Column: Resource-driven treaties often botched – by Tom Villemaire (Sudbury Star – August 22, 2017)

A copper strike in northeastern Ontario is one such example

In the late 1840s, the near north Ontario experienced a copper mining boom, but it didn’t come without problems.

The use of copper was exploding, thanks to the nascent industries of hydro-electric power and telegraphy, both of which drove demand for copper through the roof. This all came together in the 1830s — in 1831, Michael Faraday created an electric generator and in 1832 Pavel Schilling came up with the earliest working version of an electrical telegraph.

All this was taking place in Europe, but the technology — and the demand for copper — would soon affect the world, including the remote areas of what would become the province of Ontario.

By the late 1840s, the area around Lake Huron and Lake Superior was crawling with prospectors searching for the valuable ore. All of this area was First Nations land — there were no treaties with the local bands — like the one on the Mississagi River, not far from where Sault Ste. Marie is today. That band was led by Ponekeosh, an Ojibwa chief, who lived here with his people, the Mississauga Ojibwa.

Until a decade or so before, the only commercial interest of any size in Northern Ontario was the Hudson Bay Company and the fur trade, heavily dependent on partnerships with area First Nations. About 3,000 First Nations people lived in the area of Ontario along the north shore of Lakes Huron and Superior, living in more than 20 different bands or communities, each with its own chief.

But now, in the states bordering Lakes Superior, Michigan and Huron, mining was booming. Non-native prospectors began exploring the Northern Ontario area for potential mine sites.

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