of the Anishinaabek since time immemorial and consider our understanding of the treaty.

The Manitoulin Treaty’s anniversary is now upon us. On October 6, this treaty between Canada, and Chiefs and Principal Men of the Ottawa, Chippewa and other “Indians” occupying the Manitoulin Island, was signed in Manitowaning. So, what does this mean to you and I? Is this something to be celebrated? Mourned? At the very least it needs to be acknowledged and feasted. For Anishinaabek, these agreements were entered into through ceremony and thus have a spirit as a living Being. These living beings, as with all living things, need nutrition, attention and care. Maybe as a first step, we need to gather at the site of the signing, revisit and understand the spirit and intent of the treaty, find common interests and move forward till the next year.

I want to ask all treaty people, to recognize, as the courts have, Anishinaabek had and continue to have laws and governance systems. Justice Hennessy’s rulings within the Restoule judgement provides a small step in the long-needed correction within the Canadian judicial system. The Court’s recent inclusion of Indigenous oratorical methods of history has altered the dominance of Canadian traditional narratives that have generally ignored the Anishinaabe perspective. It moves towards the recognition of Anishinaabek legal systems and traditions. Canada’s multi-faceted legal composition has always included the Anishinaabe legal systems as they have always been there, and have never been relinquished. However, these legal orders have long been ignored in favour of the existing legal pluralism in Canada based on common and civil law. Anishinaabe law relies upon principles of respect, responsibility, reciprocity and renewal to understand the intention of the signatories at the time of signing. The ruling considers the Anishinaabe legal perspective or renewal, and holds that the maintenance of the treaty relationship is an ongoing obligation for all parties, as the written treaty was “not meant as a last word on the relationship” between the Anishinaabek and the Crown.

Before I end this letter I just want to re-iterate that when interpreting treaties, courts must consider: oral promises made during treaty negotiations, the perspective of the treaty parties, as well as the historical and cultural context in which the negotiations took place. On October 6, let us all reconsider, re-visit the Manitoulin Treaty of 1862 as a step forward in our relationship building.

In unity and success,

Sam Manitowabi