The original inhabitants of the land that is now known as Canada are Indigenous/ Aboriginal people. They refer to Metis, Inuit, and First Nations people, who make up a significant population of the county (Hedican, 2017). While these individuals’ existence has been severely threatened by different forces, through the extinguishing of their culture, social systems, and language, which played an important role in Canada’s development, they still thrive regardless of extreme adversity. The research report focuses on Indigenous people living in Canada’s Mississauga area.
I reside in this particular area, which makes it ideal to focus on it, as I have interacted with Indigenous peoples on numerous occasions. Mississauga is found in Toronto Township, which means that it neighbours the city of Toronto. It is located in in Southern Ontario. I have lived in this area for over 10 years, which allows me to be more informed about Indigenous people in the region. According to the 2016 census data, the population of Mississauga was approximately 721,599 (Statistics Canada, 2016). Of this population estimate, about 20% is of Indigenous descent. Mississauga’s area approximation is 292.4 km2. Based on the population of the area according to the 2016 census data, its population density is 6,391.1 people per square mile. On the languages spoken in Mississauga, English is considered the most spoken with 47.6% of the population speaking it as their mother tongue (Statistics Canada, 2016). More than half of the population of Mississauga speak other languages, which include Urdu, Punjabi, Arabic, and Polish, among others (Statistics Canada, 2016). Therefore, Mississauga is a highly diverse city in Canada’s Ontario region, with a considerable population of Indigenous people.
The History of Indigenous Peoples
Mississauga is considered to be signatory to the Robinson Huron Treaty of 1850 and the community resides within its traditional territory (Bolduc et al., 2021; Smith, 2013). It is located at the mouth of The Mississaugi, a river sharing a name with the community. According to the Anishnaabemowin language, the river is referred to as Misswezhaging, which is understood as many outlets (Bolduc et al., 2021). While the community is located in the reserve boundary, its area coverage as per Traditional Territory extends to the Huron Watershed. The river played an important role in sustaining the livelihood of the Mississauga, as they travelled along it to utilize its abundant resources. The Mississauga generally refers to the Anishinaabe people, who are estimated to have taken 500 years to migrate to the region, specifically, between 900-1400 (Bolduc et al., 2021). The land on which they currently settle on is considered part of the Treaty Lands and Territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nations. According to the culture of the Anishinabe people and other Indigenous peoples, it is important to recognize the land’s importance and pay respect to them. The British crown purchased the land from the Mississauga in 1806 under a legal agreement known as the Head of the Lake Purchase or the Treaty 14 (Bolduc et al., 2021). The purchase was equivalent to ten shillings in modern Canada. The land’s purchase allowed non-indigenous people to start settling in the region, as early as the 19th century (Hedican, 2017). The increase in the number of non-indigenous people made it challenging for the Mississaugas to access waters, hunting lands, and harvesting lands, despite promises that these would be shared.
The Mississaugas, who belong to the New Credit First Nations, are considered part of the Anishinabe or the Ojibway Nation, who are among the largest Indigenous people in North America. Before coming into contact with Europeans, the Mississaugas’ territory was situated in Lake Huron’s north shore, which is the east of Sault Ste (Bolduc et al., 2021). Marie and the west of Manitoulin Island. The French Jesuits are known to have the first known written record to help in the identification and location of the Mississaugas. The written document is in the form of a 1640 account of Lake Huron’s Aboriginal occupants (Hedican, 2017). According to the French document, the Aboriginal people are referred to as the Oumisagai. Just like other Anishinabe people living on the shores of Lake Huron, the Mississauga people’s way of life involves recurring shifts and mobility in resource harvesting in different seasons within the year. During the months of winter, the Mississaugas spread themselves over the Nation territory (Bolduc et al., 2021), whereby they lived in mobile groups consisting of extended families. These families worked together to hunt both small and large game animals. They supplemented hunting with ice fishing, which was the main source of food. It was customary for these families to establish hunting camps during the winter according to certain ranges and move them when necessary (Bolduc et al., 2021). No fixed boundaries existed to stop other family groups to explore new boundaries. Sharing was also encouraged among the Mississauga people, as neighbouring family groups shared food with others during times of need.
