Author: Brenda Grundt

History of our Lands


Dog Lake Survey

The Dog Lake Survey plan was duly recorded in the Canada Lands Surveys Records in May 2011. Chief and Council anticipate the development of a policy for the allotment of surveyed lots  in order to be fair and equitable to its  citizens who may be interested in developing vacation properties on Dog Lake. This reserve will not be funded by Indian Affairs and no programs will be available for assistance to members. If you wish to have your name added to the list of inquiries on Dog Lake, please contact Melanie Pilon, Band Manager at 705-856-1993, ext. 213 or toll free 1-800-303-7723, if you have not already done so.  As soon as the Policy Statement has been developed, members will be notified.  As of January 2015, there is not an approved policy in place, however, members are encouraged to express  interest in this area as noted. THIS INFORMATION IS FOR MEMBERS ONLY.

MFN Privately Owned Lands

MFN owns (lands held in trust by the First Nation of Michipicoten Cultural Association) several parcels of land in the vicinity of IR49/49A reserves on Lake Superior. There are two parcels of land on each side of Michipicoten Harbour, as well as lands which include the abandoned rail bed acquired some years back and another parcel of land, approximately 225 acres adjacent to the abandoned rail bed, an area which closes the gap between a portion of the rail bed and what will be  reserve lands (through the Boundary Claim settlement). The First Nation acquired both the surface and mining rights to all parcels of land.

The abandoned CN Rail bed that MFN acquired some years back would have been an option for an alternate  future base for the development of arterial access road to reserve lands and Michipicoten Harbour; an economic opportunity for future community development  and shipping access.   In the Fall of 2012 after extensive flooding and road washouts, the rail bed was no longer a viable option as an access road. MFN continues to pursue other avenues and resources for the development of an alternate access road.

Boundary Claim Settlement

Registered members turning 18 years of age you may be entitled to receive benefits through the land claim settlement. New Members registered as a result of Bill C3 and the Gender Equity Act are not entitled to a PCD but  may be  entitled to current benefits available through policy. Please notify Melanie Pilon, Band Manager at 705-856-1993 Ext. 213 or via email. KEEP YOUR  ADDRESS & PHONE NUMBER UP TO DATE AT ALL TIMES IN ORDER TO RECEIVE BENEFITS, NEWSLETTERS AND ANNOUNCEMENTS.

Boundary Claim lands – As a result of the settlement of the Boundary Claim, Canada agreed that up to 6,335 acres of land be set apart as reserve land for the use and the benefit of the First Nation, which included parcels to the west and  east of the reserve and other lands that might be of interest to the First Nation in areas provided in the Boundary Claim negotiations. The implementation process for the return to reserve of the lands to the east and west began almost seven years ago. In the meantime, the land is still considered Crown Land during the transition period (see article below). Return to reserve status is pending a final Order in Council by the Federal Government and may be completed by mid to late 2015.

Boundary Claim Settlement in 2008 January 12, 2008, marked an historic day for Michipicoten First Nation Members who voted on a land claim settlement on their Boundary Claim with Canada and Ontario. Chief Joe Buckell and Council of the day Myrtle Swanson, Denise Churchill, William Swanson Sr., Emile Neyland, Evelyn Stone and Patti Goodfellow passed a resolution authorizing the signing of the Settlement Agreement between all three governments after a successful ratification vote. Of the 499 ballots cast, both mail in and on reserve voting, that went into the ballot box, 484 (97%) were in favour of acceptance, with only 8 (2%) voting no and 7 (1%) spoiled ballots. Over 80% of the voting membership voted on this land claim, the numbers of which are reminiscent of the 2003 Algoma Claims Settlement between Michipicoten First Nation and Canada. In March 2000, Michipicoten First Nation submitted a specific land claim to Canada and Ontario that the Gros Cap Indian Reserve #49 as surveyed in 1899 did not reflect the 1853 agreement regarding the boundary of the reserve. Canad accepted the claim for negotiation in late 2003 and Ontario agreed to enter discussions in early 2005. Michipicoten First Nation is located 24 km south of Wawa, Ontario along beautiful Whitesands beach on the northeast shore of Lake Superior. The community is registered under Gros Cap Indian Reserve #49 under the 1850 Robinson Superior Treaty. In addition, Michipicoten First Nation has reserve lands located  Missanabie and Chapleau, Ontario.

