Netmizaaggamig Nishnaabeg's territory lies within the Huron-Robinson Treaty area, however, its important to note that the community never signed the treaty and never ceded their territory. Increased pressures on the natural resources of what would become northern Ontario led to tension and even warfare between Native groups and between Native tribes and mining corporations during the mid-nineteenth century. In 1850, the government empowered William Benjamin Robinson to negotiate with the Ojibwe bands of the area in order to establish reserves. In so doing, the government hoped to ease the competition for the limited resources available and open up the land for exploration and settlement. Chief Peau de Chat and Chief Shinguaconse, as well as other leaders from their respective Lake Superior and Lake Huron regions, agreed to a payment of £2,000 in cash and further annuity payments of £500 for the Lake Superior band and £600 for the Lake Huron group. The Robinson Treaties set the example for later negotiations between the Canadian government and Native tribes, establishing standards such as public negotiation processes, Crown takeover of surrendered lands, payment of annuities, and guarantees of full hunting and fishing privileges for Natives on Crown lands. The Robinson Treaties also broke with prior practice in treating for extensive tracts of land not needed for immediate settlement.
The Robinson Treaty for the Lake Superior region, commonly called Robinson Superior Treaty, was entered into agreement on September 7, 1850, at Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario between Ojibwa Chiefs inhabiting the Northern Shore of Lake Superior from Pigeon River to Batchawana Bay, and The Crown, represented by a delegation headed by William Benjamin Robinson. It is registered as the Crown Treaty Number 60.
When Commissioner William Benjamin Robinson’s treaties were signed in 1850, the average Indigenous person living in one of the Lake Superior or Lake Huron bands should have received an annuity payment of about $1.60. Back then, that could have easily afforded a bushel of corn, a pound each of pork and plug tobacco at the Hudson’s Bay Company. Today, under the terms of that same treaty, those band members receive just $4 in annuities – a dollar figure that has not budged since 1874.
In Mike Restoule, et al. v. The Attorn, The Attorney General of Ontario and Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Ontario, the Robinson Huron Treaty First Nations — of which there are 21 north of Lake Huron — have challenged what the plaintiffs call the government’s failure to implement specific commitments of the Robinson Huron Treaty of 1850, and specifically the annuity augmentation of the treaty. The Ontario Superior Court ruled in December 2018 that annuity payments from the Robinson-Huron and Robinson-Superior treaties signed in 1850 were not frozen in time. Beneficiaries of the treaties have been collecting $4 each annually.
However, Ontario has indicated its desire to preserve the ability to appeal the decision of Justice Hennessy, including the decision on costs. “The province has served us with their Notice of Appeal. We are disappointed with this decision, however, we welcome their willingness to seek a settlement through negotiations,” said Wiikwemkoong Ogimaa Duke Peltier in the release.
In January of 2019, the Ontario government says it is appealing a landmark ruling on treaty annuities, even as it enters settlement negotiations with Ottawa and the First Nations involved in the case.
Robinson, Shingwaukonse, and Nebenegoching