Chapter 1 – Indigenous stories and their historical significance


Much like the Creation stories of Aboriginal peoples, this chapter lays the foundation for what follows in this and the subsequent chapters. Aboriginal people were the first to be placed on this land by the Creator. As the original inhabitants, Aboriginal peoples have a special relationship to the land and their connection to the land forms part of their identity as a people. Aboriginal people believe they had and still have inherent rights to the lands they occupied prior to the arrival of the Europeans. These rights include the continued habitation and use of the land for hunting, fishing, trapping, gathering food and medicines, and other traditional uses (Aboriginal Justice Implementation Commission, 1999).

Aboriginal peoples occupied North America long before the arrival of Europeans to this land. The Royal Proclamation of 1763 recognized the pre-existing rights of Aboriginal peoples to their territories. According to the Aboriginal Justice Implementation Commission (1999), when Europeans first arrived in North America, they did not have the same rights as the original inhabitants of this land. As outsiders, they would have to seek permission from the original inhabitants for permission to share in the land and its resources.

This chapter begins by situating the First Nations peoples within their traditional territories in and around the Greater Sudbury and Manitoulin areas. A description of the original geographical territories of Atikameksheng Anishnawbek and Whitefish River First Nations is provided.

The Medicine Wheel teachings provide guidance for how to live our lives in a good way – mino bimaadiziwin. The Medicine Wheel teachings contain the values and principles for how we should conduct ourselves. These teachings recognize that we are all human beings and recognize the relationship that human beings have to each other, to all other beings and to other than human beings – hence the saying ‘all my relations.’ This section of the chapter explores the Medicine Wheel teachings further with the aim of creating a greater understanding of the significance that these Medicine Wheel teachings have for Indigenous peoples and their relationships within the cosmos.

The next section of this chapter explores Ojibwe peoples and their history. This takes us back to a time when European peoples were just arriving in this country. The dynamics between the Indigenous peoples of these territories and other Indigenous territories were greatly affected by the arrival of the European people. Indigenous peoples welcomed the Europeans to this country and provided a great deal of help to them especially since many of the European people were sick and starving. As time progressed, relationships between the Indigenous people and non-Indigenous people became more formalized. Relationships with Indigenous peoples were crucial to the expansion westward and to the opening of the fur trade into the west. In addition, it is also noted that the Métis played a significant role in the expansion of the fur trade westward particularly because of their unique cultural background being of both French Canadian and Native descent and being skilled hunters, traders, voyageurs and interpreters (Canada’s First Peoples, n.d.).

We now turn our attention to the traditional territories within the Robinson Huron Treaty areas.  Aboriginal peoples occupied this territory long before it become known as the Robinson-Huron Treaty area.

Learning Outcomes

When you have worked through the material in this chapter, you will be able to do the following:

  • Describe key facets of life for Indigenous people before the arrival of the Europeans.
  • Describe key historical elements that have changed the dynamics of the relationship between Indigenous/Indigenous peoples and Indigenous/non-Indigenous peoples.
  • Name the traditional territory on which the City of Greater Sudbury has been built.
  • Identify two different First Nations communities in the area covered and compare their stories for similarities and differences.
  • Outline the concept of the Medicine wheel.
  • Estimate your own current knowledge of the Indigenous Peoples of the Greater Sudbury and Manitoulin area (in terms of no knowledge, limited knowledge, average knowledge, or extensive knowledge).


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