After three years the parties negotiated the proposed settlement of the boundary claim which included financial compensation from Canada and about 3,000 acres of provincial Crown land to be added to reserve from Ontario. A written offer was received from Canada in the summer of 2007 for the compensation package with Settlement and Trust Agreements then drafted and the First Nation requested Indian Affairs to conduct a ratification vote on January 12, 2008. By overwhelming results, Members of Michipicoten First Nation voted for acceptance of the negotiated land claim settlement package which, combined with monetary compensation and land value, amounts $58.8 million dollars, which is the 2nd largest specific land claim settlement in Ontario to date.

The Boundary Claim was the final of six claims settled between Michipicoten First Nation and Canada within an unprecedented time frame. Under the Michipicoten Pilot Project, initiated just a little over ten years ago, a cooperative non-confrontational approach to land claims settlements was utilized to great success. Had each claim been filed separately under the normal land claim process it would have taken many decades, if not more than a century, to reach all of these settlements. Chief and Council, the Michipicoten negotiating team and the negotiators for Canada and Ontario were applauded for their efforts in this regard and especially the Michipicoten Members.

The Trust Fund established for this settlement will provide ongoing benefits for Michipicoten Members for over 100 years. Chief Joe Buckell was quoted as saying, “This is a proud moment in the history of our First Nation and for our people, and an example of what can be accomplished through dedication and cooperation. A celebration was held at a Signing Ceremony on Reserve in May 2009 ceremony with Canada and Ontario, our Members and invited guests, dignitaries, and the media. Chi Miigwetch”.

Who We Are


The Ojibway Creation story tells how the Ojibwe or Ojibway (pronounced Oh-Jib-Way) are related to Original Man or Anishinaabe (An-ish-in-awb). The Ojibway are said to be the Faith Keepers; Keepers of the Sacred Scrolls and the Water Drum of the Midewinwin (Midi-win-win shamanic society forhealers). The fundamental essence of Anishinaabe life is unity, the oneness of all things; the belief that harmony with all created things can be achieved and that the people cannot be separated from the land with its cycle of seasons or from the other mysterious cycles of living things – of birth and growth and death and new birth. The people know where they come from; the story is deep in their hearts and it is told in legends and dances, in dreams and symbols.


Earliest Ancestors and Inhabitants of Michipicoten River

From archeological sites excavated at the mouth of the Michipicoten River it is evident that there has been an uninterrupted occupation of this region by the aboriginal people for 7,000 years or more. Some of the sites identified are from the period just before the arrival of the Europeans (between 700-1500 AD) which showed that the Ojibway people whose “summer grounds” were located at the mouth of the Michipicoten River used to marry widely with tribes from the south of the Lake and east of it. The ancient canoe routes also showed that the mouth of the Michipicoten River and Magpie Rivers were a hub of transportation and gateways to the interior as far north as James Bay with access to the vast interior of what is today northern Ontario and connecting it with the other Great Lakes and the inland sea of Hudson’s Bay.

The earliest records of the Europeans tell us that they met with two Ojibway tribes inhabiting the north east corner of Lake Superior, an inland group and a coastal group. The inland group was identified as the “Tetes de Boules” or “Gens de Terre”, and later became known as the “Big Head Ojibway”.


The coastal people were the “Michipicoute” also known as “Gens du Lac”. These tribes were connected by marriage and trade. At the height of the fur trade from the 17th to 20th centuries, many Europeans who came to the region took Ojibway wives and their descendants lived the native way of life making a large part of their livelihood by fishing and trading furs with the Hudson’s Bay Company and other settlers.


n 1850 when the Robinson Superior Treaty was signed in Sault Ste. Marie by Chief Tootomenai (Too-too-many); another Chief or headman Chingans (Shing-ans) of the coastal Michipicoten was also present at that signing. The first list of the Ojibway families who received treaty at Michipicoten included the inland (Big Head) and coastal Ojibway (Michipicoute). The tribe called Michipicoten was made up of several different family groups who lived the traditional way of life and were dispersed over a large area of several hundred square miles gathering together in the summer months at strategic points where alliances of trade, marriages and shared ceremonies took place.


