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OTTISSIPPI Ch. 10, Part 1: Reserves and Indian Lands

By Cheryl Morgan

The Indians lived on all the waterways of the Bluewater region, including, Lake Huron and Southeast Michigan. They gave gifts of land, rented land, gave grants of land, and ceded land to the French, British, and Americans.


The delta north of Lake St. Clair where the St. Clair River enters the lake is North America’s largest freshwater delta. At this delta of the St. Clair River, there are many islands. Upon these Islands, the Ojibwe, Ottawa, and Pottawatomi lived, and other tribes who passed through and camped on their fur trading journeys. They camped on the islands with higher grounds.


The area today is called The Flats; these islands were a special place then, and they are yet today. There are many burial grounds on these islands, some have been raided and disturbed. An old legend tells of a pot of gold. A group of early missionaries with a hoard of gold were passing through, and they met with hostile Indians. They landed upon Harsens Island and buried the gold and never returned for their treasure. Dixon, “Life at the Flats” 1999.


The Walpole Island Delta of Lake St. Clair is a large heart-shaped island, known also as Ode Ziibiing – Heart River. Walpole Island was long known as Warpole Island. Michigan State University Libraries scanned maps of Michigan Map Library show many maps depicting Warpole Island.

The largest of all the islands in the St. Clair Delta was later named after Lieutenants Arthur and John Walpole, surveyors for the Royal Engineers, or after Horace Walpole, an Englishman.

Indian tradition says it is named for the Warpoles that once stood at the entrances to the Island, declaring the territory totem. These were long wooden staves planted in the ground, with emblems of First Nations on them. They were seen by early visitors (Patricia Orange)

The Indian Chief Warpole may have been the namesake.

Walpole is one of five Islands included in the Indian lands at the north side of Lake St. Clair. These lands have never been ceded, legislated, founded, established, set apart, or surveyed as a reserve to any government. They are un-ceded territory, now Canadian lands. A very special place with rare flora and fauna (P. Orange).

The other islands of the reserve are St. Anne’s, Squirrel, Bassett, and Seaway. With the marshes and waters area, the total reserve lands are about 58,000 acres or 91 square miles. Upper Walpole Island is about 12 feet above mean water level. Lower Walpole is less than 3 feet above water level. About 12,000 acres are habitable, this is the wooded area. The lower marsh lands are covered with cattails, rushes, and other water grasses. The annual variation is about eighteen inches. Lake Huron continues to bring coarse materials to the Delta. The base of the Delta is hard blue clay found at about 15 feet; terrific ice jams occur here in winter and early spring (Hudgins 1933, Wayne University, Detroit).

The Biodiversity Atlas of Lake Huron to Lake Erie is a wonderful tool to learn more. It can be found on the www.

The tribes living here are Chippewa-Ojibwe (Ojibway), Ottawa, and Pottawatomi, known as the Three Fires People. The Island is home to over 3,000 people. The Ottawa and Ojibwe were living here in the early 1800s when the Europeans began to settle in the area. The Pottawatomi arrived after the Indian Removal in the United States in the 1830s, most of whom were British Loyalists.

They brought their horses with them, swimming them across the St. Clair River and settled on an island in the middle of Walpole Island, called Pottawatomi Island. The Pottawatomi spread out and ranged most of what is now Lambton County, Ontario.

The horses were of Arabian and Indian pony stock. The competent horses adapted and ran wild, surviving on their own and multiplied. They became known far and wide as “The Wild Ponies of Walpole Island”. They became tough, chunky ponies; they were easily managed when captured, easily trained for riding or other work, and were good domestic animals. They were sold to other peoples for farming and travel. In the summer, they fed on grass and, in winter, on twigs. The wild ponies were numerous; in the 1930s, several thousand ponies could be seen roaming on Walpole. The wild ponies were in great demand, supplying the natives with a home-grown industry for many years. They would periodically be rounded up and auctioned off at $1 to $2 per head.

