Robinson Huron annuities case sees first day in court

THUNDER BAY—The opening volleys in a court challenge of the $4 annuity payments related to the Robinson Huron Treaty have been served in a Thunder Bay courtroom and Wiikwemkoong Ogimaa Duke Peltier’s initial impression was positive.

“At least from the sense that the hard work and research that has been undertaken by all our councils has finally been heard in court,” he said. “It is a starting point.”

The Huron Robinson chiefs’ legal counsel presented their position in a “very well thought out manner and brought our arguments in with all of the relevant case law,” added Ogimaa Peltier. “That includes our own oral history of what the understanding was and how it was to be operationalized.”

Much of the government’s position is based on an earlier court case which they say settled the matter back in the 1800s, but the Anishinaabe point out that there was a fundamental natural justice flaw in that decision.

“We were not represented. There were no Anishinaabe present in the court,” noted Ogimaa Peltier. “The two Crowns, the province and the federal representatives were there, but we were not involved.” Since the decision had a fundamental impact on the lives of the Anishinaabe and the terms of their nations agreements with the Crown, that lack of representation would be inconceivable today.

According to the Anishinaabek claim, “the ‘Ojibwe’ agreed to share their lands and resources with the newcomers—approximately 35,700 square miles of territory. The treaty territory covers the lands north of Lake Huron from Penetanguishene to beyond Sault Ste. Marie, up to the height of land. The Robinson Superior Treaty, signed on September 7, 1850, covers lands north of Lake Superior, from North of Sault Ste. Marie to Thunder Bay. The Robinson Treaty territories have yielded vast amounts of revenues from forestry, mining and other resource development activities over the years, yet the annuities remain at a mere $4 per year.”

The court case opened in Thunder Bay, moves on to Sault Ste. Marie and is scheduled to be on Manitoulin Island on October 23.