Displacement of the Michipicoten People

A brief history of the last 150 years of the Michipicoten First Nation provides an insight into the present day dispersal of its members which was a direct result of forced relocations that were endured by the First Nation as a result of “mistakes” and unfair actions taken by the Government of the day. From the time of the first contact in the early 17th century the Michipicoten First Nation had an established presence at the mouth of the Michipicoten River, on the northeast shore of Lake Superior. In 1850 at Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Chief Tootomenei had asked that the reserve be from the mouth of the Michipicoten River and the Harbour to the mouth of the Dore River. Instead, the Crown did not survey out the proper location but set aside the reserve of Gros Cap (Indian Reserve 49) which was located several kilometres west of the mouth of the Michipicoten River and harbour. As a result, Michipicoten First Nation did not live on Reserve land for most of its history between 1850 and 1970.

The Michipicoten Indians had settled in a village clearing the land and setting up small farms at the mouth of the Michipicoten River, also known as the ‘Mission’ as the first Roman Catholic Church was built there in 1877. With the discovery of gold in 1897 in Wawa, the Michipicoten River Village site was sold to a development company. At the same time, the surrender and sale of the best lands at the Gros Cap Reserve to the Algoma Central Railway Co. (ACR) in 1899 and 1900, approximately 1,485 acres of shoreline, took away all of the eastern shore and waterway route of the reserve. The coastal Ojibway of Michipicoten was now completely cut off from their traditional camping grounds. Around 1900 most of the families moved away while remaining members lived for a while at Whitesands, a small coastal section of the severed reserve. As there was no road into the site, the community ended up migrating onto the Gros Cap Peninsula close to the Michipicoten Harbour at a place called Half-Way. The Gros Cap Peninsula, although originally part of the reserve, had been taken by a surrender from the Michipicoten Band in 1855 and by the time Half-Way was built, it was no longer Indian reserve land.

Michipicoten Ojibway lived at “Half-Way” for almost 30 years until the federal government purchased residential reserve land known as Indian Reserve No 49A. The land was then owned by the ACR, but had been originally part of Gros Cap IR 49. A small community was built for the members called “Green Acres” because all of the houses were painted green. In the 1970’s it became evident that this village was not safe as the ground was unsuitable for the sanitation system, and once again the community was forced to move.

The First Nation and Ontario Hydro negotiated a deal including a hydro line right of way in which Hydro agreed to build a road onto the Gros Cap reserve (IR 49) to provide access to a new village for a right of way for its transmission lines which crossed reserve lands. This time the community moved back onto the reserve near the old Whitesands site where they remain today.

Meanwhile, the inland (Big Head) Michipicoten members had settled at various places along the Pacific Railway line and two Chiefs with 30 families successfully petitioned the Government to provide two small residential reserves for them at Missanabie and Chapleau of approximately 220 acres each in early 1900. As the Fur trade dropped off and the Hudson’s Bay Company Post at Chapleau and Missanabie closed, many of these families began to migrate to other parts of Ontario.


Michipicoten First Nation today

Michipicoten First Nation Gros Cap IR49 today and its surrounding lands include extensive coastline along the shores of Lake Superior, the addition of lands settled through various land claim settlements, including the reserves as Missanabie and Chapleau and boasts a pristine and eco-rich environment of unparalleled wilderness beauty, unpolluted waters and an abundance of wildlife, birds and indigenous plants. Fishing, hunting, and trapping are still practiced by the people and children can be taught the ways of their Ancestors.

Michipicoten First Nation is a vibrant community with approximately 1,020 members dispersed around the globe, building on socio-economic independence and with a strong sense of community and cultural identity, Michipicoten First Nation strives to maintain harmony and balance with Mother Earth, neighboring First Nations and surrounding communities.

(Content courtesy of Michipicoten First Nation and National Archives)

Ojibwe History – Rich in Culture

The Ojibwe typically lived in lodges and wigwams made of birch bark and traversed the waterways in birch bark canoes. Meetings of Council or circles were held in a common dwelling which was the council lodge. Both men and women participated in ceremony and families worked together for the benefit of the community.

