Compiled by Carlie Manners, GRASAC Research Assistant
In 1923, the Anishinaabe Chippewa of Simcoe (communities of Beausoleil, Georgina Island and Rama), and the Anishinaabe Michi Saagig of the north shore of Lake Ontario (Alderville, Curve Lake, Hiawatha, and Scugog Island), signed separate treaties with the governments of Ontario and Canada. Known today as “Williams Treaties” (named after Commission Chair Angus Seymour Williams), the signing followed nearly sixty years of Chippewa and Mississauga (Michi Saagig) communities lobbying the Ontario and Canadian governments to respect their lands and ability to hunt, fish, and trap on them without settler interference. In 1923, the Williams Commission representatives travelled to the seven communities to investigate the claims regarding unceded territory and to negotiate a treaty of surrender. However, to Willliams Treaties First Nations, these interviews were intended to discuss the generational importance of the land to their people. The subsequent signing of the Williams Treaties transferred the title of large tracts of land from the Williams Treaties First Nations to the Ontario and Canadian governments and terminated their right to hunt, fish, and trap outside of their previously allocated reserve lands.
In the wake of signing the treaties, the Williams Treaties First Nations protested the written text, arguing that they did not relinquish their right to hunt. For decades following the 1923 treaties, many Mississauga and Chippewa people were harassed, arrested, and prosecuted due to the treaties’ conditions. In 1994, this case was heard by the Supreme Court, which asserted that the William’s Treaties signatories had knowingly relinquished their hunting and fishing rights on the ceded lands. However, another lawsuit filed in 1992 brought the legal end to over 180 years of Chippewa and Mississauga’s fight for their rights over their land. This lawsuit claimed that the Crown had failed to uphold its financial and legal obligations. As a result, the Governments of Canada and Ontario agreed to a settlement in 2018, which included financial compensation, additions to reserve lands, and finally — recognition of the Williams Treaties First Nations’ right to hunt, fish, and trap on their lands.
- Treaties signed on November 15, 1923; November 16, 1923; November 19, 1923; and November 23, 1923.
- Treaties signed at Rama, Alderville, Hiawatha, Curve Lake, Scugog Lake, Beausoleil, Georgina Island.
- The treaties regard 20,000 square kilometers of land: one tract between the Etobicoke and Trent Rivers, framed by Lake Ontario’s Northern Shore. A second tract expanded north from the first to Lake Simcoe. A third tract lies between the Ottawa River and Lake Huron.
Nations and Representatives
- Represented by Robert Franklin, Norman Marsden, Frank Smoke, Ernest Crowe, John Lake, and William Loukee
- Curve Lake
- Represented by Chief Dan E. Whetung, Alfred McCue, Joseph Whetung, George Taylor, Samson Fawn, Bertram McCue, George Coppaway, Albert Whetung, and L.D Taylor
- Represented by Chief George Paudash, Hanlon Howard, Johnson Paudash, Henry Cowie, William Anderson, Alfred Crow, and Madden Howard
- Scugog Lake
- Represented by Thomas Marsden, Austin Goose, Isaac Johnson, David Elliot, “His,” Charles X. McCue, “Mark,” John W. Marsden, John H. Marsden, Charles F. Marsden, and Elijah Marsden
- Georgina Island
- Represented by Charles Big Canoe, Enoch Big Canoe, J. Sam York, and Thomas Big Canoe
- Represented by Henry Jackson, Frank Copegog, Albert Monague, John S. Hawk, Edward W. King, Robert Marsden, Jerry D. Monague, Walter Simons, Solomon Mark, and William Phillip Assance
- Represented by Chief Alder York, J.P Stinson, David Simcoe, Samuel Snake, Edward W. King, Alfred Williams, and John Bigwin
- Georgina Island
- Represented by Angus Seymour Williams
- Represented by Robert Victor Sinclair, Uriah McFadden, Kathleen Moodie, W.J Kay, C.J Picotte, and J. Anderson
- Financial compensation: Mississauga and Chippewa peoples received $25 for each band member. The Mississauga also received $233,425 and the Chippewa received $233,375. All of these were one-time payments.
- Surrendering the title to lands.
- The surrender of the fishing, hunting, trapping rights over particular lands.
- Treaty of Niagara, 1764
- Toronto Purchase, 1787
- Gunshot Treaty, 1788
- Treaty 18, 1818
- Treaty 19, 1818
- Treaty 20, 1818
- Robinson Huron Treaty, 1850
- R. v. Howard, 2 S.C.R 299, 1994
- Alderville Litigation, 1992- 2018
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- Williams Treaty – Chippewas of Christian Island, Georgina Isle and Rama – IT 483. Treaty document presented in image scan.
- Libraries and Archives Canada. RG10, Volume number: 1853/IT483, Microfilm reel number: T-9941
- Digitized copy available through Library and Archives Canada: https://recherche-collection-search.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/home/record?app=FonAndCol&IdNumber=3987611
- Digitized text transcription available through Government of Canada: https://www.rcaanc-cirnac.gc.ca/eng/1100100029004/1581292197513
- Williams Treaty- Mississauga Indians of Rice, Mud and Scugog Lakes and Alderville -IT 488. Treaty document presented in image scan.
- Libraries and Archives Canada. RG10, Volume number: 1853/IT488, Microfilm reel number: T-9941
- Digitized copy available through Library and Archives Canada: https://recherche-collection-search.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/home/record?app=FonAndCol&IdNumber=3987797
Blair, Peggy J. Lament for a First Nation: The Williams Treaties of Southern Ontario. Vancouver: UBC Press, 2008.
Coyle, Michael, and John Borrows. The Right Relationship: Reimagining the Implementation of Historical Treaties. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2017.
Cumming, P.A. and Mickenburg, N.H., Eds. Native Rights in Canada. 2nd ed. Toronto, 1972.
Surtees, Robert J. “Treaty Research Report, The Williams Treaties (1923),” Treaties and Historical Research Centre, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, 1986. https://www.rcaanc-cirnac.gc.ca/eng/1100100029000/1564415701529
Williams, Doug. Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg : This Is Our Territory. Winnipeg, Manitoba: ARP Books, 2018.
Chippewas of Rama First Nation. “Settlement Agreement Signing Ceremony, Nov 17th, 2018.” March 5, 2019.
- Video of the November 17th 2018 official signing ceremony of the settlement agreement between the Williams Treaties First Nations and the governments of Canada and Ontario.
Government of Ontario. “Map of Ontario Treaties and Reserves.” Ontario. Last modified January 13, 2022. https://www.ontario.ca/page/map-ontario-treaties-and-reserves
- An ArcGIS map marking treaty and reserve locations across the province of Ontario.
Switzer, Maurice. “Treaties Recognition Week.” Williams Treaties. Oct 30 2020.
- Knowledge keeper, Maurice Switzer reads from his book entitled “Grandpa… What is a treaty anyway?” This is a child-friendly resource.
Wallace, Sarah Isabel. “Williams Treaties.” The Canadian Encyclopedia. Last modified June 24, 2020. https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/williams-treaties
- A general overview of the Williams Treaties, historical context, and follows up with the 2018 Alderville litigation.
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