The Mississauga had numerous indigenous teachings, which were aimed at passing information about the community to generations. For instance, they followed a 13-moon cycle lunar calendar. These moons had designated names for each of them, which corresponded with seasonal influences depending on location. It was necessary to pass various stories during each of the moons to generations. Also, various animals were celebrated in each cycle, depending on the animal that corresponded to a particular cycle. For instance, the Makwa Giizis, the bear moon, was a moon cycle that was marked during the month of February. It was considered the beginning of the lunar calendar (Bolduc et al., 2021). During this time, bears were believed to begin awakening from hibernation and it was marked with fasting. The major teaching for the cycle was the importance of resting, as the bear gave the earth a rest for some months. Therefore, the people were encouraged to rest just like the bear, as this would help in the restoration of balance and harmony in all creations. The moon cycles that followed also celebrated specific animals and taught significant lessons to the Mississauga.
The Scugog Island First Nation refers to another community belonging to the Mississaugas. The community moved into Southern Ontario around 1700 from the north of Lake Huron, their former homeland (Bolduc et al., 2021). Just like all Mississaugas, they secured all their needs from mother earth, through harvesting plant materials, hunting, and fishing. The community’s staple food was wild rice, which was grown in shallow water and harvested during late summer.
The ideal living space for Mississauga people was characterised by single-family dome shaped birch bark wigwams. The movement of the Mississauga people into the Ontario region was due to the dispersal or the Hurons or the Wendat people. These people were in large populations; however, European diseases led to a reduction in their number. Additionally, attacks by rival native groups also led to decline in their population. The first Indigenous people to settle in the region bordering Lake Scugog appreciated the existence of bountiful resources in the unspoiled wetlands and virgin forests (Bolduc et al., 2021). Fur and game animals were in abundance and wild rice grew in large numbers in the region’s shallow waters. It meant that the people flourished due to the abundance of the food and water until the arrival of Europeans who developed an insatiable appetite for aboriginal land. In particular, British refugees flooded the region after losing the American War of Independence in search of new land (Hedican, 2017). These British ventured into conducting land acquisition treaties with Indigenous people, whereby, they took advantage of the fact that Aboriginal people never understand their language or fully grasped the concept of selling their land. The British took advantage of the situation and convinced Indigenous people to fully give up their valuable native lands in the form of treaties, with little being received in return. The activity of land acquisition did not involve fair dealings, as large amounts of land were acquired through flawed treaties.
The first purchase of the land involved the signing of a treaty known as Treaty 13A between the native Mississauga and the British Crown. The purchase occurred on August 2nd, 1805 and it involved the surrender of vast tracts of land by the Mississauga to the British Crown. The first purchase is sometimes referred to as the Mississauga Purchase and it involved the acquisition of over 74,000 acres of land (Hedican, 2017). An exception during the purchase was exclusion of a one-mile strip on each side of Credit River, which became referred to as the Credit Indian Reserve. After the Old Survey, which occurred in 1806, the large tract of land was opened for settlement and referred to as Toronto Township. The Mississauga and the British Crown signed other treaties that allowed the British to acquire more land. For instance, Treaty 19, which was famously referred to as the Second Purchase was signed on October 28th, 1818 and it surrendered approximately 600,000 acres of land to the Crown (Hedican, 2017). The surveying of the land followed the sale and settlement on the land began in 1819. The survey was referred to as the New Survey and it involved the division of the land into townships of Albion, Toronto Gore, Caledon, Chinguacousy, and Toronto. Other treaties followed Treaty 19, which involved the Mississauga and the British Crown (Hedican, 2017). These were Treaty 22 and Treaty 23, which were characterised by the surrender of a significant portion of the Credit Indian Reserve lands. Treaty 22 and Treaty 23 were given a collective name, the Credit Treaties.
Just like other territories in Canada that had Indigenous peoples, Mississauga had residential schools. In these schools, learners were encouraged to abandon their Indigenous languages, way of life, and cultural beliefs. These learners were mandated to adopt only European languages, new habits, and foreign religious denominations. Enforcement of these involved the development of strict rules. The residential school staff used various ways to ensure the learners respected the rules. For instance, they were beaten with fists, starved, and shamed. Most of the residential schools in Mississauga were run by the federal government and a religious order. Currently, no residential school exists in Mississauga, as the last ones were closed in the 1970s.