As autos and tractors became popular, the demand for ponies dropped. Eventually they became so numerous and troublesome, damaging crops and gardens, that there were big sales held in the spring. In 1954, the Council organized a huge roundup and most of the ponies were captured and sold to market. A few were transferred to St. Anne’s Island by Mr. Johnson to preserve them. They were hunted down and destroyed, being so despised by the majority. A lost treasure, the last of the ponies were seen in the 1970s at the south of Walpole Island around Goose Lake. 

When the Americans claimed the United States, some of the Indian Loyalists moved to Canada. The largest number of the Chippewa arrived after the War of 1812, when British Allies were invited to settle there. More came during the Indian Removal of the 1830s and 1840s.

Indian reserves were overrun with squatters and thousands of dollars in Indian trust funds were missing and unaccounted for, the government besieged with Indian complaints (Travers 2015). The settlement was placed under the charge of an Indian superintendent in 1839. Whites had settled on the land and took possession of the islands’ fertile lands. The Whites were then evicted.

Many of the Whites had moved from Harsens Island when the British ceded this island to the Americans in 1822, when the International Boundary Commission ruled it American land.

Walpole Island is the final resting place of Chief Tecumseh, the great Shawnee leader.

The islands of the delta are a haven for waterfowl of the Atlantic and Mississippi flyway. There are many private shooting clubs on the islands.

The traditional teachings tell of a small fight with some Spaniards who came up the river in ships. They pitched tents on the Island and buried treasure worth three million dollars. An old Indian saw them bury their Treasure. He dug it up and carried it off to another hiding place. No one has ever found it.

The Chanel Escarte, a channel separating Walpole from the mainland to the east, provided exceptional natural camouflage for rumrunners, who transported illicit booze to the U.S. during the Prohibition from 1920 to 1933 (P. Orange).

In 1846, the first Anglican church was established and remains active. Father DuRanquet built a church building on sacred burial mounds and a cemetery on Walpole Island. The church was burned, and the priest left in 1849 (Travers 2015).

The powerful civil officials controlled the flow of information into the 1850s and beyond (Travers 2015).

In 1863, the first Methodist church was established on Walpole Island.

In 1914, when WWI began, 57 Walpole Island men enlisted in the Canadian Army, and 47 returned.

In 1878, Joshua Greenbird, an Ojibwe, became the first elected chief on the reserve, the Pottawatomi having their own chief. When the two tribes merged, Solomon Kewayosh was elected as the first chief of the Amalgamated Band Council.

In 1939, when WWII began, 69 Walpole Island Natives enlisted in the Canadian Armed Forces. Four were killed in action.

In 1964, under the leadership of Burton Jacobs, the reserve became a self-governing system. Prior to this, the Indian agent had power to overrule the Council. Walpole Island became the first Native band in Canada not to have an Indian agent. Much has been accomplished under self-determination: A bridge was built in 1970 to Wallaceburg, Ontario. A new sports arena and community center were built, along with a highway, a school, fire department, water tower, commercial farming, and more.

The New Year’s Feast is a special day to be with friends and share a feast. Entertainment is provided with speeches and a local talent show. A Pow Wow is held on Walpole every summer.It is a time of friendship and celebration. The traditional singing, dancing, and ceremonies are a verification of their love for Gitchi Manito and his people.

There are about 1,800 people living on the Island. A ferry service from Marine City operates to the Island.

A famous baseball pitcher for the Philadelphia Athletics came from Walpole. His name is Ed Pinauce, and they won the World Championship (Patricia Orange 1975).


The Indians of Canada form one of the most diverse populations on Earth. They live much like their neighbors who live close by, farming and working in factories and offices. They are tradespeople, lawyers, doctors, nurses, and teachers. There are those who live in isolated areas closer to the land and water. Some are high steel construction workers, miners, fishers, boat builders, and wood operation. They are caught between two worlds: the old Indian way and the modern life.


The Chippewas of Sarnia as of 2000 A.D. prefer to be called Ojibwe. They live on Aamjiwnaang, a portion of what was once a very large territory extending into a large area of Michigan and Ontario.

