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Williams Treaties First Nations commemorate 100 years since signing misinterpretation

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The seven Williams Treaties First Nations gathered on Monday to commemorate 100 years since the signing of what was supposed to be mutual understanding.

"Respect, sharing and living peacefully together within the space we now know as Ontario. Instead, what happened was the treaty was misinterpreted," said Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation Chief Kelly LaRocca.

Curve Lake First Nation Chief Keith Knott says in 1923, First Nations communities believed they were just signing a land agreement with the government. But when the treaty became official in 1924, they were stripped of their hunting and harvesting rights as well.

He says it's something they never would've knowingly agreed to because those activities are engrained in the Indigenous way of life.

"Because our people wouldn't give up their way of life, their store, you could say. That would be like the Foodland or Costco of our people is the land and the waters," explained Chief Knott, who believes the Williams Treaties were manipulated after they were signed.

The misinterpretation wasn't rectified until 2018 in court.

The event held on Monday was to celebrate hope, their kinship and the fight and resilience of their ancestors.

"It wasn't a physical fight. It was a spiritual and mental fight to stay strong to their purpose, to their mission, to their people," said Chippewas of Rama First Nation Chief Ted Williams.

"Our people did suffer a great deal as a result of the Williams Treaties," said Chief LaRocca

Rama's Chief believes the Williams Treaties go hand in hand with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

"What one of those 94 calls to action can you take as a member of society with your family around the dinner table and implement that's going to have a long and lasting impact?" asked Chief Williams.

Chiefs who spoke at the event said there is still work to be done, especially when educating Canadians about First Nations history.

They encourage members of the Williams Treaties and other treaty nations to exercise their treaty rights as intended. They want them to develop their lands, protocols and processes while maintaining their traditions and culture for their youth.

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