Regarding Indigenous names in Mississauga, the name of the town “Mississauga” has its roots from Indigenous people. The region was known as Toronto Township, after being named by the British; however, this changed in 1967 after an overwhelming vote in favour of Mississauga. Credit is given to the Mississaugas for the name of the town.
The Contemporary Presence of Indigenous Community in Mississauga
Currently, indigenous communities that reside in Mississauga include the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation, Mashteuiatsh Community First Nation, Milbrook First Nation, Kahnaw:ke, Nunavut and Neskantaga, Gjoa Haven and Pangnirtung, and Mohawk Nation (Bolduc et al., 2021). In specific, the communities that live in rural areas close to the city include Milbrook First Nation, Mashteuiatsh, and Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation. Those that live in rural remote areas are Nunavut, Gjoa Haven and Pangnirtung, and Neskantaga. Indigenous communities residing in urban Mississauga are Mohawk Nation and Kahnawa:ke (Bolduc et al., 2021). Since the Mississauga comprises different Indigenous populations, this section of the research report will focus on three communities with the highest populations in the region, which include the Mississauga, Milbrook First Nation, and Neskantaga First Nation.
The Mississaugus of the Credit First Nation that reside in Mississauga are approximately 2,500. Half of these individuals reside on reserve, which is located close to Branford city. Notably, the reserve where the Mississauga resides is only 6,000 square acres yet the traditional land of this community covers Toronto area (Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation, 2021). The government paid compensation for these lands, which were then put in a trust meant to benefit Indigenous communities in the reason. The Mississauga is led by a Band Council that takes office after every two years. The council comprises of seven councillors and one chief. The Band Council and the community’s administration is divided into nine departments comprising of education, public works, housing, media and communications, consultation and accommodation, sustainable economic development, social and health services, and lands, research, and membership (OECD, 2020). Currently, the community has various infrastructure and facilities, such as a community centre, administrative buildings, an elementary school, and Ekwaamjigenang Children’s Centre (Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation, 2021). The community has an economic development strategy that is focused on well-being and wellness, environment and sustainability, education and awareness, and inclusive leadership and governance, among others. The strategy is aimed at increasing private sector investment in the community and job creation to reduce reliance on government programs and funding (OECD, 2020). The community’s policy of attracting investment relies on its traditional values of social inclusiveness, respect for traditional culture, and environmental stewardship.
The compensation that the Mississauga got from their land claim has played an important ro
le in fueling their economic development in the region. The community has relied on this compensation to strengthen internal governance and build capacity. The Mississauga relies on the Peace Hills Trust funds to run its programs and services. (Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation, 2021) The Band Council plays an essential role in employing the community’s members. It has approximately 100 staff and 120 additional employees that work in the existing departments. The community has leveraged its proximity to Brantford to develop service-oriented businesses (OECD, 2020). For instance, the community owns a plaza with gas bar that houses numerous service-oriented businesses. Commonly, the Mississauga prefers to develop externally-oriented services on the outskirts to establishing these businesses at the heart of the community (Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation, 2021). Since there are no licenses for private businesses on reserves, the businesses established by the community do not abide by provincial regulations, which have a negative impact on the growth of these businesses through encouraging informal businesses.
The Mississauga has been involved in consultations with the Canadian governments based on treaty and traditional treaties. The community is known for recently signing the first bilateral duty to consult protocol with Canada’s federal government regarding how the government will consult the community regarding developments in their traditional lands and treaty (Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation, 2021).
The Millbrook First Nation is also another community that can be found in Mississauga. It is considered one of the First Nations in the region and is also part of the Mi’kmaq Nation. The community lives within a reserve in the region, known as the Millbrook reserve (Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation, 2021). In recent years, it has achieved economic prosperity due to its administration band, which has managed to maintain a strong local government (OECD, 2020). The local administration ensures that assimilation is encouraged, which has played a significant role in the community economic prosperity. The community is run by a traditional governance structure and an elected Band Council. According to census data collected on the community, the main reserve where the Millbrook stay had a population of approximately 900 people. Additionally, the community had approximately 800 people living on smaller reserves or off the reserve. Notably, the main reserve where most of the Millbrook stay occupies only 851 acres, much of which comprises of arable land.