The Chippewa or Ojibwe of Sarnia are the original occupants of the area known as Lambton County, Ontario. There are about 1,800 members in Aamjiwnaang meaning “At the Spawning Stream”. (Sarnia band of Ojibwe). There are over 200 homes on the reserve. The Plain family have been chiefs of the band for a very long time. They have a reservation that is now 3,100 acres. The original reserves were about 10,280 acres, lands that have been ceded and sold. They operate under a Band Council with an elected chief.

The Cameron Lands north of Sarnia are in a court battle; the Aamjiwnaang claim they lost territorial land without proper surrender in 1839. It makes up about 10% of Sarnia.

They have an industrial park for business leasing. They have sold about 1,000 acres of their land to energy-related industrial companies. The area known as Chemical Valley is the largest concentration of chemical companies in Canada.

At the Treaty of 1827, the Chippewa-Ojibwe Indians, the original inhabitants along the shores of the Detroit River, St. Clair River, Lake Huron, Georgian Bay, and as far north as Garden River in the Algoma District at S.S. Marie, were signers. Traces of their campaign grounds and garden plots can be found along this area. At this period, the Indians realized that they were destined to be confined to smaller areas called reserves. The Indians’ wishes were respected as regards, to areas they wished to reserve out of the two million acres, namely Aux Sable, Kettle Point, Sarnia Reserve, and Sombra. The reserves were under one chief and five counsellors until Kettle Point and Aux Sable – Stoney Point – demanded separation from Sarnia before 1919. Sombra reserve was sold. There was a small reserve called the lower Saint Clair Reserve which was sold. (Nicholas Plain). The Lower Reserve was 2,575 acres immediately north of Sombra (Travers, 2015).

There was no objection when the first Methodist missionary asked permission to hold preaching services among the Chippewas. The only class of Indians who objected to the intrusion of the Christian missionaries were the “Faker Medicine Men” who practiced witchcraft.

Through the first camp meeting in Sarnia Reserve was the means of arousing a cooperative spirit in the Chippewas; each answered the question “What is right?” and discussed each problem and applied absolute honesty, purity, unselfishness, and love to its solution.

The missionaries came to look after their spiritual welfare which required, careful handling, for the Indian was already deeply religious and observed all nature, including new settlers and the missionaries. Anyone possessing selfish natures were readily discerned by them were not so easily influenced by such people, be they ever so gifted in eloquence of speech. (Nicholas Plain, 1950, History of Sarnia Reserve, and History of the Chippewa of Sarnia).

Peter Jones, Kahkewaquonaby, “Sacred Waving Feathers”, was the first missionary to arrive in 1829. James Evans arrived in 1834, a missionary of the Wesleyan Missionary Authorities in England. These two Missionaries were gifted with being able to speak the Chippewa language. They were led by the Holy Spirit to come and deliver this message to the Indians.

The Indians were pagens of necessity, not by choice, and when they heard the gospel story in their own language from the lips of Reverend Peter Jones and Reverend James Evans, the chiefs and principal men were thrilled to understand that Jesus Christ was the Gift of God – Kechemundo – and through his name they began to pray. In time, they were full of unspeakable joy, and spoke shouts of joy. It affected the whole community; there were camp meetings and mass evangelisms. Nicholas Plain was a preacher and chief at Sarnia Reserve.

The chiefs became Christians, and most of the people followed. Most were of the Methodist Church.

The first government agent was William Jones in 1831, whose records are priceless of the early reserve history. He recommended a man named Harris of Caradoc as a teacher; he is a Methodist and in the habit of preaching occasionally.

A school house was built that also served as the church and community hall. The British Wesleyan Mission to the Chippewa’s.

The Land area became common ground for all, small plots selected by one, was carefully respected by the whole tribe. A member could cross the plot without hindrance or objection but not utilize any part of it. The land was very fertile. The wigwams were scattered throughout the 10,280 acres near water and thick bush to protect from wind. Later the government and Chippewas built log and frame homes.

Sarnia 45 Indian Reserve is the official name of the reservation. It lies directly opposite from Marysville Park in Michigan. It was never Crown land. Today the reserve is about 3,100 acres. It is bounded by the St. Clair River, Churchill Road and Vidal Street, which curves to the river, LaSalle one mile east past Scott, and back to Churchill Road.

