top of page

1798 Penetanguishene Harbour Purchase: A Continued History of Dishonourable Relations


(Above: 5 Week Blockade June 21 – July 28, 2019 of main entrance of Ontario’s assumed Awenda Provincial Park, Tiny Township. Hunting Grounds of Aisance Band not intended to be included in Penetanguishene Purchase, Crown Treaty 5)

“Brothers of the Western Nations, Sachems, Chiefs and Warriors; You have now been here for several days, during which time we have frequently met to renew and Strengthen our Engagements and you have made so many Promises of your Friendship and Attachment to the English that there now remains for us only to exchange the great Belt of the Covenant Chain that we may not forget our mutual Engagements.”

– Sir William Johnson, Superintendent of Indian Affairs, July 31, 1764

By: Kaikaikons, Atik Dodem (Johnny Hawk)

The Upper Canada Treaties between the British and Indigenous Nations in the 1790’s permitted the Crown to establish military bases using strategic waterways and trade routes within Indigenous Territories; Such Land Surrenders were only authorized after a founding Crown-Indigenous Constitutional Agreement was to be ratified. These initial treaties that help create the legal fiction that is Canada demonstrates how Crown Representatives have not always been honourable where Imperial Statutes and International Law continuously are negated in this Nation to Nation Relationship.


Ships Pics

Artwork by “Zig Zag” Warrior Publications

Before discussing any specific historic and current injustices at the hands of Settler Governments we must first address the established Crown and Indigenous Relationship that permitted the Crown and its Subjects to be within Indigenous Lands. This Relationship affirmed by Imperial Statutes set out Constitutional Principals for Settler Governments in which they continuously are in violation. The attempt by Settler Courts such as the Supreme Court of Canada to reverse existing Imperial Statutes and International law are acts of misprision of treason and fraud (1) and complicity of genocide (2) that reneges upon the crown’s legally binding undertaking of protection towards Indigenous Nations as its allies whereas these Settler Governments and its Courts continually negate the rule of law.

International Law regarding Indigenous Nations was first initiated by the Doctrine of Discovery where the so-called New World was gifted by a Papal Bull Inter Caetera (1493) for division among the Spanish and Portuguese. Non-Christian savages had no rights according to the papacy. Albeit this was later superseded by the Papal Bull Sublimis Deus (1537) which declares the Indigenous Peoples of the America’s to be rational beings with souls and asserted their right to liberty and property. (3)

In 1704 the case of the Mohegan Indians v. Connecticut (4) Queen Anne’s Order in Council of 1704, 1740, 1773 (5)acknowledged the Sovereignty of Indigenous Nations in the British Colonies and established the principal of independent and impartial adjudication for Indian land claims throughout British North America. It began with a Royal Petition from the Mohegan Indians to Queen Anne. The Mohegan complained that they had made a treaty with the Colony of Connecticut that Connecticut had misinterpreted as a total surrender of the entirety of the Mohegan land to the Colony. Queen Anne obliged to appoint an independent and impartial adjudicator in lieu of the courts of the offending governments. This Special Court and Orders in Council has never been repealed and is an Imperial Statute with the same standing as the 1763 Royal Proclamation.

In 1754-63 Anishinabek War Chief Obwandiyag (Pontiac) launched a campaign against the British with a loose confederation of tribes from the Great Lakes Region, Illinois Country and Ohio Country who were dissatisfied with British policies following the French and Indian War. In 1763 King George III issued a Royal Proclamation on October 7, 1763. This was an acknowlegdement that “several Nations or Tribes of Indians with whom we are connected.” (6) from the British recognized that outside the properly ceded colonies everything else belongs to the Indigenous Nations. The Proclamation explicitly states that Indigenous title has existed and continues to exist and that all land would be considered Indigenous land until ceded by treaty.

The Proclamation was directed to the Kings subjects yet it would have no authority if Peace was not secured in the Great Lakes region. Sir William Johnson the first Superintendent of Indian Affairs was charged with the task to secure such an alliance with Indigenous Nations. In July of 1764 he met with 2,000 Chiefs at Niagara Falls. The alliance was sealed by the use of Wampum Belts. The 1764 Treaty of Niagara confirmed and extended a nation-to-nation relationship between the Crown and Indigenous Peoples.

Anishinabek Scholar and Law Professor John Burrows asserts how the Royal Proclamation is in fact a Treaty as its is interwoven within the 1764 Niagara Treaty. This agreement at the start of the formal relationship between the British and First Nations, demonstrates the foundation of building constitutional principles of peace, friendship and respect, agreed to between the parties. (7)  At the 1764 event the two-row wampum belt was used by Indigenous nations to reflect their understanding of the Royal Proclamation and the Treaty as one of peace, friendship, respect, and non-interference in one another’s internal affairs.


