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Webequie First Nation

The Founding of Webequie

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Our Story

Originally, most Aboriginal people were nomadic, or semi-nomadic. The land was a gift to them from the Creator to live in and explore. Travel was also necessary to follow wild game and the migration routes. With the encroachment of european "civilization" however, stationary residence became more prevalent in Ontario's north.

The people of Webequie originate from all over Northwestern Ontario, and permanent residence in the community is officially recorded as far back as circa 1800, and verbal history goes back to the early eighteenth century. Families of current residents range for many hundreds of miles, but are most prevalent within a 250 mile range. Webequie has always been a traditional meeting and gathering place known throughout all of Northern Ontario. It remains to this day one of the better hunting and fishing areas in the province of Ontario. Because of it's traditional origins, to this day Webequie has familial ties to most Northwestern Ontario communities. 

Around the turn of the century, Treaty Comissioners arrived in the area to "sort out" who the people were, and where their traditional area of residence was. While all Aboriginal people had from the dawn of time been free to reside and move where they wanted to across the vast territory, the function of the Government Comissioners was to  define and restrict the locations for Aboriginals to reside. Treaty Commisioners encouraged designated settlement areas close to the existing trading posts and Missions. Other Bands appear to have taken the Comissioners explanations that reserves were to be "refuges from the white man", and they settled in locations that were extremely remote. Aboriginal consent to many early actions of the Government is a matter of debate.

An devastatingly unfortunate result of the "sorting out" process was that the Comissioners erroniously designated Webequie people as belonging to the community of Fort Hope, aproximately 80 kilometers to the south-east of Webequie, and not their own homeland. After the designation, Webequie residents were documented as being Fort Hope Band members, even though they already had occupied their own home for hundreds of years. The designation of the people belonging to the Fort Hope Band remained in effect for many years. It was not until May 1985 that the Government recognized Webequie as a distinctive Band, and allocated Band Registration number 240.

However, having a Band Registration number did not give Webequie reserve status, or many benefits. It was still only recognized as a settlement, a municipal entity. It was not until May 12, 1994 that Webequie received a remission order by Order-In-Council for the purpose of GST tax exemption and also for income tax exemptions for "Indian Status" employees, as applicable to other First Nations with reserve status. This order was a major breakthrough for Webequie as it showed that the Government was starting to recognize the inherent rights of the residents. But still, Webequie was not recognized as a Reserve.

The people were not to be denied. The arduous goal of full recognition remained unobtained. The leaders of Webequie continued to negotiate with the Government and seek their inherent rights. The process was very long and not an easy matter. Negotiations for reserve status were tedious, difficult and very costly to the community, both personally and financially. To this day, the financial cost and implications are still being felt by Webequie. Funding for Webequie to pay the financial cost of negotiatng their own inherent rights was not part of the process.

Finally, on February 15, 2001 Webequie received official reserve status by Order-In-Council P.C. 2001. This designation carried some benefits that were previously unavailiable to the community. But the financial cost incurred to reach this point was substantial. As well, Webequie had to, and still has to "catch up" from many years of making due with less than other First Nations have received.

Webequie's current Chief and Council and Band Office staff is composed of a young, vibrant, educated group dedicated to working to the best of their ability to benefit their people. Advancement and betterment of conditions for their people is the primary goal of this government. Given the opportunity to continue their endeavors, this First Nation's Chief and Council will ensure that there is a bright future for Webequie.

 

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