UNION OF ONTARIO INDIANS

The Anishinabek Nation incorporated the Union of Ontario Indians (UOI) as its secretariat in 1949. The UOI is a political advocate for 40 member First Nations across Ontario. The Union of Ontario Indians is the oldest political organization in Ontario and can trace its roots back to the Confederacy of Three Fires, which existed long before European contact.

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The UOI represents 40 First Nations throughout the province of Ontario from Golden Lake in the east, Sarnia in the south, Thunder Bay and Lake Nipigon in the north. The 40 First Nations have an approximate combined population of 60,000 citizens, one third of the province of Ontario’s aboriginal population.  The Anishinabek Nation has four strategic regional areas Southwest, Southeast, Lake Huron and Northern Superior and each region is represented by a Regional Grand Chief.

The Union of Ontario Indians has its headquarters located on Nipissing First Nation, just outside of North Bay Ontario and has satellite offices in Thunder Bay, Curve Lake First Nation and Munsee-Delaware First Nation.  The UOI:

  • delivers a variety of programs and services, such as Health, Social Services, Education, Intergovernmental Affairs and Treaty Research, and does this with a compliment of approximately 70 staff members.
  • provides the necessary forum for collective First Nation actions on housing and other issues through their Chiefs in Assembly, and direction to the Grand Council Chief by way of resolution
  • is governed by a board of directors and has a Grand Council Chief and a Deputy Grand Council Chief that carry the day-to-day leadership responsibilities.

HISTORY OF THE ANISHINABEK NATION

The Ojibway (Chippewas), Odawa and Pottawatomi Nations formed the Confederacy of the Three Fires of peoples who shared similar languages and territories and who met together for military and political purposes. Each Nation had their role in that Confederacy. The Ojibway (Chippewas) were the providers, the Odawa were the warriors and the Pottawatomi were the firekeepers. The Council of the Three Fires had a number of meeting places: one of the most use, and the most central was Michilimackinack.

During the 1600’s the 1700’s, the Confederacy controlled the hub of the Great Lakes and maintained relations with the Iroquois Confederacy, Sauk Fox, , Menominee, Sauk. Winnebago, Sioux, British and French Nations, among others. Occasionally, these international relations would deteriorate into wars, though most frequently, trade and peaceful co-existence prevailed.

By the mid 1700’s partly with the encouragement of the British, the Confederacy of the Three Fires became the core of the western lakes confederacy. The Huron, Algonquin, Nipissing, Sauk, Fox, and others joined this loose confederacy. This powerful body provided the British with important allies in times of war and a balance to the Iroquois Confederacy to the south and east.  The Great Treaty of Niagara of 1764 marked the formal beginning of peaceful relations with Great Britain.

During the 1800’s traditional structures and procedures changed, wampum became less important as a means of keeping records when more people could read and write, and since government no longer responded to the belts. Gradually, a structured Indian organization came into being, made up of the same Chiefs who had taken part in the older Councils.

The Grand General Indian Council of Ontario and Quebec first met under that name in 1870. In its early days, it met every two years. Later, the meetings were held annually. Almost all of the Lake Huron are took part, while the Six Nations Iroquois kept their own traditional Council s and relations with their people across the border. According to the minutes of the annual meetings, much of the Grand Council’s time was spend on reviewing the Indian Act.

In 1949, the Union of Ontario Indians (UOI) was formed to replace the Grand General Indian Council. At that time, it represented most of the First nation in Ontario, with the exception of a number of independents and isolated First Nations who could not participate.  Its objectives were openly political, whose agenda included the elections of Indians to Parliament and the full respect of treaty rights. Once again, conventions were held each year on reserves. Discussions focused on the Indian Act, hunting and fishing rights, medical services, education, and lands issues. The 1951 meeting in Sarnia called for the establishment of an Indian Claims Commission.

In 1969, the UOI was reorganized to reflect the wider scope of Indian politics across the Province. By 1972, three other Provincial Territorial Organizations (PTO’s) were formed: The Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians, Nishnawbe Aski Nation and Grand Council Treaty 3.

Today, the Union of Ontario Indians represents 40 Anishinabek First Nations.

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