TURTLE ISLAND

Land claim negotiations will end unless impasse resolved.
By Debbi Christinck - Staff Writer - Eganville Leader March 27, 2002.

Pikwakanagan - Unless the Algonquin people all speak with a united voice, land claim negotiators for both Ontario and Canada will walk away from the table.

The land claim negotiations, covering a 34,000-square kilometre area in the Ottawa Valley, will come to an abrupt halt unless there is a reconciliation between the board governing negotiations and the chief and council and a willingness to speak with one voice for the entire nation.

"There will be no more funding, no more talking after March 31," said Verna Greavette, a board member of the Algonquin Nation Negotiation Directorate (ANND). "We are all afraid treaty talks will die and come down the tubes. It may take generations to bring the negotiations back. We need a miracle."

Both the federal and provincial governments told the negotiations team they will no longer provide any funding for the negotiations office or participate in any negotiations until there is a clear directive that ANND is speaking for one voice among the Algonquins involved in the land claim settlement.

The government insists all Algonquins must be involved in the negotiations process for talks to continue.

This means the negotiations office, currently working with a skeleton staff of two, down from nine employees until recently, will close if no more funding comes in. "Right at the moment we've been told from the negotiators of both the federal and provincial government there will be no more funding past March 31 unless we come to the table with one voice," she said. This is a grave concern for the board she said, because it too so long for negotiations to begin and much has been accomplished in the last few years. If the talks are to halt, this land claim may be put at the bottom of the pile again and it will years, if not generations to get it back to where it is now, Ms Greavette said.

The situation stems from a disagreement between council at Pikwakanagan and the directorate of ANND, which has representatives not only who live at Pikwakanagan but band members living in other areas and even non-status Algonquins. Band members do not have to live at Pikwakanagan and majority do not, but they are all part of the claim. ANND represents both status and non-status Algonquins in the negotiations. However, the chief and council at Pikwakanagan want to conduct negotiations on their own on behalf of status Algonquins.

In November the chief resigned as a member of ANND and no one was named to fill her place, so for all intents and purposes ANND no longer speaks for the entire nation. Since then the discussions have totally broken down between council and ANND.

Now council at Pikwakanagan wants to take over the negotiations, but the problem is the federal and provincial governments aren't willing to accept a change in negotiations because they see a fractured Algonquin nation, or enter into negotiations with only status Algonquins, Ms. Greavette explained. She added there doesn't seem to be a clear understanding the federal and provincial governments will not entertain discussions with only the status Algonquins, but want to speak to a representative of the entire Algonquin nation.

"Chief and council make it clear they represent all status," she said. "The biggest problem is they don't listen."

Ms. Greavette said ANND received a notice to vacate the offices at the Makwa Centre by March 3 1. Later they were given only one week to vacate the offices in late February. However, when they came to remove their belongings, the doors were locked and the locks had been changed. The police were called in and some financial records were removed from the offices but all personal files and enrolment files remain locked in the offices.

Several of the employees of the negotiations office went on sick leave at this time. Only the chief negotiator and his wife are still working. Ms. Greavette said she understood all the files were the property of ANND, however the final transfer had not taken place. In May of 2001 the negotiations process including all files and equipment were transferred to ANND by chief and council, however the final papers were not signed. The files for the most part remain at the Makwa centre office which, according to her, is closed. The phone for this office is no longer in service.

However Chief Lisa Ozawanimke said the negotiations office is still open. "Part of the office is still housed here at the upstairs of the Makwa Centre," she said. "The main office is in Killaloe." Chief Ozawanimke verified for the Leader she resigned in November as the president of ANND. The directorate had one representative from Pikwakanagan, two representatives from Greater Golden Lake and Bancroft, three representatives covering the area of Whitney, Mattawa, Antoine, Ottawa, Sharbot Lake and Ardoch, and four from the Bonnechere Algonquin Community, Following her resignation there has been no representative from Pikwakanagan appointed to the directorate, the chief said.

However, Chief Ozawanimke, who during her election campaign said the land claims negotiations were on the way to being settled, said they are still on track. She was asked by the Leader if this change - and lack of representation on the directorate - would be detrimental to the negotiations. "No, 1 don't think so," she said.

This is not the way Ms. Greavette and the members of the directorate see it.

The reason there is no representative from Pikwakanagan on ANND is because council has not appointed anyone. "They haven't sent anybody forward from Pikwakanagan to represent the community," Ms. Greavette said. "It is not from lack of trying' " Ms. Greavette said there is an indication from council they have other plans. "They had said they were going to negotiate on their own for all band members, but the government of Ontario and Canada said they must come with one voice to the table," she said. There is clearly not one voice while ANND tries to retrieve files and tries to continue negotiations. "This leaves us in a bad situation she said. Ms. Greavette said they have not been receiving answers from the chief or council, even though they have continued to meet on a weekly basis to discuss the issues as a directorate."

Pikwakanagan and the status people have no news and there has never been a meeting to discuss this," she said. There was one meeting on December 5, she told the Leader, but it was only for residents of Pikwakanagan, and it came after Chief Ozawanimke had resigned from the board November of 2000.

Prior to this there was an interim directorate. ANND has been meeting at least twice a month since then and often more frequently. "The board is still meeting, ' she said. "We are still trying to pull the nation together." She said it has been difficult to get the message out to all the people they represent, because the enrolment files are locked up at the old office. "We just put out a newsletter trying to tell people what is going on; she said. "We have members in the states and all over and our records were seized so we are having a hard time to get the message out."

The land claim negotiations have been an issue the community has been dealing with for generations. The claim is based on Algonquin use and occupation of lands in the Ottawa Valley since long before settler immigration. The community has sent petitions and letters to the Crown about their claim for more than 200 years.

The Algonquins of Golden Lake (Pikwakanagan) submitted a formal claim in 1983, asserting unextinguished Aboriginal title to a 34,000-square kilometre area in Ontario's Ottawa River Valley watershed, between Mattawa and L'Orignal, near Hawkesbury. Although the land claim involves an area largely covered by treaties, the Algonquins never signed a treaty or have taken any treaty benefits.

The government of Ontario initiated negotiations in June 1991, and Canada joined the negotiations on December 7, 1992. On August 25, 1994 negotiators for Canada, Ontario and the Algonquins of Golden Lake signed a framework for negotiations. This outlined what issues negotiations would address: land, renewable and non-renewable natural resources; compensation; nature and exercise of authority of the parties regarding the elements of the agreement; certainty and finality of rights regarding the elements of the agreement; mechanisms to approve and amend the agreement; mechanisms to resolve any disputes about the agreement's implementation.

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