After 150 years, First Nations Try to Raise the Rent around Lake Huron


In exchange for land, Queen Victoria promised an annuity to each indigenous person around Lake Huron. Now a legal case seeks to bring that treaty up to date. (The Guardian)

Where is this $4 land? Use our downloadable map to find Ojibwe cultural territory.

Teachers, scroll down for a quick list of key resources in our Teachers Toolkit.

The Robinson Huron Treaty was negotiated between the British- Canadian government and leaders of Ojibwe bands around Lake Huron. On this (very contested) map, Ojibwe cultures are conflated with related First Nations groups, Ottawa and Huron.
Map by National Geographic

Discussion Ideas

  • Many indigenous peoples are closely watching the Canadian legal case reconsidering the Robinson Huron Treaty. What is the Robinson Huron Treaty?
    • The treaty is an international agreement about land use negotiated in 1850 between bands of First Nations people and William Benjamin Robinson.
      • Robinson was a Canadian fur trapper and politician who represented the British government, which at that time governed Canada.
      • The First Nations leaders who negotiated the Robinson Huron treaty represented different bands of Ojibwe who inhabited the region around Lake Huron. The Ojibwe, also known as Chippewa, are a First Nations people indigenous to the northern Great Lakes region of the U.S. and Canada.
        • The treaty also covered territory occupied by other First Nations peoples, including the Wikwemikong First Nation. The Wikwemikong never signed the treaty, and their reserve on Manitoulin Island, Lake Huron, is considered an “unceded Indian reserve.”


  • What were the terms of the Robinson Huron Treaty?
    • The treaty ceded more than 92,460 square kilometers (35,700 square miles) of land around Lake Huron to white settlers and businesses. It also stipulated land be set aside for First Nations reserves.
    • First Nations signatories agreed to refrain from interfering with mining, forestry, or other extractive activities in the ceded areas.
    • The treaty stated that First Nations could not sell or lease land in their own reserves without permission and oversight of the Canadian government.
    • The treaty offered First Nations people hunting and fishing rights, even in ceded areas.
    • The treaty prevented sale or donation of reserve land to people of mixed ancestry. The treaties required that people of mixed-race ancestry “declare themselves as either Indian or non-Indian. It could be argued that by requiring this choice, the government effectively prevented the development of Métis communities in Ontario similar to those that grew in Western Canada.”
      • The Métis are an indigenous people of Canada distinct from both First Nations and Inuit. Métis trace their ancestry to Native Americans and European settlers.
    • The treaty included an annual payment (annuity) equivalent to $2 Canadian (about $1.60 in U.S. dollars) per person each year. In 1874, the payment was increased to C$4 (US$3.20) a year. It remains that today.


  • What aspect of the Robinson Huron Treaty is being challenged in court?
    • Lawyers and politicians are challenging the C$4 annuity payments outlined in the treaty.
      • The treaty stipulates that the amount of the annuity be increased if the territory’s value increases. The rich natural resources around Lake Huron have been continually harvested for forestry, mining, and freshwater industries. Some supporters say the land may have yielded between C$500 million and C$1 billion (US$400 million to US$800 million) in resource development.
    • Twenty-one First Nations in Northern Ontario are challenging the Robinson Huron Treaty. Leaders of the Wikwemikong, not beneficiaries of the original treaty, are actually leading the annuities claim.



Ojibwe boys scout for wild rice along the Saint Croix Basin in Minnesota, a little further south than the Lake Huron territory being contested in a Canadian courtroom.
Photograph by David Boyer, National Geographic



The Guardian: First Nations seek to raise Canada’s rent after 150 years of $4 payments

Nat Geo: Native American Cultures

(extra credit!) Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada: The Robinson Treaties (1850)

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