The reserve had an agricultural society and an annual fair, everyone tried to take part bringing whatever animals they had and fowl of every description. The ladies brought preserves, baked goods, sewing, and quilts. Vegetables were of every variety.

There was a good sized, brass band on the reserve. John Maness was the leader. The Walpole Island Brass Band came to the fair. When some of the players went overseas to the first world war, the band gradually dwindled.

The small ship Hiawatha brought people from Port Huron to the fair day. People from Detroit came on the big “City of Toledo”. Another small ship would pick up passengers for a trip to Tashmoo Park.

Families on the reserve found a good seat along the river bank when the ferry boat, “Omar Conger”, was on a moonlight excursion. The music by the orchestra band carried over the water for a long distance. The strains of music came from many other steamers and waves from the passengers. The children jumping into the tremendous wake for fun.

When there was a Bee, neighbor women prepared a bountiful dinner and supper. After the evening meal, there was storytelling, Awt Bo Kawn Un, like Legends. The more absurd and humorous the better.

There were cows on almost every homestead, and each had a bell and could be identified by the sound of their bell clanging. Some put a small bell on their horses, and when on the sleigh or cutter, they made music.

Grain was stood up in sheaves to dry in the fields and was thrashed by hand.

There was unlimited access to the American side of the river. Many would go across to South Park in Michigan to buy supplies and sell fish. Some men kept a light rope and drifted, fishing all day, and in the afternoon, catch a passing freighter and be towed back home.

When Prohibition came into effect in the U.S., there was the exciting practice of supplying nocturnal quiet – traveling motor boats – with cases of Canadian liquor on the shores of the reserve. Some allowed the Indians to hide the liquor in their straw stacks and helped move it to the shore at night, sleeping by day most of the time.

Inter-marriage among those of the same totem sign was strictly forbidden, this gradually changed.

The people went on to build frame homes, and the children went to industrial school at Muncey to learn trades. Fences were built and land cleared; barns and granaries were built. The operation of lumber mills, flour mills, and general stores in the neighboring village, called Froomfield, was a great convenience.

Froome Talfourd was an Indian agent at Sarnia Reserve who was well-loved. A great feast was made by the Chippewa in honor of his birthday on November 4th, when he was to return to England. He promised to provide a meal for all the Indians of the reserve every year on his birthday, until he came back to Canada. And for many years thereafter, an annual feast was given to the Indians by money given for the celebration from Froome Talfourd, the honored guest, who may not have realized when he made the promise was destined to never return. It was called The Talfourd Feast. Some 400 Indians sat down to a generous Feast that he provided for them. Froome Talfourd died in England in 1902 at the age of 95. To the Indians, he was known as “the Englishman who keeps his word”.

A wood yard was at the river dock to supply steamboats with wood fuel. The Indians supplying the wood for supplies in their homes. The reserve was a busy place with everyone working: women making mats, baskets, dresses; men farming, and woodworking, and making tools and many other wooden items. There were all kinds of bees, all happily working to help one another, and the neighboring inhabitants of Sarnia. The area merchants could understand the Indian name for items of merchandise and foodstuffs, so even without the English language, they could buy what they wanted. 

When the Chippewas embraced Christianity as their religion, they did not cast off their moral laws but added the Christian principles to their principle of community living and willingly erected a church around 1860. This was supported by all the members of the Methodist church, and they purchased a church bell and hung it in the bell tower, and the ringing of the bell called the congregation to gather for worship. It also gave the death toll, casting an atmosphere of gloom over the whole reserve, the people gathering for a wake and burial, comforting one another. 

The Anglican missionaries came early to minister to the Chippewa, and a brick church was built, it was called St. Peters. Henry P. Chase was one of the ministers who served there.

The women sat by themselves on one side of the church, and the men on the opposite side, and the solemnity was observed by silence.

