A Brief History


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Fort William First Nation, Government of Canada, Government of Ontario

The Fort William First Nation, Canada and Ontario are negotiating a resolution to the First Nation's claim that the boundary of the reserve does not reflect the First Nation's understanding of the location and size of the reserve to be set apart pursuant to the Robinson Superior Treaty of 1850.

Robinson Superior Treaty

In 1850 the Crown and the Ojibway inhabiting the northern shores of Lake Superior entered into treaty negotiations at Garden River near Sault Ste Marie. Representatives of the Fort William First Nation (FWFN) and the Crown signed the Robinson Superior Treaty at the end of the negotiations.

The Treaty provided that the Ojibway retain certain lands as their reserves and could continue to hunt and fish over the entire territory except for areas that may be sold or leased to individuals or companies and occupied by the purchaser or lessee with the consent of the Crown. The Treaty also provided for a cash payment at the time of the Treaty and for a perpetual annuity. In return, the Ojibway surrendered their right, title and interest to the entire area except for the land that was to be set aside as reserves under the Treaty.

The Robinson Superior Treaty described a reserve for Fort William First Nation on the south bank of the Kaministiqua River.

In 1852 FWFN petitioned the Crown, saying that the reserve described in the Treaty was not what they had agreed to in the Treaty negotiations. The petition requested lands eight miles on either side of the Kaministiqua River and 15 miles up river, and McKellar, Mission and Pie Islands and "the other island close to Sturgeon Bay".

Surveyor's Plan

When a surveyor arrived at Fort William First Nation Reserve in 1853, he discovered immediately that the boundaries were incapable of being laid out as described in the Treaty because the description assumed that the shore of Lake Superior at Fort William runs generally in an east-west orientation, when in fact it runs in a north-south orientation. The First Nation protested to the survey party that the reserve they had been sent to lay out was too small, and refused to accept the plan prepared by the surveyor. Although the surveyor agreed to recommend that Pie Island be included in the reserve, this was never implemented.

In 1859 FWFN petitioned the Crown to substantially increase its reserve in an area south of the Kaministiqua River.

The Claim

In 1985 Fort William First Nation submitted a claim to Canada and Ontario that the Fort William Reserve, as it was surveyed in 1853, did not reflect the First Nation's understanding of the location and size of the reserve agreed to in the Treaty negotiations for their continued use and benefit. FWFN claimed that the surveyed reserve should have been considerably larger.

After extensive research and legal reviews of the claim by Canada and Ontario, Canada accepted the claim for negotiation in 1994, and Ontario, in 2000.


Negotiations between the Fort William First Nation, Canada and Ontario have been ongoing since 2000. Recently, the parties agreed that a basis of a settlement of the boundary claim could include both financial compensation and a provincial Crown land component. Ontario is hosting a series of Information Open Houses in the fall of 2006 to seek public comment on the Crown land component that could form part of the basis of a settlement.

For more information about the Fort William First Nation Boundary Claim, see the Fall 2006 Newsletter and Frequently Asked Questions.

Information is also available on the Internet at:

Fort William First Nation  

Ontario Secretariat for Aboriginal