Historical, Traditional, and Cultural Significance of the Lands Encompassing the District of Greater Sudbury and Area


The idea behind the creation of this open textbook is twofold. First, it is written as a resource for educators to teach students about the Indigenous historical significance of the lands encompassing the Robinson-Huron Treaty area and more specifically the Greater Sudbury and Manitoulin area. Secondly, through the use of interactive mapping strategies, the textbook will serve as a guide for educators to develop a similar resource to document Indigenous stories from their own areas.

Anishinaabe is a term that is often used to describe Indigenous people from the following culturally related groups – Odawa, Ojibwe, Potawatomi, Oji-Cree, Mississaugas, Chippewa, and Algonquin peoples. For the purpose of this open textbook, when speaking of the people in the Robinson-Huron Territory, we will acknowledge them as Anishinaabe and/or Ojibwe. There are various spellings of the term ‘Anishinaabe’ depending on the place where these people reside. For example, the Union of Ontario Indians uses  ‘Anishinabe’ (singular) and ‘Anishinabek’ (plural). People from Atikameksheng use the spelling Anishnawbe (singular) and Anishnawbek (plural). People from Wikwemikong, Ontario spell it with double aa’s – Anishinaabe because they have adopted the double vowel system of writing. All terms are correct, as the spelling of the Anishinaabe words varies with dialect and region.

Every effort has been made to acknowledge the various uses of the terms used to describe Indigenous peoples. The term of Indigenous is used in an inclusive way to describe the First Nations, Metis and Inuit peoples.  The broader term Indigenous will be used when speaking in generalities, however, certain section of the text will use specific terms such as First Nations, Aboriginal, Anishinaabe, etc simply because that is how the people are referred to in the literature. We also acknowledge that there are other Indigenous peoples who reside in this territory such as the Cree, Mohawk, Haudenosaunee and Indigenous peoples from other territories across Turtle Island.

This open textbook is designed to be used at an introductory level to teach about social welfare issues within the Honours Bachelor of Indigenous Social Work program situated in the School of Indigenous Relations at Laurentian University. The material contained within this open textbook is broad enough that it can be used in other disciplines – sociology, education, law and justice, architecture, etc. For example, from a sociological perspective, educators may be interested in how social institutions and social relationships have changed in response to colonization and how these social institutions and relationships have evolved or remained intact with the changes within the social environment. Educators may be interested in being able to provide a more accurate description of the history as it pertains to Indigenous peoples. Law and justice may be interested in the issues related to the treaty making process, the exploitation of natural resources, or changes in legislation affecting families and communities. For those in architecture, the teachings about connection to and relationship with land may be of interest.

This open textbook consists of six chapters. Chapter 1 provides an introduction to the gathering of Indigenous stories and their historical significance within the Greater Sudbury area. Chapters 2 to 5 are structured using the medicine wheel as its framework. The medicine wheel is an ancient symbol conceptualized as a circle divided into four quadrants/directions, each containing teachings about how we should live our lives and the need to balance all four aspects of the being – mental, emotional, physical and spiritual (Hart, 2010; Nabigon, 2006; Hart, 2002).

 This chapter introduces readers to the Indigenous stories and their historical significance within what is now known as the Greater Sudbury Area. The Greater Sudbury area is situated on the traditional territory of the Atikameksheng Anishinaabek. Chapter 1 sets the context to begin to explore the unique history of the people from Atikameksheng Anishinaabek and surrounding First Nations communities. This chapter also examines life before the arrival of the Europeans, Ojibwe culture, Ojibwe history, and teachings of the Medicine Wheel. Attention is then turned to exploring more closely two communities in the Sudbury-Manitoulin districts, namely Atikameksheng Anishinaabek and Wiigwaskinaga First Nation, in more detail.

Chapter 2 reflects the teachings of Waabanong (East) – new beginnings. According to Nabigon (2006), waabanong (the east) represents new beginnings, new life, vision, birth, food and springtime. One teaching associated with this direction is about feelings. The Medicine Wheel has two sides – positive and negative. On the positive side of the medicine wheel are good feelings and on the negative side of the medicine wheel the teachings are related to bad feelings or feelings associated with feeling inferior. These teachings help us to begin to know and understand each other. This chapter focuses on the impact of colonial history on Indigenous people and will look at colonial history including the history of pre-confederation, the treaty making process within the Robinson Huron Treaty area, as well as the impacts of legislation such as the Indian Act, the residential schools and the child welfare system on Indigenous peoples.