The Millbrook are considered to be economically successful, which is linked to their idea of embracing assimilation. It has a highly diversified economic base, comprising of gaming and tobacco, fisheries, technology, and real estate development. In the past two decades, the economic success of the community has been linked to specific businesses, such as Millbrook Fisheries, Millbrook Treaty Gas, Gaming Commission Revenues, Millbrook Tobacco Store, and Rental Authority (Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation, 2021). An example of a notable project is the Truro Power Centre. The community established this lifestyle centre and mixed-use business park in 2011. It is in the form of a lease of federal land, which was signed between private partners and the Band Council. The centre has an aquaculture facility, a hotel, a multiplex theatre, a recreational vehicle retailer, and the Millbrook Culture and Heritage Centre. Another worthy investment is Millbrook Fisheries, a venture under the operation of the Band Council. The community owns approximately 14 boats and 50 fishing licences through a fishing agreement that was established with the Canadian Federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation, 2021). The Millbrook community also has technology investments in the form of software and program development. Through its partnership agreements with General Dynamics Canada, the Band has managed to construct a building and lease it to help in housing Maritime Helicopter Project. Also, the community has Millbrook Technologies Inc., an organisation that specialises in the development of customised software. The organisation has demonstrated success through the development of programs for the Chiefs of Ontario. The community’s Culture and Heritage Centre plays an important role in providing information about its history (Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation, 2021). The centre houses numerous ancient artifacts, beadwork, and quillwork. The centre has played an essential role in promoting tourism in the wider Ontario region, as many visitors throng it to understand the history of Indigenous peoples. In specific, the center functions as an educational one that provides tourists with cultural experiences of the community. Another worthy investment by the community is the Truro Millbrook Wind Limited Partnership, which focuses on the generation of Wind energy (Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation, 2021). The energy generated by the project has played an important role in the production of power to numerous homes within the region.
Another Indigenous community with a significant presence in Mississauga is the Neskantaga First Nation. It is a rural community, which means that it struggles with basic infrastructure provision and access to services (Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation, 2021). Therefore, experiences of this community largely reflect the numerous challenges that Indigenous communities that reside in rural areas face. The community is considered an Oji-Cree band government, which is located in northern Ontario (Government of Canada, 2021). It is a remotely-located community that can only be reached by plane. The remoteness of the community usually makes it challenging to deliver basic infrastructure to it. It means that the community struggles with high food and energy costs. The community lives in the Neskantaga reserve that is approximately 830.5 hectares despite its traditional territory extending beyond this reserve to a significant part of the province (Statistics Canada, 2016). Members of this community still rely on hunting and fishing for survival due to their remoteness. Currently, the community has an approximate population of 491, according to census data as of 2016 (Statistics Canada, 2016)
In conclusion, the Mississaugas belong to the Indigenous people that reside in the Mississauga area. The Mississauga belong to the New Credit First Nations, are considered part of the Anishinabe or the Ojibway Nation, who are among the largest Indigenous people in North America. The Mississauga generally refers to the Anishinabe people, who are estimated to have taken 500 years to migrate to the region, specifically, between 900-1400 and the land on which they currently settle on is considered part of the Treaty Lands and Territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nations. The community was involved in the signing of various treaties with the Crown. The first purchase of the land involved the signing of a treaty known as Treaty 13A between the native Mississauga and the British Crown. The purchase occurred on August 2nd, 1805 and it involved the surrender of vast tracts of land by the Mississauga to the British Crown. The first purchase is sometimes referred to as the Mississauga Purchase and it involved the acquisition of over 74,000 acres of land (Hedican, 2017). The Mississauga and the British Crown signed other treaties that allowed the British to acquire more land. For instance, Treaty 19, which was famously referred to as the Second Purchase was signed on October 28th, 1818 and it surrendered approximately 600,000 acres of land to the Crown. Other treaties that were signed were the Credit Treaties, Treaty 22 and Treaty 23 (Hedican, 2017). In contemporary society, Indigenous people have become involved in various activities, aimed at improving economic sustainability. The major issue that has emerged from this discussion of Indigenous people in Canada is the need for more involvement of the federal government to improve the lives of indigenous people. While most Indigenous people have embarked on economic activities to improve their lives, some still lag, which calls for intervention by the federal government.
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