Algonquins of Golden Lake in 1890.
It is our belief that we occupied North America since time immemorial. There is archaeological evidence indicating Algonquins occupied the Ottawa Valley for at least the last 10,000 years.
Our first European contact was with Samuel de Champlain in 1603. Numerous years after, Algonquins became allies with the French. At the conquest of 1759 when the French were conquered by the British, the British specified in the 1763 Royal Proclamation that ‘the Indians should not be molested on their hunting grounds’, meaning we could only sell our lands after a public council for that purpose was held and that our lands could not be sold until they were ceded [surrendered].
We never surrendered our land. The government took or purchased our land from other First Nations that had no claim to the land. We petitioned these purchases and the Crown acknowledged that we never entered into treaties, nor taken part in any surrendering of lands.
In 1774, the Quebec Act extended the boundaries of Quebec, which included areas of our land and in the 1791 Constitution Act, the Ottawa River became the diving line between Upper and Lower Canada. This placed our land and people under two separate government administrations.
In 1873, after we petitioned several times for our own land, the 1745-acre Golden Lake Reserve was purchased from Ontario by Canada with our money. The reserve was vested with the Department of Indian Affairs in trust for us, allowing ‘certificates of possession’ and ‘transference between members’’ rather than land ownership, thus never able to participate in the dominant culture’s system of finance whereby land can be used as collateral.
At the same time our land was given away for free to settlers by the government of Ontario and it was illegal for Indians to get free land grants. Inequities were made worse when Prime Minister John A Macdonald’s government implemented the Indian Act in 1880. The Indian Act made it illegal for us to speak our language, use our drums, sing our songs, practice our ceremonies, wear traditional clothing, change any policy legally and other restrictions. This remained the law for 71 years, until these provisions were removed in the Act in 1951.
For many more years injustices occurred from having to have a permit to leave the reserve, a pink slip to drink alcohol to losing status and being forced off the reserve if marrying a non-Indian man. Even our soldiers who fought for Canada were treated unfair; they were enfranchised in order to fight, losing their status. Instead of being honoured when returned, they didn’t receive any of the benefits other veterans received. Also, if you were away from the reserve for more than five years, you lost status.
The education system started with Indian Day School, where you could go up to senior 4th or grade eight. When the Indian Day School closed, boarding school was an option but most couldn’t afford it. We could also attend high school in Eganville by train and return home at 8:00PM daily. Many children were taken to federally funded Catholic residential school at Spanish, Ontario. Like other residential schools, children suffered from physical and sexual abuse, punished for speaking Algonquin, poorly treated and fed, cut off from family, community and culture.
Another inhumane and disheartening part of our history is the “60’s Scoop”, referring to the adoption of First Nations children in Canada between the years of 1960 until the mid-1980’s. Many children were taken by Indian Affairs and Children’s Aid, often without consent. The agencies responsible considered us to be inferior because of our poverty, even though it was imposed upon us by unjust legislation and circumstances.
In 1966 Indian Affairs hired a band administrator and got rid of Indian agents; this was said to give us more autonomy, although all policy was still decided in Ottawa. The self-administration policy would allow us to administer the funding allocated by the Department of Indian Affairs. It was an attempt by the government to overcome its previous depleting assimilation and isolation policies, which had resulted in apathy, dependence, poverty, substance abuse, and a well-deserved mistrust of government. The new policy failed to address the core issue; an insubstantial land base to allow sustainable economic, cultural, traditional, agricultural or resource independence, development and management.
In 1985, amendments were done to the Indian Act to address discriminatory legislation and to be more in line with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In 2008, the Government of Canada issued a Statement of Apology to former students of Indian Residential Schools. The government is attempting to address the issues of our past. We are currently working with the federal and provincial governments to secure a land claim agreement. The land claim aims to include a just recognition of Algonquin rights, title, natural resources, governance, compensation and other matters.
Our community has been working hard to restore our culture, raise healthy children and to build strong social and economic futures. We are proud of the following accomplishments:
- 1977-Tennisco Manor built for those requiring supportive housing and a new facility was recently built with self-contained apartments
- 1979-The Mindiwin Manido Daycare was established and today our children’s school readiness programming is integrated with Algonquin, English and cultural teachings.
- 1984- a ball field was built
- 1987-first year of our the Annual Traditional Pow Wow at Golden Lake
- 1989- the Makwa Community Centre was completed and is used for classes, events, and recreational activities
- 1989-Pikwakanagan hired Community Health Representative; programs for medical transportation, drug and alcohol and community health were instituted.
- 1998-Current health centre opened.
- 2003-Our administration building was replaced
- Present-We currently have Algonquin language programs in our elementary schools in Eganville
- Present-We are building a Business Centre in our community for economic development opportunities
- Present-We have several health, social, educational and cultural activities for our members
The above text is a summary of History of the Algonquins Omamiwinini: the Invisible People written by Kim Hanewich, which is based on collections of writing from Joan Holmes, Kirby J. Whiteduck, and
Other recommended reading on Algonquin history:
Algonquin History of the Ottawa River Watershed by James Morrison, Sicani Research and Advisory Services
Algonquins of Golden Lake Claim, Volume 1 by Joan Holmes