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Council will not investigate ‘complicated’ issues surrounding Forester’s Island

UPDATE AUG. 4, 2020:  Council approved looking at ways to celebrate and educate on its Indigenous history, but will not involve itself with efforts to better profile and identify the Gunshot Treaty cairn at Carrying Place, or investigate issues with Forester’s Island between the County and Deseronto.

Following discussion, all councillors except Bill Roberts opposed delving into “very complicated” issues surrounding Forester’s Island, located between the County and Deseronto.

The ownership of the island, council learned, is known, and taxes are paid from an individual and a group, but it is said to be mired in issues that are the federal government’s jurisdiction.

Mayor Steve Ferguson stated that over the past two weeks since the motion was presented at committee of the whole, he has spoken with many people, including Chief Maracle and MP Neil Ellis.

“It’s a lot more complicated than first blush and we should tread with caution,” said Ferguson. “I do think it does fall under the federal purview.”

Councillor Roberts noted the Bay of Quinte Mohawks have been reaching out for conversation and dialogue  going back at least two councils.

He added “no one can explain what happened” relating to issues regarding ownership, environmental assessments and property taxes.

“It’s unfinished business,” said Roberts. “We need a common set of facts.”

Council also decided not to get involved with Quinte West and a volunteer group there to better profile the Gunshot Treaty cairn, or move it to a better location that could include parking.

County looking into celebrating, educating on its Indigenous history

JULY 23, 2020: The County will look at ways it can celebrate and educate on its Indigenous history next year, possibly annually, or with permanent displays in place for years to come.

Councillor Bill Roberts got the ball rolling at Thursday’s Committee of the Whole meeting, proposing a resolution to celebrate National Indigenous Heritage Month in June 2021, and National Indigenous Peoples Day, June 21.

Robert’s resolution calls for staff recommendations on how to publicly display and install art on municipal properties, including the amplification of Indigenous exhibits within County museums.

Council proposes to work and meet with members of the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte Council, and other Indigenous groups with ties to the region, to support each other in economic development and community initiatives.

Gunshot treaty cairn

Two clauses in the resolution were approved separately. The first sought recommendations on how the Gunshot Treaty cairn at Carrying Place can be profiled and publicly identified. The second asks staff to return findings regarding land ownership of Foresters Island, located between Deseronto and the County.

The Kente Portage Trail at Carrying Place (where Indigenous portaged canoes on their trade route) is the oldest road in Ontario and the site of the Gunshot Treaty of 1787 in which land from Bay of Quinte to what is now Etobicoke was was purchased from the Mississauga people.

“The cairn commemorates the surrender of lands in what were perhaps one of the worst treaties ever constructed between Loyalists and our Indigenous peoples,” said Roberts, adding it’s complicated by its geographic location – on a street corner in Quinte West.

What’s most recognizable around the cairn at present is advertising and not the cairn itself, he said, noting that the County, as a Loyalist community, benefitted from that land settlement and could take the initiative help remedy the situation.

“If the Truth and Reconciliation Committee’s aspiration is for municipalities to seize opportunities for eduction, and deepening our understanding, that is not going on with this cairn.”

Councillors Janice Maynard and John Hirsch noted they would like to see the municipality profile various First Nations communities along with the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte; and include as many sites of Indigenous historical significance as possible.

Another site of significance between the County and Deseronto is Foresters Island.

Forester’s Island – Google photo

“Right now it is something of a confused ownership situation,” Roberts said. “It would be nice to figure out who actually owns it.”

Mayor Steve Ferguson asked that staff not just explore ownership of the island, but also its relationship with the Bay of Quinte Mohawks, and others.

In his book ‘Deseronto and Now’ with photographs by Don Lindsay, author Alan R. Capon states the island now known as Foresters was granted to Capt. Deseronto (or Deserontyou) as a reward for services to the Crown, although the actual grant was not dated until April 1st, 1793. The island was, for many years, known as “Captain John’s Island”.

In its online history, the Town of Deseronto notes one of its most famous Mohawks was Dr. Oronhyatekha (1841-1907) who trained as a physician and became involved in the Independent Order of Foresters, later becoming its Supreme Chief Ranger in 1881.

Oronhyatekha had a house in Tyendinaga and built properties on Forester’s Island, including an elaborate summer residence, a hotel and pleasure grounds.

Foresters Island orphanage

An orphanage able to house 250 children was built on land donated to the Order by Oronhyatekha. Work began on the building on July 30th, 1903 and the official opening ceremony was held on Aug. 6th, 1905. It was only in operation for 18 months, closing in 1907, in debt, the year of Oronhyatekha’s death.

It is believed the buildings were dismantled in the early years of the 20th century and ownership was transferred to the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte. There are also later reports of the Tyendinaga Band Council seeking to have the small island transferred to the reserve.

Staff’s report on the resolution, the cairn and the island are expected by November, this year.