An annual revival meeting, was held in the Methodist Church, a special preacher was called to conduct the preaching services and other speakers from other reserves were always present to take part in the services, a prayer meeting, and a testimony meeting with songs in Chippewa.

The people loved social gatherings, such as teas, New Year, Thanksgiving, picnics. The early churches combined annual picnics, chartering a ferry boat for an excursion to Walpole Island.

The 18-member brass band played for these events. Their entertainment at these gatherings: athletic events were a source of entertainment, foot races, jumping, ball games, and firing fire crackers. Patriotism to the Crown was shown by hoisting the Union Jack at every event.

The last two hereditary chiefs were John Sumner, a descendant of Petawtick, and Nicholas Plain, a descendant of Animikance. F.W. Jacobs was the first to be elected by vote under the Indian Election Act System in 1882. He was the interpreter for the preachers for many years.

Animikeencee was Chief for 30 years, from 1797 to 1827. Wawanosh, Joshua, was Chief for 17 years, from 1827 to 1844. Mishibizhe, David Wawanosh, was Chief for 15 years, from 1844 to 1867. Francis Wilson Jacobs, was Chief for 14 years until 1884. John Sumner was Chief until 1870. Nicholas Plain was then Chief, and his descendants to present.

Many lodges were started: Independent Order of Foresters, Orange Lodge, Temperance Lodge, and one called “The Swamp Club”. All of these, have ceased to exist. One sponsored by the Indian Department, “The Homemakers Club”, in the 1970s, was well attended.

A baseball team in 1892 attended picnics with the reserve brass band, a favorite for country picnics. A Monster Picnic was held annually in Wilkesport with 2,000 people attending.

William Jones, Indian agent at Sarnia, who was a spy for Tecumseh and General Brock at the Battle of Detroit, was given as a war bounty the settlement of Lord Selkirk, known as Baldoon. He gave a report of the Sarnia Reserve in 1837:

there are about 539 Chippewa’s. They cultivate small fields of Indian corn, potatoes, and various kinds of pulse (vegetables), and they follow hunting and fishing in summer. In winter, the greater part of them retire to the most favorable situations for hunting and making sugar, where they remain till the season for preparing to plant and sow their spring crop. In the marshes, they kill a great number of muskrats, ducks, and other game, and fish abound. All the expenses of the tribe are defrayed from the land payments. The agent requisitions for their presents and land payments. (William Jones, Asst. Supt., Indian Dept.)

Malcolm Cameron bought the timber rights at Sarnia Reserve. Once the land was denuded, much of it was rented to Whites for pasture, and the Indians farmed. 

Sarnia became known as Christian Village in the 1860s (Travers, 2015). The government built them log houses, but they preferred the wigwams and used the log structures for barns.

An annual fair was held from 1903 to the late 1930s. It was held on the Council grounds and featured horse races, livestock shows, exhibits of women’s handwork, and art. The Pow Wow has taken its place since 1962.


Kettle Point- Wiiwkwedong, mean “By the Bay”, or Bosanquet Indians. We have always played a significant role in the development of North American culture, some imposed by others and some by their own innovation.

Between 1776 and 1814, our warriors supported the British cause as loyal allies who fought and died to defend Canadian Territory.

Oshawnoo, one of the founding chiefs, a descendant of Tecumseh, received two medals: a King George III silver Chiefs medallion, dated 1814, and the second presented in 1860 at Sarnia. Oshawnoo and his brother Shignobick were survivors of the Battle of the Longwood’s, where Tecumseh died on the Thames near Chatham. They are said to have helped with Tecumseh’s burial.

“Our pattern of life depended upon getting to the resources where and when nature made them available to us. During the Iroquois Wars, we lived further to the north and moved south to recolonize our territories. Our technology, medicines, and foods sustained the early explorers and settlers. With our ongoing help and alliance, the establishment and colonization of Canada became possible. Today much of the world’s food supply is produced from plant breeds which were developed from our Indigenous crops. Many aspects of modern democracy were inspired from our traditional values. We are a generous people who have surrendered much” (Victor Gulewitsch, 1995).