Daughter of Migisin
Ojibwe Man
Ojibwe Lodge
Ojibwe Birch Bark Wigwam
Ojibwe Birch Bark Lodge
Ojibwe Birch Bark Canoe

MFN Honours Community with Eagle Totem


The Eagle Totem Pole was commissioned for Michipicoten First Nation in 2006. Artist Shane (Spike) Mills of Wawa Ontario, in his unique style of Gitchee Goomee faces, carved this symbolic beautiful piece of art celebrating our Ojibwe culture with the Eagle in honor of the Red Race and our connection to Great Spirit. The Eagle Totem Pole was raised in August 2007.

The Eagle is a powerful symbol of most Native cultures. It represents Spirit and flies closest to Grandfather Sun and beyond to Great Mystery. Eagle medicine teaches us the Freedom of Spirit through prayers to the Creator and brings messages of healing to our communities. The Eagle was painted Red to remind us of our connection to Mother Earth and our walk on the Good Red Road, our physical and emotional path in this life.

The Ojibwe Creation story tells how “the Ojibwe are related to Original Man or Anishinabe, also known as Way-na-boo’zhoo or Naniboujou, hence the word Boo-Zhoo meaning hello. According to Ojibwe Spirituality, the pole represents the Four Colours of Man; red, yellow, white, black; the Four Directions; north, east, south, west; the Four Seasons; winter, spring, summer, fall; the Four Sacred Medicines; tobacco, sage, cedar and sweetgrass.

The spiritual duality (as above; so below) is represented in the four directions. It is told that medicinal plants when physically picked will not work unless there has been the proper spiritual behaviour (such as offering tobacco). Gitchie Manitoo took four parts of Mother Earth (earth, wind, fire and water) and blew into them using a Sacred Shell (the Megis or Cowrie Shell). From the union of the Four Elements and his breath, man was created.

Ojibwe are the Faith Keepers; keepers of the sacred scrolls and the Water Drum of the Midewinwin (shamanic society for healers)”.

(Ojibwe Creation Story referenced from the writings of Edward Benton Banai)

November/December – Lake Superior Woodland Caribou

Photo of MFN women outside the Hudson’s Bay post on the Michipicoten River, c. 1884. Woodland caribou antlers can be seen above the door in the background.


Since the end of the last ice age, woodland caribou have roamed the coast of Lake Superior. In fact, their range extended across the land and as far south as the French River. At the time of the opening of the Helen Mine in Wawa, there was a population living in the jackpine at what is now called Tremblay Flats. That population was hunted off by hungry miners during a cold winter. Similarly, miners and fishermen hunted the last of the Michipicoten Island population by 1880. In 1981, a single bull was spotted by the lighthouse keeper. The MNR transported additional animals to the island as part of their efforts to protect the by then greatly diminished coastal population.

The population on Michipicoten Island flourished, reaching an estimated 680 animals by 2011. In the winter of 2014/2015 an ice bridge formed and four wolves crossed to the island. The MNRF captured and collared the wolves, and then released them with the intention of studying the results. There was no calf recruitment in the year of 2015 and the wolves quickly began eating the adult population. There are now somewhere between 15-20 wolves on the island, and the most recent caribou estimate was 116.

Acting in accordance with Chief Tangie’s belief that “we have a duty and responsibility to protect [these caribou] as they protected us for generations,” we have been working on several fronts to get the MNRF to stop their study and do something to prevent the elimination of the caribou, which now represent almost the entire Lake Superior population. The Minister’s office is currently reviewing our proposal to move caribou to ensure their survival through the winter while longer term solutions are put in place. As well as protecting the ecological integrity of the area, survival of the caribou would provide MFN with potential cultural and eco-tourism opportunities.

Leo Lepiano, Lands and Resources Consultation Coordinator

January/February – Lake Superior Woodland Caribou Update


In the last newsletter, I mentioned the attempts being made by MFN to conserve the caribou of Michipicoten Island and Lake Superior. There has been a significant amount of press about this since then, so I want to use this column to provide some answers to questions that are commonly heard.

Why are there caribou on Michipicoten Island? 

Woodland caribou used to live all around Lake Superior as well as inland to areas like White River, and Chapleau. Over the last one hundred and fifty years changes brought on by industrial activity have driven caribou from most of that area, leaving only a few animals along the Northern and – until about seven years ago – the Eastern shores of Superior.

