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Borrows, John - Negotiating the Law. Traditions and Treaties on Manitoulin Island

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NEGOTIATING THE LAW: TRADITIONS & TREATIES on MANITOULIN ISLAND Wakegijig My Brother Chiefs - I mean you who live at Manitowaning, we shall tell you what we think, and we want to hear what you think. We do not consider this Island has been ceded to the government. 1 Mashequongai My friends, we do not think alike. We who live on this side of the Island consented to give up the Island to the government, but you refused to do so. You spoke of your children and their future condition. You spoke anxi
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     NEGOTIATING THE LAW: TRADITIONS & TREATIES on MANITOULIN ISLAND  Wakegijig My Brother Chiefs - I mean you who live at Manitowaning, we shall tell you what we think, and we want to hear what you think. We do not consider this Island has been ceded to the government. 1  Mashequongai My friends, we do not think alike. We who live on this side of the Island consented to give up the Island to the government, but you refused to do so. You spoke of your children and their future condition. You spoke anxiously about them. We also think of ours, and trust they may do well, and be treated well always by the whites. We already have a treaty with the government and we are not going to throw it away. The future will tell what Indians will be better off. 2   INTRODUCTION  Absrcinal 3  and non-Absrcinal people often have conflicting objectives in the control and use of land 4 . Divergent aspirations concerning land not only exist between these peoples, but also within both Absrcinal 5  and non-Absrcinal 6  groups. The allocation of land both between, and within, Absrcinal and non-Absrcinal groups is an issue that has occupied the inhabitants of what is now known as Canada for close to 400 years. Throughout this period, allocations of land have been attempted in numerous ways. The parties have pursued treaties 7 , executive proclamations 8 , scrip 9 , unilateral legislation 10 , reserve and royal commissions 11 , segregation 12 , assimilation 13 , litigation, land claims processes 14 , expropriation 15 , and war. 16  These interactions have been carried out in different circumstances, under a constantly shifting balance of power, with diverse objectives and motivations. These    2 assorted dealings have occurred in villages, cities, council houses and legislatures, on Canada’s prairies, mountains, woodlands and lakes. The issue of allocation continues to involve Absrcinal and non-Absrcinal people in discussions that attempt to settle ownership, occupancy, use and enjoyment of land in Canada. The tangle of conflicting objectives in land allocations has fostered complex questions about the legitimacy and fairness of these distributions between the continent's srcinal inhabitants and its more recent settlers. 17  In the not too distant past, Absrcinal peoples used the entire continent of North America for their physical, spiritual, emotional, and social sustenance. 18  In the pursuit of this lifestyle, First Nations had an intimate knowledge of every feature on the face of the land. 19  They had regard for more than the land's physical appearance and interacted as relatives with the earth's animate and inanimate members. 20  They held the land collectively and each group developed values, norms, customs and laws to govern its use. 21  These traditions taught the people how to take from the land while respecting the interactions and interdependence of the non-human world. The ancient and enduring relationships that Absrcinal peoples have with the land are now profoundly restricted. Their territories have been reduced to such an extent that their maintenance of these relationships is severely threatened. Contemporary First Nations require a significantly larger land base to preserve and continue their    3 distinct way of life. The non-Native inhabitants of Turtle Island (North America) 22  recently immigrated to this continent 23  for a variety of reasons. 24  Columbus sailed to North America in pursuit of a western route to India and mistook the islands in the Gulf of Mexico for his destination. 25  The English, French, Dutch and Spanish saw opportunity in the fur trade, religious proselytization and colonization. 26  Many migrated to escape persecution, pressures, 27  war or human rights violations in their homelands. 28  Some came involuntarily as slaves. 29  As with Absrcinal peoples, there is a history among some of these peoples of using land for physical, spiritual, emotional and social sustenance. 30  However, such history has often been overshadowed by another legacy that has viewed land solely as a commodity. 31  For the most part, there has been an ascendancy of this materialist perspective, where land has little value beyond its potential to contribute to the market economy. In these circumstances the worth of land is narrowly measured by its dollar value and its potential for conversion to a monetary standard. This approach has fostered the draw-down and liquidation of “nature’s capital”, stored in the trees, minerals, animals and fish, and transformed these resources into the houses, cars, factories and cities in which most people now live. 32  This change has estranged many residents of North America from the land and its non-human relationships. The continued extraction of economic benefit from the land often excludes other uses and relationships    4 to ensure that profit is maximized through allocation to its “highest” material use. This is because the recognition of other less lucrative interests in land could undermine its economic worth and threaten the financial position of those who have invested in this particular valuation. Since the accumulation of profits from land and resource use looms so large in contemporary society, a large land amount of land is required to preserve and continue this way of life. 33  Since both Absrcinal and settler communities require a significant land base to pursue their objectives, can their current discrepant objectives in regard to land be reconciled? Some would clearly say this is not possible. Power (economic and political) Ideological , Institutions If so, how can such diverse viewpoints be accommodated? This work explores the potential for reconciliation by examining each group's objectives in relation to land use, and seeks to reveal where mutual understanding can be developed to resolve conflicting claims. However, this study also cautions that mutual understanding will only lead to a fairer sharing of the land if there is a simultaneous realignment of power in resolving the parties' disagreements. As such, this examination highlights Absrcinal and non-Absrcinal perceptions of land, and underlines the reasons First Nations should have more power to influence land allocation. The objective is to build a better groundwork for
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