Right to Left: Ojibway/Six Nations Friendship Belt, 5 Council Fire Belt, Dish with One Spoon BeltTHE BEAVER WARS AND BEAVER BOWLTHE BEAVER WARS AND BEAVER BOWL


The geographical area in question is what Settler Society now refers to as Simcoe County named after Upper Canada’s first Lieutenant Governer, John Graves Simcoe is located in the central portion of so called Southern Ontario. The first europeans to explore this area were the French who encountered the Wendat Nation and referred them to as the Huron; a French description of the style of hair the Wendat men wore. The Wendat a tribe of the Iroquoian Peoples have been known to be the original inhabitants of the area however archaeological evidence determined a Pre Iroquoian occupation dating back approximately as early as AD 1000. (8) is more characteristic of an Anishinabek Village.

The Amikwa “Beaver People” were Anishiabek Peoples and were one of the first recognized by Europeans in the 17th century. They inhabited the north shore of Lake Huron opposite the island of Manitoulin along the shores between Missisagi and French Rivers, and along Spanish River. They were a large, powerful group allied with the Nipissings.

In the 1630’s the Haudenasaune, the Five Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy (Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Seneca) began to push northward into this region in search of more lucrative hunting territories; This was known as the Beaver Wars. For two decades, the Five Nations plundered and destroyed Huron villages, and by 1650 the Huron had abandoned the territory. In the mid 1680’s the Ojibwa’s began attacking the Iroquois who, debilitated by disease and warfare retreated by 1701 to their lands south of the lower Great Lakes. Following this victory, increased numbers of Ojibwa people migrated south to occupy the territory bounded by Georgian Bay and Lake Huron on the north and west, and lakes Erie and Ontario to the south and east. (9)

The Haudenasaunee and Anishinabek would create Treaties to end Intertribal Warfare in a series of 5 Wampum Belts. (10) The Dish With One Spoon Wampum. (11) established an alliance between the Haundenasaunee and Anishinabek to share and protect their Territories known as the Beaver Bowl. This treaty made between the Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee nations at Montréal in 1701 as part of the Great Peace of Montreal includes part of the current province of Ontario between the Great Lakes and extending east along the north shore of the St. Lawrence River up to the border with the current province of Quebec. (12)

Another Wampum Belt between the Anishinabek and Haudenasaunee that solidified their Alliance was the Ojibway Friendship Belt and the 5 Council Fire Belt which acknowledged Anishinabek Clan Territories referred to as Council Fires that stretched from the Credit River to Sault Ste Marie. The Reverend Peter Jones, who was a Mississauga Anishinaabe from the Credit River (now Toronto), recorded the following proceedings of a council between the Anishinaabe and the Haudenosaunee held Tuesday, 21st January, 1840. The following reveals as late as 1840, the Anishinaabeg and the Six Nations were still renewing the treaties between themselves and acknowledging Anishinabek Council Fire Clan Territories.

“That the Nahdooways made the road or path and pointed out the different council fires which were to be kept lighted. The first marks on the Wampum represented that a council fire should be kept burning at the Sault Ste Marie. The 2nd mark represented the Council fire at Manitoulin Island, where a beautiful White Fish was placed, who should watch the fire as long as the world stood. The 3rd Mark represents the Council fire placed on an island opposite Penetanguishene Bay on which was placed a Beaver to watch the fire. The 4th Mark represents the Council fire lighted up at the Narrows of Lake Simcoe at which place was put a White Rein Deer. To him the Rein Deer was committed the keeping of this Wampum talk. The 5th Mark represents the Council fire which was placed at this River Credit where a beautiful White headed Eagle was placed upon a very tall pine tree, in order to watch the Council fires and see if any ill winds blew upon the smoke of the Council fires.” (13)


Chippewas of Rama First Nation located in the 4th Council Fire Territory where a “White Reindeer” would be placed uses the Deer for its Community flag. Last Hereditary Clan Chief Yellowhead was Caribou/ Reindeer Clan and holder of this Belt.

The decedents of the Beaver Council Fire and Rein Deer Council Fire consists of today’s Beausoleil First Nation, Chippewa’s of Rama and Georgina Island in which their last Hereditary Chiefs representing the Clan System were Chiefs Aisance, Musquakie and Kinaybicoinini whose Clans match these Council Fires. Although Aisance’s Totem is Otter it is the same Clan as the Beaver; this parallel to how Yellowheads Totem is referred at times as Reindeer or Caribou.

The Aisance Band lived around Matchedash Bay on the southeast shore of Georgian Bay by the late eighteenth century. Their hunting grounds covered “the vast tract stretching from Colins Inlet, on the north -eastern shore of the Georgian Bay, to the northern limits of the land claimed by the Missisauga’s.”(14) Within this area the Band used the rich resources of the Beaver Valley and of the Nottawasaga River.