In the 19th century there were caribou on Michipicoten Island, but they were all killed off by the miners and fishermen living on the island. In 1981 a single bull was found on the island, and caribou were brought from the Slate Islands to see if Michipicoten Island would prove to be a good habitat for them. By 2011 there were an estimated 680 caribou on Michipicoten Island. Our modeling suggests that by 2014, when the wolves arrived, the numbers would have been around 950.

Why interfere if the wolves got out there on their own? 

The Endangered Species Act provides the mandate to manage species at risk for persistence on the landscape. With the decline of the mainland population, the two island populations (Slate Islands and Michipicoten Island) were the last holdouts of the Lake Superior range.

After the wolves reached the island, the MNRF caught the wolves, and decided to engage in a study (they also did this on the Slate Islands). This was done without any consultation. Leaving the wolves to kill off the caribou on both the Slate Islands and Michipicoten Island not only results in the loss of a unique population that has lived on Lake Superior since the last ice age, but also the loss of economic and cultural opportunities that exist for MFN if caribou persist. It will also likely result in the death of the wolves.

How many caribou are left now? 

The whole Lake Superior range is likely under 40 animals now, down from over 1100 just a few years ago.

When did MFN get involved? 

The file was given to me by former Chief Joe Buckell in February of 2017. Chief Pat Tangie wrote her first letter to the Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry in April of 2017. Things began to get very busy in October, and Chief Tangie’s forceful phone calls and emails to the Minister in late November and early December proved very influential.

Why didn’t we just kill the wolves? 

Because the number of wolves on the island could be as high as 20, killing them all is not an easy task. No hunters or trappers who we spoke to felt that they would be able to bring the population low enough to ensure the caribou would survive this winter.

What other options were considered? 

The first option we considered was removing the wolves from the island, because the end goal was to have caribou on Michipicoten Island, and for MFN to become involved in the management of the island, taking advantage of some cultural and economic opportunities that would come with that. We thought there could be a possibility to move the wolves to Isle Royale, a large island on the U.S. side of Lake Superior where they have been considering reintroducing wolves. Chief Tangie was in touch with the leadership of the Chippewa of Grand Portage Tribe in an attempt to come to an agreement on the project.

Though we had the tacit support of many of the groups involved, it would have taken too long to make the move happen.

As mentioned above we considered a cull, both independently and with MNRF support.

Eventually, we settled on translocating caribou off of the island. If this job was to be done right, we argued, it was important to move caribou to more than just one other location, since we found out on December 1st that the Slate Islands caribou were down to 2-4 males, and no longer a viable sub-population. The MNRF refused to heed our advice – including that provided by experts who were working for MFN – and successfully moved 9 caribou to the Slate Islands in the middle of January.

What happens now? 

Unfortunately, caribou will almost certainly be gone from Michipicoten Island by the end of this winter. Much will depend on whether the animals moved to the Slate Islands are able to grow into a suitable population to eventually reseed Michipicoten Island, however, this will take several years.

MFN is working to establish agreements with the MNRF that would allow for MFN to be involved in all future monitoring efforts for the caribou, and to be involved in the management of the range going forward.

MFN has also been working to have the last few animals moved to a second island, Caribou Island, which is much closer than the Slates and more secure from wolves. As of the time of the writing of this document those efforts are underway. We are also looking for funding that would allow us to acquire a boat that could be used for multiple purposes, including future management of the caribou.

Leo Lepiano, Lands and Resources Consultation Coordinator

MFN Library has been renovated!


We are so very happy to say the Library has been renovated! Thanks to the Carpentry shop crew for all your hard work! Please see pics- check it out! We have also added a new maker space area for sewing & beading for patrons to come and go as they please! Computer stations are available for google searches, watch videos on youtube, search Pinterest, check out Facebook or just to scan/ print documents! We just received the First Nation Community Reads Collection too!

Current library programs are as follows:

  • Monday/ Thursday- Afterschool program 4-5pm
  • Tuesday mornings- MFN Artifact cataloging 9am-12pm
  • Tuesday evenings- Internet café 6-8pm
  • Wednesday bi-weekly- Show me how & let’s do it programming! (Ex. Beading, dreamcatchers, etc)
  • Thursday afternoon- Tea & bannock 1-2pm

Also cultural teachings with post-secondary students, Cultural Club and Girls drumming group.


Wendy Peterson, MFN Librarian