Anderdon Reserve is at now Windsor, Ontario on Canard River near Amherstburg. The Huron Reserve was on the Detroit River in Ontario, Canada. The reserved areas of Moore, Shawanee, and Bear Creek were marshy areas where wild rice was gathered (Travers 2015).

A seven-thousand acre, wetland near Lake Wawanosh contained a two-acre cranberry marsh east of Point Edward and the Sarnia Flats where the Anishinabe camped and planted corn (Travers 2015).

The creation of the international border through our territories cut us off from many resources formerly enjoyed. Independence was limited and our options were few. Our people remained loyal to Britain and had to remove themselves to territory within Canada’s borders and give up use of their lands and resources within the U.S.A. Some cross border, access was possible for a few years.

But by 1830, in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, and Wisconsin, the U.S. calvary was actively hunting down our people. Faced with extermination or forcible removal to the Southwest, many of the families which lived on the American side sought refuge with their friends and allies in Canada. By 1839, a number of related families from Wisconsin, had settled with the few Chippewa families who resided at Kettle and Stony Points. Numerous others from Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan joined over the course of the last century. Many moved on to other Anishinabek communities.

We were denied the right to vote until 1950 in provincial elections and 1960 in federal elections.

Sarnia, Kettle Point – Wiiwkwedong, and Stony Point – Aazhoodena were classified as a single band until 1919, when Sarnia became separate.

In 1927 and 1928, speculators used unscrupulous tactics to gain 83,000 acres at Kettle and Stoney Point.


Ipperwash, meaning “Upper Wash”, lies between Kettle Point and Aux Sable – Stoney Point Reserves.

Ipperwash Provincial Park was created in 1932 on land from the front of Stony Point Reserve Beach. It was purchased in 1936 (Ipperwash Commission of Inquiry Historical Background,, www).

The government Department of National Defense borrowed our land for an advanced military training facility for troops headed to Hitler’s Europe under the War Measures Act in 1942.

In February 1942, the government wanted the land, and by March, engineers were drilling test wells without permission, without a vote, and against advice from the Department of Indian Affairs. The surrender vote took place on April 1, 1942 with the land to be returned after the war. By July, the people were moved to swampland at Kettle Point. By the 1960s, Camp Ipperwash was used for cadet training and free camping for military personnel. The lawyer hired to fight for a lease was threatened and stonewalled by federal officials in the Department of Indian Affairs and the Department of Justice. This caused animosity, resentment, and feelings of injustice within the band.

The Stoney people were evicted from their 2,440 acres of farm lands, and their homes bulldozed. They were forcibly relocated to Kettle Point. There was much frustration, our sacred burial sites were there. In 1993, we had a picnic and occupied the land. There were several altercations with OPP disguised as campers.

In February 1994, the government closed Camp Ipperwash and announced the eventual return of the land to the Chippewas of Kettle and Stony Point after 53 years of unlawful occupation.

We had a peaceful, nonviolent protest on Labor Day of 1995 at Military Camp Ipperwash. In September, a sniper killed unarmed protester, Dudley George, 38 years old, with three shots. He was born in Sarnia in 1957. A riot squad was deployed; a riot ensued.

The Judge ruled that the continued occupancy was ‘Spurious and without substance’. After years of waiting, the land was returned in 2007 to the original owners. It was formally signed over in 2009, after numerous attempts to have it returned.

Nearly all the lands and inland waterways in Ontario are subject to treaties between first nations and the British and Canadian governments. These treaties are not relics of the past. They are living agreements, and the understandings on which they are based continue to have the full force of law in Canada today. (Missisauga, Eagle Tribe)

There are 1,000 members on the reserve and 900 off of it.

On September 19, 2015, after 73 years, the land at Ipperwash, the 2,211 acres appropriated by the federal government in 1942 under the War Measures Act, was officially returned. A settlement of 95 million dollars will be made to the families affected, 20 million of which will be for affected families, compensation and 70 million will be set aside for future development. The land is to be cleaned up of pollutants and debris and all military buildings are to be demolished and removed to finish work begun in 2013.

