Indigenous Land Map Project

Hello and welcome, my name is Daniel Ruffolo. I was born in Ottawa Ontario in 1984, the child of a first-generation Italian immigrant father who arrived in Canada in 1956 as a child, and a mother with European background in England, Scotland and Ireland whose family came to Canada more  generations ago than my family has record. I’ve moved my home many times in my life, twenty-three times by my count so far, but I’ve always remained in Ontario. I’m glad to have been given cause to research the roots of this region I’ve travelled widely, and to be able to share that information with you here today.

Cobourg Ontario

The first location I’ve chosen is Cobourg. My family moved to Cobourg when I was two years old, and several elements of my family still live there today. My parents divorced shortly after our arrival in Cobourg, though both parents remained in the area for my sister’s and my childhoods. Of my twenty-three moves in my life, thirteen of them were all inside Cobourg and the immediate area. So instead of thinking of a particular home as ‘where I grew up’ my only consistent anchor was the town itself. I’ve joked that you can’t travel for more than five minutes in any part of Cobourg without passing a place where I lived, and it means that the whole town, more than for most people, is alive with memories of different parts of my life. I’ve moved away and moved back, my sister moved away and moved back, my mother moved away after we graduated high school and ended up moving back as well. It’s remained a focal point in my life and will always hold a place in my heart.

[Img – Monk’s Cove in Cobourg, at the end of the street where we first lived]

Sault Ste. Marie Ontario

My second location is Sault Ste. Marie. I had moved to Windsor after high school to go to university. I arrived as a double major in English and classical studies, and in three years had changed to just classics, to philosophy, onto academic probation twice, from full to part time, and then finally dropped out. After a year off, and some occupational therapy, I concluded that the most important thing to do was to finish my degree. I had made several close friends in Windsor whose families were from the Sault, who had recently moved back there. They had bought a house that had several extra rooms, and Algoma University College was there, and had a philosophy program. They generously offered me space in their home, and I transferred and move up there. Sault Ste. Marie became both my first experience living with friends instead of family or strangers, and the place I began to learn the real truths about Indigenous relationships with Canada and Canadians. Algoma campus is built around a residential school building and contained many museum-like elements, with original documents and photographs, and really helped to raise my awareness.

[Img Algoma Campus, Former location of Shingwauk Residential School]

The History and Present of Cobourg

Cobourg is situated on the traditional lands of the Mississaugas of Rice Lake, Mud Lake and Scugog. The land was first ‘obtained’ in one of the Johnson-Butler purchases, and was signed via a series of councils, one with Sir John Johnson in 1787, and one with Lt. Colonel John Butler in 1788, giving the purchase its name, and then confirmed in the mid 1790s with the Lieutenant Governor at the time, John Graves Simcoe. It is sometimes called the ‘Gunshot Treaty’ as one of the terms of the treaty gave land to the Europeans out to the range where a gunshot could be heard fired from the shore of Lake Ontario. This land was then later swept up again by the Williams Treaty of 1923, asserting even stronger control over the land by Canadians, in exchange for an absolute pittance of financial compensation that didn’t come close to the land’s value. The overall treaty area is home to the Alderville and Hiawatha First Nations, though as is common for these treaties, their dedicated reservation land is a miniscule proportion of the area covered under the treaty.

[The area covered by the Gunshot Treaty (green) with Cobourg marked]

The present-day Indigenous population of Cobourg is extremely low. As of the 2016 census, the entire population of Cobourg that identified themselves on the census as Indigenous was 435 people, just under 2.5% of the population of the town. Of the 435 Indigenous people in Cobourg, 160 were registered or treaty Indians, and only 80 claimed only Indigenous ancestry. Of those who defined their First Nations ancestry specifically, Cobourg was home to 10 Algonquin, 10 Cree, 10 Mi’kmaq, 15 Mohawk, 25 Ojibway, and 150 people who listed having First Nations ancestry not included in the options. 105 listed Metis ancestry and 25 listed Inuit ancestry. Interestingly from the census data, several hundred people in Cobourg identified themselves as having Indigenous ancestry but did not identify themselves as -being Indigenous- for census purposes.

There is a dearth of actual dedicated services for Indigenous people in Cobourg though it’s not overly surprising both since Cobourg is small, and is lacking in all kinds of services just generally. But Cobourg is home to a local office of the ​Dnaagdawenmag Binnoojiiyag Child & Family Services an organization dedicated to helping support Indigenous families, in conjunction with the Highland Shores Children’s Aid Society.

The History and Present of Sault Ste. Marie

Sault Ste. Marie is situated on the traditional lands of the Chippewa Anishnaabeg, and the treaty that covers that portion of land is the Robinson-Huron treaty that was signed in 1850 in Sault Ste Marie, between the Treaty Commissioner William Robinson and several Anishnaabeg chiefs. That treaty covered a huge swath of Northern Ontario extending from the Sault area all the way east to the Quebec border. The overall treaty area includes several First Nation reserves including Matachewan First Nation, Temagami First Nation, Wahnapitae First Nation, Nipissing First Nation, Atikameksheng Anishnawbek First Nation, Wikwemikong First Nation, Whitefish River First Nation, Sagamok Anishnawbek First Nation, Serpent River First Nation, Mississauga First Nation, Thessalon First Nation, Garden River First Nation, and Batchawana First Nation. The latter two of these, Garden River and Batchawana are the ones near Sault Ste. Marie and have overlap with Sault Ste. Marie city limits.

[A portion of the area covered by the Robinson-Huron Treaty including Sault Ste. Marie]

Unlike Cobourg, and more common for Northern Ontario, the Indigenous population of Sault Ste. Marie is over 11% of the city’s 71,880 residents. Identifying most often as Ojibway or Cree among First Nations populations, there is also a strong Metis presence there as well. Notably, the Batchawana First Nation is directly adjacent to and slightly overlapping with Sault Ste. Marie and is home to around 1000 people living on reserve, and another 2000 living off-reserve.

There are more resources available in Sault Ste. Marie for Indigenous peoples, which makes sense due to the much larger population of Indigenous peoples living there. One excellent looking resource is the Indian Friendship Centre in Sault Ste. Marie which offers a whole suite of support service to Indigenous peoples, including legal aid, housing, mental health and addiction and also serves as a contact point for activities and community between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples to help foster understanding and growth and hopefully, wider support in the community.


Chippewas and Mississaugas Williams Treaties First Nations

Ontario Government – Map of Ontario Treaties and reserves

Government of Canada – Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada

Stats Canada Census Data for Population Breakdowns

The Canadian Encyclopedia – Williams Treaties

The Indian Friendship Centre in Sault Ste. Marie

Dnaagdawenmag Binnoojiiyag Child & Family Services

Author: Dan Ruffolo

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