1798 PENETANGUISHENE HARBOUR PURCHASE:        Crown Treaty Number 5

Upper Canada was the predecessor of modern-day Ontario it was created in 1791 by the division of the old Province of Quebec into Lower Canada in the east and Upper Canada in the west and by such Upper Canada Treaties as the 1798 Penetanguishene Harbor Purchase. In these Upper Canada Treaties there are three main problems: the description of the lands purchased were often vague; cessions from a specific group often covered lands used by others; and some groups surrendered lands to which they held no interests. (15)

The first Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada was John Graves Simcoe and was anxious to secure land on Georgian Bay at the site of present-day Penetanguishene. He visited it in 1793 and following the receipt of a report from the surveyor A. Aitken he became very enthusiastic about the site as a harbour. He wanted to create a military establishment there in order to effect a British naval presence on Lake Huron. (16)

Oral Tradition as shared by former Leadership and Elders of the Beausoleil First Nation along with Ian Johnson; A Lawyer who spent many years as a researcher for the Band who has helped in the success of two major historic land claim settlements have always determined that this Treaty was only for Penetanguishene Harbour as understood by the signing Chiefs. This outstanding issue was the focus of a Claim being submitted to Canada’s Specific Claims Branch for negotiations which Canada rejected in 1997.


On May 19th, 1795 representatives of the “Chippewa Nation” signed a provisional agreement at York; This document indicated that if they received goods worth 100 pounds in Quebec currency they would cede the lands “from the head of Opetiquawising to Nottowaysague Bay including the harbour of Penetanguishene. (17)

“Keewaycamekeishcan: who used the Otter totem as his mark” (18) meaning “He went in place of somebody.” This man likely signed the tentative agreement in the absence of one of the chiefs.(19) The Government took no immediate action to fulfill the terms of the provisional agreement. While no money or goods were given no attempt was made to take possession of the lands.

Simcoe left the colony in July 1796 and in his absence Peter Russell became the Administer of the Province. Although a representative for Assance signed the tentative agreement of 1795 and he himself signed the Treaty of 1798 ceding their land stretching from Thunder Beach to both shores of Penetanguishene Bay

In November 1796 two chiefs from Lake Simcoe and the Matchedash region, “Keubegone onene, and Escence,” reminded Major Samuel Smith, Commander at York of promises which Simcoe made to them and felt they may have been deceived. “ Father I am sorry we are thrown away and that our Great Father Governor Simcoe should have a sweet mouth” (20)

The Penetanguishene Harbour Purchase, Crown Treaty 5 signed May 22, 1798 by “Chiefs, Warriors and People of the Chippeway Tribe and Nation of the Indians” ceded all that tract or space containing land and water, or parcel of ground covered with water, be the same land or water or both lying and being near or upon the Lake Huron, called Penetangushene, and butted and bounded as follow: Beginning at the head or South-Westernmost angle of a bay situated above certain French ruins, now lying on the east side of a small strait leading from the said bay into a larger Bay called Gloucester or Sturgeon Bay; the head or South-Westernmost angle of the said bay being called by the Indians Opetiguoyawsing; thence North 70° West to a bay of Lake Huron, called by the Indians Nottoway Sague Bay; thence following the shores of Lake Huron, according to the different courses and winding of the said Nottoway Sague Bay–Penetangushene Habour and Gloucester or Sturgeon Bay, sometimes called also Matchedash –to the place of beginning: containing all the land to the Northward of the said line running North 70° West and lying between it and the waters of Lake Huron, together with the Islands in the said Harbour of Penetangushene..(21)

“The description of the ceded territory was vague and the maps accompanying the treaty demonstrated the extent to which the surveyors were unfamiliar with the area.” (23)

“Band Members also speak on traditional hunting grounds south of Nottawasaga Bay in lands covered by the 1815 cession of Lands.”(24) 

It his still of Chief Aisance family’s oral tradition that still holds that there were family hunting grounds within the area of today’s Thunder Beach

Screen Shot 2019-11-28 at 6.37.29 PM

Above: 1795 Provisional Agreement 100 Pound in Goods in Quebec Currency. Goods were Not yet distributed.

Screen Shot 2019-11-28 at 6.41.31 PM

Above: 1798 Penetanguishene Harbour Purchase (101 Pounds in Goods in Quebec Currency)

Screen Shot 2019-11-29 at 8.39.57 PM

Above: (In Blue) 1798 Penetanguishene Harbour Purchase, Crown Treaty number 5 as per Ontario’s Treaties Maps. – Notice how much Original Treaty Maps differ from Ontarios Map.