Kettle Point Reserve is 2,100 acres. There are stones, or concretians, that are perfectly rounded here. Thus, the name Kettle Point. These rare stones are “Thunderbird Eggs”. Chert is also found on the shores. There are shale beds here also.

Aux Sable or Stoney Point Reserve – Aashoodenong, meaning “the other side of town” – is the sister community of Kettle Point.

Our traditions have persisted for millennia, long before Canada existed at all. Our small territories have sustained us through times of change and link us to our colorful past. We have preserved much of our past in oral stories and legends. We have rediscovered details of the past through ongoing archival research.

The Kettles are concretions of calcite crystals which literally grow. These boulders are not found at any other Canadian location and have always been a natural wonder.

Victor Gulewitsch (1995) was the author of the publication The Chippewas of Kettle and Stony Point, Historical Claims Commission Research Office. The above paragraphs are adapted from his writings.

The Flint Bed was a reef; the flint broke from the reef in pieces small enough for a man to carry, them and then it was chipped into smaller articles (Patricia Orange, Lambton Co. Ontario History).

Chief Ashkebahoreguad was War Chief of the Chippewas and a nephew of Tecumseh. He was a signer of the Treaty of 1827. Many of his descendants live at Kettle Point Reserve.

The Chippewa of Kettle and Stony Point were called “Aux Sable” or Sable in the early 1800s during the early post-treaty period on most documents.


Sombra means “shade”. The reserve at Sombra was for the Shawnee – Shawanese – British Loyalists to live on after the wars. Sombra was once known as Shawnee Township. This 92,000-acre reserve north of Walpole Island was squatted upon and has been sold. The Shawnee lived on Sombra Reserve after 1812 as British United Empire Loyalists, the land was ceded by a treaty by McKee, the Indian agent (P. Orange). Mckee made verbal promises to the Indians that were not kept. By illegal and deceptive means, the land was granted to settlers in the 1840s. This was treaty number six (Adapted from Travers, 2015).

Shawnee means “Southerners”, Algonquin-speaking people from Ohio. The Shawnee were driven from Ohio, West Virginia, and Western Pennsylvania. They then moved to Tennessee, South Carolina, Eastern Pennsylvania, and Southern Illinois, then to Indiana. They were neighbors of the Miami, Delaware, Ottawa, and Wyandotte. They had rich hunting grounds. Chilicothe, now Ohio, was the capital and castle of the Shawnee’s (Patricia Orange, Ontario 1975). Near Chilicothe are many mound groups of many shapes.

The Sombra lands (the Shawnee Refugee Reserve) were part of the Chenail Escarte. Thomas McKee explained at a council involving thirteen Ojibwa chiefs that “‘the King wanted this area not for his own use, but for his Indian children and you yourselves [. . .] will be welcome to come and live therein.’ The thirteen Ojibwa Chiefs agreed [. . .] receiving many trade goods, 772 knives, 278 pounds of powder, 2100 pounds of shot and ball, 26 rifles, 3,456 tobacco pipes, 333 kettles, and 1498 blankets.”

 This kept the Indians loyal to the British. The area was not reserved for the Indians but was opened to White settlers. The Ojibwa were pleased with the goods received and the British concern for the displaced Ojibwa allies. But they were not aware that they were surrendering the land for White settlement. It was this type of Machiavellian diplomacy which permitted the early peaceful settlement of Southern Ontario.

The Lower St. Clair Reserve on the Detroit River was called Huron Christian Reserve or Moore. It was ceded in 1800 in Treaty Number 12 to the British government.

Many treaties were filled with complicated jargon, were ambiguous, incomplete, sloppily conducted, and badly recorded. The land descriptions were often vague or entirely missing. The territory often belonged to other bands. Some of the treaties did not express a single boundary; there were blank deeds. The Indians were cheated in so-called Walking Treaties, the distance a man could travel in a day (Adapted from Schmaltz).

The Upper Canada Legislative Assembly believed the Indian lands that were not in possession of, could be settled. This meant the hunting grounds and fishing grounds. That the pent-up Europeans, were lawfully entitled to take possession and settle thereon. The Indians families had exclusive rights to hunt and fish in specific geographical areas; any Indian encroachment on that land could suffer death as a result (Adapted from, Schmaltz).

