Brief History


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Michipicoten First Nation, Government of Canada, Government of Ontario

The Michipicoten First Nation, Canada and Ontario are working to resolve the First Nation's claim that the eastern and western boundaries of its Gros Cap Indian Reserve # 49 do 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 1849, the Crown sent two representatives, Vidal and Anderson on an excursion to determine the number of Indians inhabiting the northern shores of Lake Superior and to ascertain what the Indians wanted in return for the surrender of their lands. Their report says that the Michipicoten First Nation's Chief, Totomenai, wanted "the tract about the Bay adjoining the Michipicoten River in the west and extending from that river to Riviere aux Dorees" as a reserve for his Band.

Totomenai was among the Chiefs and headmen who arrived at Garden River near Sault Ste Marie in the summer of 1850 for treaty negotiations with the representative of the Crown. The Treaty that was negotiated provided that the Ojibway would 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 apart as reserves.

There are no records of what Chief Totomenai or Treaty Commissioner Robinson said at the negotiations regarding the reserve to be set apart, other than the schedule attached to the Treaty which says: "Four miles square at Gros Cap, being a valley near the Honourable Hudson's Bay Company's post of Michipicoten, for Totomenai and Tribe." At the end of the negotiations, Robinson said that the Crown would send someone out, likely the following spring, to survey the various reserves.

Disputed Boundary, then Agreement – But No Survey

Keating, one of the Crown's representative that arrived in 1853, instructed the surveyor to commence the survey 1½ miles from the mouth of the Michipicoten River, wrongly believing that the Treaty called for the reserve to be marked out "so as not to interfere with the lands of the (Hudson Bay) Company." The surveyor, Bridgland, based on directions by Keating, marked the southeast and southwest corners of the reserve. At some point, it is not clear when, Bridgland also drew the reserve as a "coast sketch" (not a survey) with the east and west boundaries being exactly four miles inland from the marked starting points. The reserve, as depicted on the "coast sketch", was exactly four miles by four miles although not a perfect square. Both Keating and Bridgland went to Fort William after Michipicoten.

On his way back from Fort William, Keating met with Totomenai "at the urgent request of the Chief." The Chief objected to the boundary of the reserve as marked and an agreement was reached that the reserve would not start 1½ miles from the mouth of the Michipicoten River as per Keating's original instructions to the surveyor, but would rather extend up the north bank of the Michipicoten River to the Magpie River.

Keating made explicit mention of this agreement in his report, but he did not make arrangements for the reserve to be appropriately surveyed, nor did he arrange for Bridgland's coast sketch to reflect this agreement.

In a Proclamation issued in 1854, the Crown confirmed the description in the Treaty as the boundaries of Gros Cap Indian Reserve # 49. As it turned out, the reserve boundaries were not surveyed until 1899, at which time the surveyor was instructed by the Department of Indian Affairs to use the unamended coast sketch since, by that point in time, the agreement to alter the boundary had long since been forgotten.

The Claim

In March 2000, the Michipicoten First Nation submitted a claim to Canada and Ontario that the Gros Cap Indian Reserve #49 as surveyed in 1899 did not reflect an 1853 agreement regarding the boundary of the reserve. The Michipicoten First Nation claimed that the reserve should have been surveyed from the point at which the Magpie River flows into the Michipicoten River, on the east, up to the Dore River, on the west.

After extensive research and legal reviews of the claim by Canada and Ontario, Canada accepted the claim for negotiation in 2003. Ontario agreed to enter discussions regarding the claim in 2005.


Negotiations between the Michipicoten First Nation and Canada have been ongoing since early 2004. Ontario joined the negotiating table early in 2006.

The parties are negotiating a settlement of the boundary claim, which would include financial compensation from Canada and a provincial Crown land component. Ontario is currently conducting various public consultation initiatives, including hosting Information Open Houses in the fall of 2006 to seek public comment on the Ontario Crown lands proposed for transfer to Canada for addition to the current reserve as part of the proposed approach to a settlement.

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

Information is also available on the Internet at:

Michipicoten First Nation 

Ontario Secretariat for Aboriginal