Throughout this period, Aboriginal lands were constantly described as “hunting grounds” in official documents and correspondence of the Indian Department. In light of this usage, did British colonial officials make any distinction between the “hunting grounds” and Aboriginal title in their policies and their practices of treaty-making? (25)

Francis Gore became Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada in 1806 and he believed that before the Penetanguishene Peninsula could be developed, the government would have to build a road leading to it from Lake Simcoe. In June 1811 he sent Williams Claus, Deputy Superintendent of Indian Affairs to negotiate yet another provisional agreement with the Ojibwes of Lake Simcoe and Matchedash Bay. This Treaty was seeking the Ojibwe to cede 250,000 acres of land situated between Kempentfelt Bay on Lake Simcoe and Penetangusihene Bay on Lake Huron.

At this meeting of this tentative agreement Deputy Superintendent of Indian Affairs William Claus told the Chiefs “I do not consider that we have a right to take possession of the land until the deed of conveyance shall; be executed and there is no objection to you occupying the garden grounds at Penetanguishene Bay. (26)

Although the goods were sent from England the following summer, they were needed by the government for other purposes and therefore were not used to purchase the land. With the outbreak of war with the United States in 1812, the government believed it could no longer postpone creating a naval base in the area. Claus assured the Chiefs that although the government had sent troops “to open roads and form an establishment on Lake Huron,” it recognized that “all the Lands north of Lake Simcoe” were “still the property of the Indians.” (27)

Above: Georgian Bay Band Territories around 1849. 1850 Robinson Huron Treaty ceeded 50,000 acres of lands of Chippewas of Lake Huron and Simcoe in which these 1923 “Williams Treaty” Bands are not signatories or benefit from such compensation and annuities.

Screen Shot 2019-11-29 at 8.53.10 PM
Screen Shot 2019-11-30 at 12.34.43 AM

In November 1815, “Kinaybicoinini, Alsace and Musquckey, the principal Chiefs of the Chippewa Nation of Indians” signed a treaty agreeing to cede 250,000 acres which was the final ratification of the provisional agreement in June 1811. This Treaty however did not contain no reference to the blacksmith which these chiefs had requested in 1811; no mention was made of the promise Claus had made in that year that they could continue to use their gardens at Penetanguishene.

This is how substantial lands were misappropriated through this Treaty. The “Hunting Grounds” and “Gardens” were never defined only that through Oral Tradition that the 1798 Penetanguishene Purchase was only for the Harbour.

In the text of these treaties the language is obviously not that of the Chiefs which is problematic even though it says they understand the embodiment of the agreements by including such provision in these treaties as; “having first heard this instrument openly read and rehearsed in our own language and fully approved by ourselves and our Nation.” (28)

Even in the Settler Government Courts through Supreme Court rulings there are principles that require the understanding of both parties. The case is the rule in Nowegijick that “treaties and statutes dealing with Indians should be given a fair, large and liberal construction and doubtful expressions resolved in favour of the Indians, in the sense in which they would be naturally understood by the Indians.” Many decisions in Settler Courts set precedent that treaties constitute a unique type of agreement and attract special principles of interpretation should be liberally construed and ambiguities or doubtful expressions should be resolved in favour of the aboriginal signatories.(29)

It is absolutely inconceivable that these Chiefs would surrender so much land without thinking of their connection to the land, water, inherit rights, future generations and a place to call home.



John Hawk and Richard Peters decedents of Kaikaikons and Kidegewegon whose families were both together at 1830’s Coldwater Narrows Reserve; Canada’s First trial of the Indian Reserve System. The two men occupied Coldwater Canadian Heritage Muesum with Greg King all from Christian Island in April 2012

In 2012 the Chippewa Tri Council of Beausoleil First Nation, Georgina Island and Rama descendent’s of the Council Fires of the Chippewas of so called Lake Huron and Simcoe represented by Aisance, Snake and Yellowhead accepted a settlement regarding the Coldwater Narrows Reserve.

In an action to oppose Canada’s Specific Claims Policy where Indigenous Peoples are made to by back stolen lands with compensation; funds which are created by the exploitation of Indigenous Territories in the first place and as a part of relighting these Clan Council Fires three men from Chimnissing so called Beausoleil First Nation set up an occupation in Coldwater on a Heritage Museum. This was also to oppose the First Nation as they are not the true authority to make such agreements as they are part of the colonial Indian Act system and representatives of the Crown since 1880 where the Indian Act section 72 replaced the Indian national hereditary governments with an elective system governed by the Indian Act.

The Occupation at the Heritage Site then moved into Ontario’s assumed Awenda Provincial Park. Within this Park is a Large Granite Stone that has the Markings of the three Clan Chiefs and Crown Representatives and dates that refer to time around the 1798 Penetang Purchase and is known as Council Rock. The Camp are was as a spiritual and peaceful occupation and a Cabin and Traditional Lodge were built and went unbothered by Park Staff for 7 years.