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Ojibwa fishing grounds : a history of Ontario fisheries law, science, and the sportsmen’s challenge to Aboriginal treaty rights, 1650-1900 Thoms, J. Michael


This dissertation investigates the question: what happened to the Ojibwa right to fish in southern Ontario? The region is one of the oldest and most complex in Canada for Aboriginal and treaty rights negotiations and fisheries law. The study involves community-based case studies with four Mississauga and three Chippewa First Nations. It reconstructs their system and laws for the conservation of their valued ecosystem components prior to their first treaties with the British Crown in 1783. This forms the critical environmental context from which to interpret Ojibwa treaty strategies. The Crown made no records of the first treaties, but Ojibwa oral histories of the agreements hold that they reserved the regions' wetlands and fisheries for their exclusive use, agreeing only to cede arable uplands to the Crown for agricultural settlement. The dissertation corroborates the oral histories in British records. Further, the study demonstrates that the parliament of Upper Canada protected the Ojibwa treaty fishing rights in a series of "Acts for the Preservation of Salmon" (1807, 1810,1820,1823); settlers bore the burden of the first conservation laws. The dissertation then asks what happened to these treaty and legislative protections? It identifies a cabal of mid-19th century sportsmen who developed a series of enduring arguments against Aboriginal rights and infiltrated parliament to effect new legislation that criminalized Ojibwa fishing systems and entrenched their own methods. The final component applies methods from science and technology studies to demonstrate how sportsmen's associations influenced the early development of fisheries science research to make scientific truth statements that endorsed their social interests and recast the Aboriginal fishing systems as a serious threat to the conservation of stocks. The sportsmen's 19th scientific truth statements are critically studied for their roots in a colonial power struggle. They remain at the core of modern fisheries management principles and continue to obstruct the rehabilitation of Ojibwa fishing systems and treaty rights.

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