M'njikaning First Nation

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The History of the People

      The people now living in the Villages of Christian Island, Georgina Island and Rama are the direct descendants of the people that once lived at a special place called Mnjikaning. We are a part of a significant Anishnabe group that gathered throughout this Lake Simcoe region. We remain allied and linked to the greater Anishnabek Nation to this day.

      In the 1700's, the Narrows was a significant stopping place for the First People journeying from York to Northern Ontario. The people would stop and rest there. Those that were sick were left behind as they would be unable to make the continuing journey. The people of the Narrows doctored those sick, re-generating them, re-spiriting them. When they were feeling better, they would stay to help repair and maintain the fishing weirs. The food was plentiful. In time it became known as the "Healing Place". The people that came there named the people at the Narrows "Mnjikaning", meaning 'The Fish Fence At the Narrows'. Because of their role in offering doctoring, they became known as the Deer Tribe. One of the responsibilities of this tribe is care giving. The people of Mnjikaning were asked if they would be the steward of this special place.

      After the Huron wars, healing was taking place. The people were spread out over the lay of the land. The people were not accustomed to living in villages, they fished, camped along the water's edge, traded their surplus while some stayed and maintained their place to protect their interest in the land. They had trap lines and harvested the maple sap. They would meet periodically in a village setting for meetings and for ceremonies. There was a family that would be the care takers of the meeting place responsible for getting it ready.

M'njikaning Community Centre       Between 1785-1818 people ceded almost 2 million acres of land under treaty to the government. This land provided for the foundation of the development of Central Ontario. Around 1830, the first reserve was created. It brought three principle chiefs together, Chief Assance, Chief Yellowhead and Chief Snake. In an attempt to Christianize the people, the area from Atherley to Coldwater was formed as a place for the people. The church and schools wanted to gather us, and have access to our children. They encouraged us to farm and to be cooperative in our living in a village setting.

      There is a story about a cow the elders tell. If you dislike someone, give them a cow. The person has to mind the cow morning and night. They have to bring in the cow during bad weather. The cow leads them around, they are home bound with a cow. The ownership of a cow represents the loss of independence.

      The ministers from the various faiths, the teachers and the Indian agents had a clear mandate to instruct our people to become civilized and to encourage them to change our way of life to be more like the Europeans. They made rules that governed our behaviour and one of those rules prevented our people from attending any gatherings whatsoever, unless these gathering were properly supervised. The royal mounted police were diligent with their duties and several raids were conducted to break up unsanctioned gatherings. Without having that gathering time to share the stories which contained the collective knowledge of our Anishnabek history, they say our elders slowly went to sleep with the knowledge. With each succeeding generation, the traditional collective knowledge began to lose it relevance.

      At the Coldwater Reserve, the Coldwater Experiment it became known as, there were one team of oxen for all the farms and were expected to plough all the land. The people were promised many things to assist in farming and to help with this major transition in their lifestyle. They proved to be not the best of farmers. The people were more interested in hunting, canoeing, visiting and working the sugar bush. They were tied to the land yet had the gift of movement with the water. They cleared the land and then it was discovered that it was valuable land. The Government sweet talked the people out of it. Our ancestors were generous, they shared the land. The Government said they only needed a bit of land and that there were only a few of them. We had no idea of how many relatives they had. They promised to help us and thus the treaties were created and signed. The people that had worked closely together then split up in three groups. In 1836 the settlement was released to white settlers.

      Chief Yellowhead went on to purchase the land along the eastern shore of Lake Couchiching for his people . It was desolate and unprepared for settlement, but the spirit of our people prevailed over the obstacles. Our process is a testimony to the will and spirit of the Chippewa Nation. The Canadian government exerted more and more control over the Rama council and all Indian nations during the first part of the 20th century. Today the Rama council of the Chippewa Nation has taken great strides toward rekindling the spirit that make us one of the great First Nations in North America. Today we can be proud of our ancestors and proud of our future as we strive to regain our self-determination.

      Mnjikaning First Nation has been involved in tourism for 400-500 years. They are beginning to understand the responsibility given to them long ago. The Casino represents all 4 races of man coming together to take a rest. They are in the beginnings and they are hoping to do more. Plans for the Casino include expanding to build a resort and spa. The first step was the establishment of the Casino. The second step is the creation of the Resort, the third step is getting the whole community to help. The fourth step is getting the whole region to help, by a process of sensitizing and doing cross cultural awareness training.

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