Manitoulin Island Treaty 1862 | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Manitoulin Island Treaty 1862

The Manitoulin Island Treaty of 1862 was signed on 6 October 1862. The treaty sought to open approximately 23,000 islands within the Manitoulin Island chain for European Canadian settlement and resource extraction. It is also known as the McDougall Treaty or Treaty 94. The document saw the creation of five reserves under the treaty terms. The people residing on Manitoulin Island’s eastern peninsula refused to participate in the treaty process. This refusal led to Wiikwemkoong’s lands remaining unceded (see Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory). As a result, those lands are governed by the terms of the 1836 Manitoulin Island Treaty.


Following the 1836 Manitoulin Island Treaty and the rejection of Sir Francis Bond Head’s removal policies, Upper Canada re-engaged with its efforts to Christianize and “civilize” First Nations people. In 1838, Manitowaning was reopened as a government and Anglican mission post. The Catholics opened a mission site at Wiikwemkoong, across the bay from Manitowaning, in the same year. Annual present ceremonies continued to be conducted at Manitowaning. Meanwhile, the government Indian agent encouraged First Nations to relocate to or settle on Manitoulin Island. During this period, some Odawa, Ojibwe and Potawatomi peoples fled to Upper Canada and Manitoulin Island. They did this to avoid removal policies in the United States. A few individuals from various Odawa and Ojibwe communities also moved to the island, either permanently or seasonally. Overall, First Nations never moved there en masse. By 1860, approximately 1,000 First Nations people had permanently settled on the island. Additional First Nations people accessed the islands on a seasonal basis.

In 1858, Superintendent General of Indian Affairs R.T. Pennefather concluded Head’s 1836 proposal to collect First Nations people on Manitoulin Island was a failure. Pennefather claimed that a lack of “permanent” Indigenous settlement on the island, beyond a few homes at Wiikwemkoong and Manitowaning, proved this failure. Pennefather referred to the 1836 treaty as a surrender. Importantly, First Nations had refused Head’s offer to settle the island under the Crown’s protection. Additionally, increasing presence of commercial and independent Euro-Canadian fishers and fishing regulations created issues. Indigenous protests throughout the 1840s and 1850s were tied to the fishery. These issues required a solution. Finally, by the mid 1850s, requests from settlers for land added to the increased demand for access to Manitoulin Island.

In early October 1861, two treaty commissioners, W. R. Bartlett and Charles Lindsay, arrived at Manitowaning. On 5 October, Bartlett and Lindsay addressed the assembled First Nations people. They stated that the failure of approximately 9,300 First Nations people from Upper Canada to relocate to the island voided the terms of the 1836 Manitoulin Island Treaty. They also told the people that based on this failure, the Crown could no longer reserve the island exclusively for them. Finally, the commissioners offered to create reserves based on 25 acres per family formula. After listening, Manitoulin Islands’ Chiefs and people rejected the notion of a treaty and a land survey. An unnamed warrior told the commissioners that “this island of which I speak I consider my body. I don’t want one of my legs or arms to be taken from me.” Upset at the treaty offer’s rejection, the commissioners did note that the survey would be conducted regardless of the First Nations’ wishes.

Over the winter of 1861 and into 1862, Indian Agent George Ironside Jr. continued to talk about the necessity of a treaty. During this time, he also attempted to determine potential Indigenous claims. His reports spoke of an Indigenous willingness to entertain a treaty. During this time, the islands’ survey was completed by the colonial surveyor, John Stoughton Denis. This served to increase settler demand for the island. Ironside and Denis’s reports led to the creation of a second treaty commission by the fall of 1862.

Treaty Terms & Negotiations

Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory

At this time, William McDougall was the superintendent general of Indian Affairs and William Prosperous Spragge was the deputy superintendent. They were appointed as commissioners for the treaty. They arrived at Manitowaning in October 1862. On 4 October, McDougall and Spragge convened a council of leading Chiefs on Manitoulin Island to take a surrender. Once again, the Chiefs rejected the treaty. Undeterred, the commissioners recessed the council. They stated they would meet with anyone willing to discuss terms. During this recess, the commissioners became aware of and exploited divisions within the Manitoulin Island community. Specifically, they realized that the people from Wiikwemkoong were adamantly opposed. People from Wiikwemkoong made up the majority of Chiefs present.

McDougall decided to treat with those willing to undertake a surrender. He then excluded Wiikwemkoong from the negotiations. Apparently, the commissioners also made liberal use of alcohol to encourage acceptance of government demands. The remaining bands, largely from the western part of Manitoulin Island, agreed to a treaty. This treaty guaranteed them reserves based on 100 acres per family and 50 acres per single individual, a cash payment, equal access to the fishery and monies accruing from the land sales.

The issue of Wiikwemkoong’s exclusion from the treaty was dealt with in sections 7 and 8 of the treaty. McDougall’s treaty noted that the “portion of the island easterly of Heywood Sound and Manitoulin Gulf, and the Indians now residing there” would continue to be under the Crown’s protection and the terms of the 1836 Manitoulin Island Treaty. Additionally, he allowed for First Nations not party to the treaty to “declare their willingness to accede to the present agreement in all respects.”

In the aftermath of the treaty, Wiikwemkong expelled those who spoke in favour of the agreement. Others who opposed the treaty moved to Wiikwemkoong. In the years following the treaty, Wiikwemkoong continued to oppose the treaty.

Legacy & Significance

The 1862 treaty created the six First Nations communities on Manitoulin Island — M'Chigeeng, Sheguiandah, Sheshegwaning, Aundeck Omni Kaning and Zhiibaahaasing First Nations. It also established the Wiikwemkoong unceded territory. It opened Manitoulin Island for non-Indigenous settlement. Yet, the treaty left a legacy of questions concerning Manitoulin Island and the island chain. Importantly, Wiikwemkoong’s refusal to and exclusion from the 1862 treaty process created multiple issues. First, the purposeful exclusion of Wiikwemkoong leadership creates questions about the nature of the surrender and the overall underlying title of the island. In particular, the 1836 Manitoulin Island Treaty placed the entire island into collective ownership. Second, the boundary between the unceded lands of Wiikwemkoong and the rest of the island were not surveyed. Third, the islands adjacent to Wiikwemkoong were not surrendered in 1862. Fourth, Wiikwemkoong, as non-parties to the treaty, could not and did not consent to the creation of their reserve or its boundaries. It was a creation of the government. Fifth, Wiikwemkoong never acquiesced to non-Indigenous fisheries control.

Other questions arise from the collective nature of the 23,000-island chain’s Indigenous ownership under the 1836 treaty. People residing on the mainland accessed many of these islands seasonally. The use of these lands and adjacent waters could not be surrendered by the resident Chiefs. Yet, these communities were not included or consulted in 1862.

These and other concerns about the 1862 treaty terms, the survey and its relationship to the 1836 treaty have resulted in contemporary land claims. In 1990, a settlement was reached between the province of Ontario and Aundeck Omni Kaning, M’Chigeeng, Sheguiandah, Sheshegwaning and Zhiibaahaasing First Nations concerning unsold surrendered lands from the 1862 treaty. Ontario, Canada and the First Nations are still working on resolving issues connected to this settlement. Likewise, in 1997, Wiikwemkoong submitted a claim for the unsurrendered islands adjacent to the community. By 2022, a settlement was reached for “provincial Crown land within the area of the boundary claim and alternative provincial Crown land on the mainland and Philip Edward Island and surrounding islands, are being proffered as replacements for patented lands (privately owned) that cannot be returned to Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory.”

Further Reading

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