Chapter 3 reflects the teachings of Zhawaanong (the south) which include: time, relationships, youth, and patience. The positive side of the medicine wheel talks about creating good relationships. It takes time to build good relationships with people (Nabigon, 2006). The opposite of building good relationships is described as envy. When people are envious, they are said to want to have what others have but are not willing to work for them. Therefore, to build good relationships, one must work for it. This chapter explores how Indigenous peoples have resisted colonization and describes the efforts made by Indigenous people to revitalize language, culture, traditional healing practices, traditional governance and Indigenous ways of being. Additionally, this chapter will look at how Indigenous people have worked to create spaces for people to learn about traditions and culture, traditional healing practices, Indigenous governance systems, Indigenous knowledge systems and Indigenous ways of being. This is reflected in organizations such as the development of the Friendship Centre, Shkagamik-kwe Health Centre, Kina Gbezghomi Child and Family Services, the School of Indigenous Relations, etc. Learning about the scope of services that are available to Indigenous peoples of this territory and the ways that these services have been able to respond to the impacts of colonial history can create a sense of pride in Indigenous students, faculty and staff and de-mystify some of the stereotypes that exist about Indigenous peoples, programs and services.

Chapter 4 reflects the teachings that lie in Epingiishmag (the western) direction – which is one of respect and reason (Nabigon, 2006). According to Nabigon (2006), the word ‘respect’ is made up of two words from the English language –‘re’ meaning again and ‘spect’ meaning to look at. When we meet people for the first time we develop a first impression of them but we do not develop ‘respect’ for them until we get to see them for a second time. To gain respect for someone we need to get to know them at a deeper level. The second teaching is about reason. Reason refers to the ability to think, comprehend and understand. This chapter builds upon the previous chapter in that the students are learning at a deeper level about traditions, culture and healing practices, Indigenous governance systems and Indigenous ways of knowing and being. Having this deeper understanding leads to a greater appreciation of the specific needs of Indigenous peoples. This provides the foundation for Indigenous/non-Indigenous to understand the cultural teaching, healing practices and ways of knowing and being, thereby creating space for reconciliation to occur. This chapter builds a deeper understanding of the relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.

Chapter 5 reflects the teachings of Giiwedinong (North) – caring, wisdom, movement and action (Nabigon, 2006). Elders are represented in the northern direction. Elders are respected for their life history, experiences and wisdom and have reached a point in their lives where they are able to share their gifts and knowledge with others. This chapter encourages students to reflect on their own understanding of colonial history; the services and programs that have developed in response to that history; their own knowledge of cultural teachings, healing practices and ways of knowing and being and how they are going to incorporate what they have learned into some action that can lead to reconciliation. This chapter encourages self-reflection about what has been learned up to this point and challenges one to take action towards reconciliation. How do we move forward? What lies in the future? What new initiatives can be developed that help with the braiding of Indigenous and Western approaches.

The last chapter focuses on the centre of the Medicine Wheel – the fire within or, the self. Each individual has a responsibility to oneself – to feed the inner spirit. This chapter is about braiding Indigenous and Western approaches and one’s responsibility to retell the story of colonial history. This brings the book back full circle to the beginning of the book where we looked at the gathering of Indigenous stories and their historical significance within the Greater Sudbury area. Whether you are Indigenous or non-Indigenous, this part of the book course allows you look to the future and tell another story about the relationship between Indigenous/non-Indigenous people of this territory.

Organization of the Text

In each chapter, you will begin with a chapter overview and list of chapter learning outcomes. It’s important to keep these outcomes in mind as you read through the chapter.

Throughout each chapter, you will also find:

  • Learning Activities which provide you with an opportunity to test your knowledge;

  • Expand your Knowledge sections, which provide you with websites and additional resources;

  • Interesting Facts boxes to share additional facts about the topic or area being discussed

You will also find electronic maps throughout the text, which situate the stories and provide both geographical and visual context and reference for the reader.


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