In 1850, the Crown and Ojibwa inhabiting the area north of Lake Huron entered into treaty negotiations at Sault Ste. Marie. The Robinson-Huron Treaty was signed by a representative of the Wahnapitae First Nation (and others) and the Crown at the end of the negotiations, and is dated September 9, 1850.
The Treaty provided that the Ojibwa could retain certain lands as their reserves and could continue to hunt and fish over the entire territory except for areas that may be sold or leased to individuals or companies, and occupied by the purchasers or lessees with the consent of the Crown. The Treaty also provided for a cash payment at the time of the Treaty and for a perpetual annuity. In return, the Ojibwa surrendered their right, title and interest to the entire area, apart from their reserves.According to the Treaty, the reserve for Tagawinini and his Band was to be “... two miles square at Wanabitibing, a place about forty miles inland, near Lake Nipissing”.
A March 11, 1854 Proclamation extended the 1850 “Act for the Protection of the Indians in Upper Canada ...” to certain lands including those reserved for Tagawinini and his Band. As the Wahnapitae Reserve had not yet been surveyed, the description for those lands was the same as in the 1850 Treaty. This was done notwithstanding the problems which had led to adjustments in the surveys of many other Robinson-Huron and Robinson-Superior reserves.
The reserve was finally surveyed in 1884 by PLS G. Abrey, apparently without consulting representatives of the First Nation.
Wahnapitae First Nation utilized the Wahnapitae Watershed for traditional activities such as hunting, fishing, trapping and harvesting. The area was particularly significant for trade routes utilizing the Wahnapitae and Vermillion River to gain access to the Great Lakes and other major waterways. The route included the establishment of the Hudson’s Bay Trading Post located at the North River on Lake Wahnapitae in 1821 and in the mid 1870’s on Post Creek.
The Wahnapitae First Nation (WFN) is a signatory to the Robinson-Huron Treaty of 1850. It is listed as #11 on the Schedule of Reserves. The First Nation is an Ojibway Band and is part of the Anishinabek Nation. The First Nation Reserve is located some 50 km north of Sudbury, Ontario, and is accessible by all season gravel roads from the town of Capreol. The reserve land base is 3.2 km by 3.2 km on the north shore of Lake Wahnapitae and covers approximately 1036 hectares of land. A pending land claim settlement may increase this land base. The Wahnapitae First Nation elects its Chief and Council under Band Custom. There is one chief and 4 councillors.
WFN community traditional lands map
The WFN is a developing community with a growing population and expanding land base. There are approximately 320 members with some 60 living on reserve. There are several tourism related businesses owned by individual members. These include a licensed restaurant and four camp/trailer/cottage grounds. Band members residing on reserve are employed in Band administration, public works and in other areas of reserve. Limited development has occurred on reserve, primarily along the north shore of Lake Wahnapitei.
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There are more than seventy surveyed residential lots. The community is surrounded by mining (nickel exploration/mining, and gold exploration activity), forestry (pine and spruce harvesting) and tourist operators. The Band participates in some of these activities, and the community has developed a Community Development Plan.
This Plan is based on the priority needs of the community as follows:
- Economic Development,
- Watershed Management, and