Sauble Beach, unraked, early August, 2017
Sauble Beach is located on the western shore of Lake Huron, one of North America’s Great Lakes. It’s a major summer tourist destination in the Province of Ontario, Canada. On a busy summer upwards of 25,000 people will pack the beach and the nearby business community of restaurants, campgrounds, hundreds of rental cottages and other tourism-oriented businesses. Most will come from the cities a couple of hours drive south in Ontario. It is one of the major tourist destinations in the area generally known as Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound.
That area, and more, is part of the “traditional territory” of the Saugeen Ojibway Nation, which includes the Chippewas of Nawash First Nation and the Saugeen First Nation. Continue reading
I have a clear memory of sitting across from the late Chief James Mason in his office at the Saugeen First Nation Band Office at Chippawa Hill more than 30 years ago. It may not have been the first time, or the last time. I had several such meetings/interviews with him. My beat as an Owen Sound Sun Times reporter at the time included Aboriginal Affairs and the various issues affecting the two First Nations in Ontario’s Grey-Bruce area, the other being the Chippewas of Nawash at Cape Croker.
In recent years the Bruce Peninsula National Park has become an important international tourist destination, with much of the attention focused on the Grotto, above.
(This update corrects an error in the naming of the two First Nations that comprise the Saugeen Ojibway Nation. It also adds some additional information regarding the status of the case.)
The original version of this blog-post was published in Finding Hope Ness on December 19, 2015. The title then was, Saugeen Ojibway land claim lawsuit may soon be settled, one way or another. At the time there were reasons to think 2018 could be the crucial year for reaching a resolution of the now-almost 25-year-long court action.
But 2018 has come and gone, with no indication to the general public that a negotiated settlement is in the works.
The Saugeen Ojibway Nation (SON) took the unusual step in 1994 of filing a lawsuit in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice to settle long-standing land claims, after years of frustrating talks with government officials. Continue reading
A few weeks ago a well-used pick-up truck pulled into our driveway on the Bruce Peninsula. A man who looked like he might be in his mid-30s got out and said he and his fisherman partner had some freshly caught Georgian Bay fish for sale and did I want some.
They were from nearby Cape Croker, home of the Chippewas of Nawash First Nation, and they were doing what people from there have been doing for hundreds, perhaps thousands of years, trading and bartering the fish they catch, in this case nowadays, for cash. That traditional and vital use of the fishery around what used to be called the Saugeen Peninsula, for food and trade, was recognized and re-affirmed by an Ontario court decision in 1993, that ruled First Nation people in this area were entitled to “priority” use of the fishery in local waters.
At the time most large-scale commercial fishers in Lake Huron and Georgian Bay waters in this area were non-Aboriginal. That court decision began a process of change, leading to the predominantly First Nation fishery that exists today. But the initial reaction of many people in the local non-Aboriginal community was angry and confrontational.
For a while downtown Owen Sound was not a friendly or even safe place for First Nation people to be. One night two young men from Cape Croker were attacked with knives by a group of thugs and badly injured. Continue reading
I suppose the day will come that I will have to hang up my journalistic spurs for good, in which case I hope I’m around long enough to see some long-standing big stories finally played out one way or another, for the better.
But in the meantime I attended the public meeting earlier this week about the proposed settlement agreement in connection with the Saugeen First Nation’s lawsuit/claim to much of the rest of Sauble Beach.
I was not the least bit surprised to see the parking lot full to overflowing when I arrived. With the Sauble Beach Community Centre at its 500-person capacity limit, and people being turned away shortly before the meeting began, I was lucky, and much relieved, to get in.
I had gone as much to be a witness to history, as for the sake of immersing myself in the big story yet again. And make no mistake, based on my more than 30 years experience, this is right up there with the Niagara Escarpment Plan controversy in the late 1970s, the Bruce Peninsula National Park debate in the early 1980s, and the terrible reaction in the non-Aboriginal community to the 1993 court decision that affirmed the local Aboriginal “priority” right to the fishery in area waters.
And this, a claim and proposed settlement affecting the Grey-Bruce area’s major summer beach/tourism resource, may be something like a dress rehearsal for an even bigger story to come. That’s the Saugeen Ojibway lawsuit involving road allowances and other land on the entire Bruce Peninsula. Continue reading