Origins

It is widely recognized that the Saugeen Ojibway occupied and utilized a land base of about 2 million acres before the arrival of the British. The area was loosely defined as a point presently known as the Town of Arthur and extending west to Lake Huron and north to Georgian Bay. It is in this context that the Royal Proclamation of 1763 was created to protect lands occupied by First Nations of North America. The Proclamation was intended to halt or at least decelerate the advance of Euro settlement. It established strict rules for the purchase and surrender of native lands with the Crown.

Nevertheless, white encroachment and the promise of a landbase on Manitoulin Island by Sir Francis Bond, Head and Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada at the time convinced the Saugeen Ojibway to surrender all lands south of Owen Sound. In 1836 the Saugeen Ojibway signed the treaty No. 45 Y2 and proceeded to surrender 1.5 million acres of “the very richest land of Upper Canada.” The intrusion of Euro settlers did not diminish and in 1847 it was necessary for Queen Victoria to issue a Royal Declaration. The Declaration confirmed the land of the Saugeen Ojibway as being the Saugeen Peninsula (a.k.a. Bruce Peninsula) as roughly defined by a line between Southampton and Owen Sound as well as any islands within seven miles of the coast.

Three years later in 1850 it was further necessary for the Government of Canada to pass a special “Act” for protection of Indian lands against squatters and loggers. This was called an “Act for the protection of the Indians in Upper Canada from Imposition, and the property occupied or enjoyed by them from trespass and injury.” These legal documents appear to have accomplished little to protect native lands. The following year in 1851 the Government of Canada and the Saugeen Ojibway signed the “Half-Mile Strip Treaty.” An area of over 4,000 acres was surrendered for a road to join Owen Sound and Southampton.

Euro settlement continued to accelerate. The Crown searched for a solution but the best policy they could develop came from Laurence Oliphant, Superintendent General for Indian Affairs who said “it therefore became an obligation upon the Indian Department to wring from those whom it protects some assent, however reluctant. (To surrender their land).”

Oliphant himself “negotiated” Treaty No. 72 in 1854. The Saugeen Ojibway ceded a little less than 500,000 acres of the Saugeen Peninsula. In exchange, the Saugeen Ojibway were to receive proceeds from all-lands sold to be held “in trust” as well as better protection of remaining Reserves from encroachment. The land base remaining consisted og Chief’s point, Saugeen Reserve (Owen Sound), Colpoy’s Bay Reserve (Big Bay). Cape Croker Indian Reserve No. 27. the Fishing Islands in Lake Huron, Cape Hurd Islands and three islands at the entrance to Colpoy’s Bay.

The 10,000 acre Nawash Reserve on the west-side of Owen Sound Bay was surrendered in 1857. The residents were supposed to move to Cape Croker but many were reluctant. Four years later in 1861 the Colpoy’s Bay Reserve of 6,000 acres was surrendered and although a few did move to Cape Croker the majority moved to Christian Island and some to Southhampton. Finally, the Fishing Islands and Cape Hurd Islands of Lake Huron as well as Griffith, Hay and White Cloud Islands on Georgian Bay were also surrendered from 1885 to 1899. To complete the chronological changes in land base approximately 90 fishing islands in Lake Huron were returned to the Saugeen Ojibway in 1968.

Cape Croker Indian Reserve like every settlement on the planet is consistently changing and was officially named “Neyaashiinigmiing” on January 21, 1992. It means “point of land surrounded on three side by water.”