Cree land claim includes Algonquin territory, chiefs say
Rights to approx. 48,000 square kms of land in northeastern Ont. disputed by 3 First Nations
Two Algonquin chiefs say they were shocked by a recent announcement that the James Bay Cree Nation had filed a lawsuit seeking title to a huge piece of land in northeastern Ontario.
''Our right to this land has been formally recognized, which makes the initiation of such proceedings all the more shocking," stated Abitibiwinni chief David Kistabish in a press release.
"We received no forewarning nor a request to consult on this matter from the Cree authorities prior to them submitting this request."
The Cree lawsuit, which has been filed with Ontario's Superior Court of Justice, names the federal and Ontario governments and claims damages of $495 million in relation to the lands, which extend from the bottom of James Bay, south to Abitibi Lake on the Ontario-Quebec border.
The suit claims the two governments have "unjustifiably infringed" on the Cree Nation's title and rights — and breached their trust and obligations to the First Nation.
But chiefs from the Abitibiwinni and Wahgoshig First Nations say their title to much of the same land has already been recognized by signing Treaty No. 9 in 1906 and 1908, respectively.
"It is impossible for us not to react to this threat, and we will use all the means at our disposal to protect our ancestral rights to this land," stated Dave Babin, Chief of the Wahgoshig First Nation.
Despite the very public press release, the Algonquin chiefs say if the Cree are found to have any valid claim to the lands, they'd rather work out the issue directly between the three First Nations.
"If there is, in fact, an issue concerning overlapping territory, any acknowledgement of the Cree Nation's rights would have to be made only after an agreement had been reached with our own communities."
CBC News contacted the Grand Chief of the James Bay Cree Nation to comment on this story but have not yet received a response.