Thunder Bay

Negotiated land claim settlement reached between Ottawa, Ontario, Mitaanjigamiing First Nation

The federal government has announced the settlement of a land claim with a northwestern Ontario First Nation whose history dates back nearly a century-and-a-half.

Community will eventually add 1,600 hectares, receive $25M

Mitaanjigamiing First Nation Chief Janice Henderson says the settlement of a long-standing land claim will be 'transformational' for the community and its future. (CBC)

The federal and provincial governments are celebrating the settlement of a decades-old land claim with a northwestern Ontario First Nation, but the history surrounding that claim dates back nearly a century-and-a-half.

"I'm elated and the community [is] as well," Mitaanjigamiing Chief Janice Henderson told CBC News on Tuesday. "It means a lot to us because it's been something that we've been working on for many years."

The "transformational" agreement between Ottawa, the province of Ontario and the First Nation was formally announced Monday after the three parties signed on to it over the past six months. Mitaanjigamiing is about 55 kilometres northeast of Fort Frances.

Under the negotiated settlement, the First Nation will see just over 1,600 hectares of provincial Crown land eventually added to its reserve, located on the western shore of Rainy Lake. In addition, the community will receive about $25 million; most of that will be paid by Ottawa.
Mitaanjigamiing is located about 55 kilometres northeast of Fort Frances, in northwestern Ontario. (Google)

In its land claim, Mitaanjigamiing had argued the First Nation did not receive the quantity or quality of land to which it was entitled when Treaty 3 was signed back in 1873. Negotiations to resolve the dispute began about 10 years ago, according to federal officials, although Henderson said the claim itself dates back to the 1980s when her late father, Allan Henderson, was chief.

Until the late 80s, when the community's citizens began to build the current settlement, Mitaanjigamiing's members didn't have a permanent home. For decades, members were either temporarily located on an island in Rainy Lake, which lacked basic amenities like electricity, running water or a sanitation system, or were dispersed throughout the region.

Mitaanjigamiing also settled a much smaller land claim in 1990, Henderson said.

Settlement to help grow the community

It was an historic day- Mitaanjigamiing Chief Janice Henderson

The community voted to place most of the announced settlement money in a trust, Henderson said, which will greatly help development over the short and long terms.

"The funds will be there, not only for our present community but for future generations," she said. "A decision was made by the community that we have that in place, so 50 years down the road, there will still be money for the future generations."

Mitaanjigamiing will soon be doing extensive community planning to help identify priorities.

"Just as a guide for the chief and councils to determine how the funds should be ... utilized," Henderson said. "What do those funds go into, does it go into daycare, more housing, improving our road into the community, whatever the needs are, what our priorities are."

She added that the First Nation can also better develop economic opportunities.

"It was an historic day," Henderson said of Monday's announcement.