The moment that the Missanabie Cree First Nation has been waiting for the past one hundred and twelve years is finally here. Long overdue, the First Nation has been granted their reserve, consisting of 3,892,282 hectares, including mining and minerals.
This victory for MCFN in their fight for their land is the result of a tumultuous relationship with the federal government stemming back to 1906, when Treaty 9 skipped over this First Nation.
The Crown had promised to set apart reserves for each band based on one square mile of reserve land per family of five, or 128 acres per person. However, since then, no land has ever been set aside for use by MCFN, and as a result the First Nation has suffered physical and cultural damages. With no land base, and their traditional livelihood of hunting and fishing undermined with the creation of the Chapleau Game Preserve, the people began to leave the Missanabie area in order to search for economic opportunities to support their families.
Now, the community will be able to return to their traditional roots with the jurisdiction to build.
Chief Jason Gauthier spoke with Super Media, stating “I think that it is bittersweet in a lot of ways. There has been a lot of people who have passed in waiting in the last 112 years waiting, including parents, grandparents who will never see us return to the traditional territory. It has made people very emotional, but they are happy. It is long overdue, but I know our community members and leaders are very happy that we have been granted this reserve.”
But there is still work to be done. Chief Gauthier explained that next steps include designating different areas of the reserve through a planning study for residential, commercial, and agricultural needs in order to service the community.
“As soon as we are done the planning, we can start putting shovel to ground almost immediately and get people up there as soon as possible,” Chief Gauthier continued.
While Chief Gauthier recognizes that this is a step forward, he also stated that there is a lot of work to be done in order for Missanabie Cree to “be completely whole with the federal government at this point.”