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  1. Paul Cole says:

    Mr Rogers

    My guess is the issue was trust with the $15 an acre and promise to return the land and rightly so cause after expropriation and a promise it still took 70 years and the death of Dudley George to get it back. You see if the Stoney Point Peoples took $15 an acre that would mean they ceded the land or sold it and gave up rights to it. Indigenous Peoples of Canada had been lead down that path before..

    The right thing to do Sir is for the Canadian Government to honor its agreements with Indigenous Peoples of Canada, that’s
    all Indigenous Peoples have ever wanted is to hang onto what little they have left.

    As far as the difference between Colonial established Band Councils and Traditional Indigenous Governance the Royal Proclamation was pretty clear before Confederation and those rights re affirmed in 1982 when the Canadian Constitution was repatriated. The right to Traditional self government was guaranteed in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

  2. Mike Rodgers says:

    Mr. Cole
    You are correct,The government fist offered to buy the lands but this is what happened.In 1942 during World War II, the Government of Canada wanted reserve land from the Stoney Point Band to use as a base for military training and offered to buy it for $15 per acre. They also promised to return the land after the war ended. The Natives rejected the offer. Under the War Measures Act, the federal government expropriated the lands from the Stoney Point Reserve and established Military Camp Ipperwash.
    Again what is the right thing to do. Settle all treaty’s with money, give self government with money and return of some or all lands. Do this with no more funding,or do this with funding. What is the right direction to go?
    In the time of PM Pierre Trudeau his Minister of Indian Affairs Jean Chrétien suggested that the Government should offer to buy back the rights from all Indigenous Canadians.It will be interesting to see what will happen. As we all know from past experience that while the heads of some of the bands come to agreement with some of the settlements a few of their members who do not like the results had taken matters into their own hands. This we saw in B.C. over the pipe line with protests that spilled over into our area with the shut down of the rail system for a few weeks.

  3. Paul Cole says:

    Camp Ipperwash was a part of the Stoney Creek First Nation Reserve, it was expropriated in 1941 to build military training facility the Government agreed that after the the conflict had ended WWII the land would be returned. An agreement to return the Camp Ipperwash land was signed on April 14, 2016. Along with a $95 million payment 70 years it took…

  4. Mike Rodgers says:

    Is the solution, give back their land or is it to pay fairly for what was sold by them at bargain prices.
    No one seems to be able to make the decision on what is the right thing to do. Every one has there own agenda.
    Ipperwash provincial park and $93000000.00 were given to the first nations in western Ontario recently.

  5. CountySteve says:

    I need to throw a curveball here. To me the emphasis to our indigenous people has always been ‘reconciliation’. I have ties with the Mohawk community, and the general response is they are tired of “I’m sorries”. It means nothing to them. What’s done is done, which is pretty much the native way.
    To truly embrace them, as a part of our own culture and history, is to genuinely embrace their culture, which is foreign to just about everyone in the County. Anything less than that is just another pat on the back for recognizing people we don’t even know, and then go home.
    To do the proper honour and respect, it’s not about land deeds and cairn positioning. It’s about talking DIRECTLY to the Mohawks, and not just their leaders. One hour in a chair, just listening, is an incredible eye-opener.

  6. kb says:

    One more disappointment. I have difficulty believing it’s so complicated. Open it up and let’s all have a look and see why this must remain as is. What are the facts? Whose in charge and who is really making decisions? Everyone seems to be passing the issue off to another person/entity because nobody wants to deal with it. Please, make the effort to at least address it and put some teeth into it.

  7. JennyD says:

    These issues were largely created by previous politicians, the crown, and further complicated by past governments. The decision to suddenly turn away from it because of the challenges only serve to support the fact that truth and reconciliation has failed. Tread with caution sounds like somebody didn’t like what they were seeing when they began to delve into it. There must be more to this and it sounds so cloak and dagger – what happened to “transparency”?

  8. Rob #2 says:

    To what I think is a significant number of local residents throughout the entire Quinte area, the main draw to the Mohawk territory is cheap gas, cigarettes and pot. Mohawk and indigenous culture is there but how many seek or even stumble on it while doing their commerce?

    This is totally analogous to Councilor Roberts comments regarding the cairn being obscured by advertising.

    That so many associate indigenous people with the above commerce, and only come onto the territory for this is unfortunate.

  9. Paul Cole says:

    As to the update dated Aug 4th, Truth and Reconciliation in action. Not so much. “Tread with caution” or take a stand. Indigenous issues left to fester even longer…

  10. JennyD says:

    I think it’s important to include research and stories as told directly from the indigenous peoples, rather than repeat them in our own words.

  11. Paul Cole says:

    I applaud Prince Edward County Town Council for shining a light on Indigenous History in Prince Edward County, assimilation and residential schools almost wiped out Indigenous culture, languages and history. Indigenous People have struggled to hold onto what little they have left.

    Gathering Indigenous history about Prince Edward County that predates a Canada/US border maybe a difficult task but I’m sure the Haudenosaunee and the Anishinaabe People will gladly cooperate with TRUTH…

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