A massive Ottawa housing development project is being awarded to an Algonquin group and has chiefs in an uproar because they say the group is not Algonquin.
On Jan. 26 the City of Ottawa approved a pocket of 445 hectares of land for the development of a new suburb.
The new suburb will house up to 45,000 people once completed.
“We caught wind of this last week, late last week,” said Dylan Whiteduck, chief of Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg, an Algonquin community 100 kms north of Ottawa in Quebec.
He says the deal is being pushed through very quickly with what he called an “incorporated body called the Algonquins of Ontario.”
Although the city says they like the deal because it is right next to a major highway and it’s across from the Amazon warehouse which could mean jobs, the main reason is reconciliation.
“Whereas city council is committed to reconciliation with local Indigenous communities and recognizes the importance of working with the Algonquins of Ontario as a meaningful opportunity towards achieving that goal,” Coun. Tim Teirney said at a city committee meeting in January.
Whiteduck agreed that we are in a time of reconciliation and collaboration is a healthy part of that but he stressed that collaboration needs to be between the right parties.
“The Algonquin’s of Ontario are a formed group of not-recognized-status Indigenous people. They claim to be indigenous,” Whiteduck said.
The Kitigan Zibi chief goes on to explain AOO ancestry can go back 300-400 years.
The group is made up of individuals from 10 communities and only one of which is a recognized First Nation, the Pikwakanagan First Nation about 100 kms northwest of Ottawa in Ontario.
All Members of Pikwakanagan First Nation are automatically included as beneficiaries, anyone else has to fill out an enrollment application form.
Wendy Jocko is the Chief of Pikwakanagan and the Algonquin negotiation representative with the Algonquins of Ontario.
In a written statement she tells APTN the AOO have worked diligently to strengthen the criteria for enrolment in the Algonquins of Ontario claim, requiring anyone who wishes to enrol to demonstrate a sustained connection to the original historical collectives.
Jacko said her First Nation is taking an inclusive and nation-building approach to their future.
In addition to this new deal with Ottawa, the AOO is currently in a title claim deal with the governments of Canada and Ontario worth $300 million.
Jacko maintained the AOO have title to the land and their ancestry does not go as far back as the Algonquin Chiefs are claiming.
“We are disappointed by the decision of our relatives in Quebec to publicly air their opinions about our transformational development project ‘Tewin,’” said Jacko’s statement. “The rhetoric that advances Indian status or federal recognition as the only true markers of Indigeneity is tired, archaic and perpetuates colonialism. Non-status Algonquins are “real” Algonquins.”
Jacko said many of the members enrolled with the AOO are connected to current families in Pikwakanagan and many even have status under the Indian Act.
On Feb. 4 Algonquin Chiefs put out a press release condemning the new Ottawa project.
The press release was titled, “The real Algonquins furious at not being consulted by Ottawa.”
“By including the Tewin project lands into the limits of its urban plan to please the corporation known as the AOO, the city of Ottawa put at risk the principle of reconciliation with the Algonquin Nation,” the press release read. It was accredited to Grand Chief Verna Polson of the Algonquin Nation Tribal Council, Whiteduck of Kitigan Zibi and Lance Haymond, chief of the Kebaowek First Nation.