Many promises were made to the Indians to protect their lands. The settler squatters were considered by the government as an “uncontrollable force of Natural Law”. These false promises then led to more devious land cessions and removal and concentration on reserves. The Indian agents were very ineffective in helping the Indians. This seemed to be the plan to keep them downtrodden and ill informed, secluded and the prey of White officials and their cronies (Travers).

The Indians sold their lands to alleviate suffering of the people and settle accounts with merchants (Travers 2015).

The position of Indian agent was based on patronage; many were given appointments for past military service, very few were farmers. All were Tories; many were members of the Family Compact. Most were corrupt thieves. The Indian agents used many ways to frustrate the Indians attempts to earn income. They created their own rules to oppose any of the Indians’ attempts at being self-sufficient. Everything had to have his approval. Supplies could not be bought and products could not be sold without his signature. Band Council meetings could not take place without his authorization, and all minutes needed his approval.

“The Indian agent had complete authority over every aspect of our lives. Permission was necessary to leave the reserve for a short period of time. There were no legal rights” (D. Plain).

Most of the Indian agents were corrupt, keeping Indian funds for themselves. There were a few who had the Indians’ interests at heart. Froome Talfourd became Superintendent in 1858 and discovered great abuse and extortion. He was one of the few honest and fair people in government. Since being under self-rule, much had been accomplished. At Walpole, the Snye Bridge, a central school, a highway, a day nursery, a works department, farming, a Council Hall, sports and recreation, parks, and hockey facilities have been built.

Many Indians bought land to stay in their homeland, and many neighbors and friends bought land to help their Indian neighbors and friends stay in their homelands (Tanner).

In 1819, the Treaty of Saginaw ceded six million acres of land, the Saginaw Chippewa-Ojibwe refused to move and sell the land where their ancestors were buried, where they lived and had their homes. They retained 16 band reserves and a large number, of individual lands. Also, the right to hunt, fish, and gather on the ceded lands. The treaty was made by compulsion, threats, bribery, intimidation, and large quantities of liquor, which was illegal under Trade and Intercourse Laws.

A fort was built at Saginaw to control any dissent. The fort was left after two years of mosquitos and swamp fever.

Coal was found and mined in Michigan – 46 million tons – the Saginaw Valley and Jackson being the mining areas. There were 160 coal mines in the Saginaw Valley. Oil and gas were found in Michigan lands; there are over 14,000 oil wells in Michigan and over 13,000 gas wells.

In 1826, water levels swelled and many Anishinabe and settlers were forced to move to places with a higher water table (Travers, 2015).

In 1831, Lewis Cass moved to Washington as Secretary of War. Henry R. Schoolcraft was appointed superintendent of the Indian Agency. Cass and Schoolcraft worked to acquire Indian land and move the Indians out West. Lewis Cass was the man who devised and implemented the Indian Removal Act with Andrew Jackson, President of the U.S.

In 1830, the Graduation Act, a land sale scheme, was passed by Congress. In 1841, the Distribution and Preemption Act made the Graduation Act permanent. This act lowered the price of land the longer the length of time it was on the market. The price of reservation land dropped from $5 per acre to 25 cents an acre. The failure of U.S. banks by 1839 caused land sales to crash, the price drastically reduced.

Speculators purchased large numbers of military warrants for land, which were received as partial payment from veterans.

Check back soon! Cheryl will be covering part 2 of reserves and Indian lands.



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This book came about after a visit to the library where I could not find local Indian History. I grew up in the St. Clair and Black River area of Michigan, fishing on all the area waters with my father and brothers. I loved books, libraries, horses and puzzles; I was not a tech person. I love to cook, garden, travel, and camp. I was determined to find and share the truth. This has been a difficult journey in every way. I give you, the reader, the truth and blessings I also reaped. Cheryl Morgan

Cheryl Morgan lives near Port Huron, Michigan with her husband Tom and dog Fred.

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