Nations don't have a formal role in governance there are at
least two places where they do. They are the Buffalo Point
First Nation and the Ojibway Nation of Saugeen Reserve.
Below is an overview of their history, people, and current
Buffalo Point First Nation
located along the Canada-US border in
the province of Manitoba. It is close to
the Northwest Angle, the only place in
the US other than Alaska that is above
the 49th parallel. The current chief of
the First Nation is John Thunder.
The area of Buffalo Point had been a gathering point of
the Anishinabe peoples (which include the Odawa,
Saulteaux, Ojibwe, Potawatomi, Oji-Cree, and Algonquin). In
1873 Chief Ayashwash signed Treaty 3 with the Canadian
government along with other tribes in the area. In 1900
Little Thunder succeeded his father as chief. However, he died
six years later and his son, Jim Thunder (known as Old Jim),
took over as chief and led the tribe until 1941. The reserve's
old site had flooded in the 1890s and by the 1930s the tribe
was becoming dispersed. During Old Jim's time as chief 1670
acres were acquired for a new reserve. In 1941 Warren
Thunder became chief. In 1967 the Manitoba government
tried to buy out the choicest land for a resort. The sale was
stopped after Chief Warren consulted with his adopted
nephew. Lacking a son on his own, he appointed said nephew,
Jim Thunder, as chief in 1969. During Jim's time as chief he
began the process of developing Buffalo Point into a tourist
destination. In 1997 leadership passed to his son, John
Thunder, who is the current chief.
Currently tribe's population sits at 40 on-reserve members
and 82 off-reserve members. The population has always been
small with there being only 57 in 1916. Five families have
historically made up the tribe's membership; Thunder's,
Lighting's, Cobiness's, Handorgan's, and Powasen's.
The tribe's leadership is hereditary with the chief having the
option to retire early and appoint a successor. The chief
chooses the councilors himself.
While the current chief and his father have received praise for
developing Buffalo Point, criticism has grown that not enough
revenues are being shared with the community. This has led
to an attempt to end his hereditary rule by Manitoba's
Southern Chiefs' Organization which tried unsuccessfully to
put Andrea Camp in power as chief. Chief Jim Thunder
argues that the Indian Act makes it difficult for First
Nations to form a business class as all profits must go
into community development. It is hard to say what will
happen to hereditary rule at Buffalo Point. There is obviously
discontent but thus far the Canadian government has treated
it as an internal matter. Only time will tell whether the chief
will be able to handle his public relations role as well as he
handles his business role.
Ojibway Nation of Saugeen Reserve
Reserve shares some similarities
with the Buffalo Point First Nation.
Both tribes are signatories to Treaty
3. Both tribes belong to the wider
Anishinabe culture. And both tribes
have hereditary chiefs who are
pursuing economic development.
The Ojibway Nation of Saugeen Reserve has a much shorter
history than the Buffalo Point First Nation. The reserve is
located in an isolated section of northern Ontario. While a
signatory to Treaty 3 they are not part of any larger grouping
of First Nations such as the Grand Council of Treaty 3.
Originally a part of the Lac Seul First Nation to the south
they broke away to form their own band in the 1980s. Gilbert
Machimity, head of one of the community's founding families,
appointed Edward Machimity as the reserve's first chief in
1985. 12 years later Chief Edward Machimity opted to draft
a custom leadership selection code in line with the rules laid
out by the Department of Indian Affairs. This made the
position of chief hereditary. He remains chief to this day and
has pursued a policy of encouraging resource extraction.
Band membership sits at 242 people with about 100 living on
the reserve itself.
While the Chief rules for life and the custom leadership
selection code refers to the position as hereditary, statements
made by Chief Edward Machimity refer to an election after
his death. I have not been able to discern the exact process of
leadership transfer which would reconcile his statements with
the other documents. A number of headmen are appointed by
the chief to help him govern.
Originally, the membership of the band supported the chief's
leadership. However, those opposing him say that over time
he has become intolerant of opposition and distant
towards the community. While complaints about money not
getting out to the wider community are similar to those of the
Buffalo Point First Nation there are also complaints about
abuse of authority. The Canadian government has refused to
get involved in the situation. Chief Edward Machimity is
rumored to have health problems. The chief's presumed
successor is in his 40s. It remains to be seen whether the chief
or his successor will be able to deal with opposition to their
A Kisaragi Colour