By Maura Forrest - National Post May 3, 2019
OTTAWA — In July 1615, French explorer Samuel de Champlain made his way by canoe down the French River toward Georgian Bay. Close to the mouth of the river, he encountered 300 Anishinaabe men who he dubbed cheveux relevés — “high hairs” — because of how they wore their hair tied up. In his journal, he wrote that he gave their chief a hatchet, which was received as a “rich gift,” and “asked him about his country.” The next day, he continued on to the bay.
Four hundred years later, this encounter will take on new relevance in a landmark court case in which two First Nations from Ontario’s Bruce Peninsula, known collectively as the Saugeen Ojibway Nation, are claiming title to a large swath of Lake Huron and Georgian Bay. That meeting with Champlain, they will argue, is one piece of evidence that their ancestors controlled access to their territory — including the open water — and that Europeans and other Indigenous peoples could only pass through with their permission.