During a conference on Treaty 9 held in Kashechewan First Nation in 1987, respected Elder James Wesley of Attawapiskat recalled words of a man who was present when treaty commissioners met with First Nations in 1905.
“Henry Reuben says he was sitting there and saw them writing the important things,” Wesley is quoted as saying at the time. “There was someone there that did the writing. So this is what is lost. Maybe one day it will show up.”
Eight years later, the diaries of the three commissioners were discovered and, according to Mushkegowuk Council, verify what Elders have been saying all along: the commissioners made oral promises that are not reflected in the treaty. The diaries serve as the key piece of evidence in a lawsuit being launched by Mushkegowuk against the Ontario and Canadian government.
A statement of claim sent to the Ontario Superior Court on July 4 by Mushkegowuk Council asserts that the governments of Ontario and Canada have “no power or right under Treaty 9 to unilaterally restrict or extinguish” the harvesting rights of the Mushkegowuk people by authorizing resource companies to develop on their traditional territory.