Friday, August 1, 2014

Town drops ‘Pither’ from Point

The Town of Fort Frances will be working with Agency 1 bands to rename the area known as Pither’s Point Park.
As a first step, the land now will be referred to simply as “The Point” on an interim basis until a new name is determined.

Fort Frances CAO Mark McCaig said Monday night that the town recently has been in discussions with Agency 1 bands, including Couchiching, Naicatchewenin, Nigigoonsiminikaaning (formerly Nicickousemencaning), and Mitaanjigamiing (formerly Stanjikoming), regarding matters related to the point.
“We’ve endeavoured to meet again, to meet as often as we can, to pursue any opportunity to solve some, maybe all, the issues that are currently in litigation,” he remarked.
“So tonight [Monday] the resolution you see before you is a reflection of those endeavours that we’re entering into,” added McCaig.
“What we’re deciding to do over the next period of time is work together with the First Nations to find a name that is appropriate for the area that’s traditionally been known as Pither’s Point Park.
“So for the interim, we’re going to formally call it whatever everybody else usually calls it, which is ‘The Point,’” noted McCaig.
We’re going to work together, in consultation with the First Nations, to identify something else.
“We’re removing the reference to ‘Pither’s’ out of the official name of the park,” he stressed.
McCaig said the reference to Robert J.N. Pither, the Indian Agent sent here by John A. Macdonald to negotiate with the natives pertaining to land and treaties back in 1871, has been a concern for area First Nations for years.
“As a sign of good faith, good will,” the town is removing the name.
In an interview yesterday, Chief Sara Mainville said the name change is “a small step in the right direction.”
“We have a whole bunch of land claims and some of them are in direct result of his actions,” Chief Mainville noted, referring to Pither.
“He was self-serving, to say the least, as many Indian Agents were.
“I think changing the name of that park, because it is on an Indian reserve, is a good thing to do,” she added.
“It’s a positive step but a small, positive step.”
Chief Mainville said she had spoken with Fort Frances Mayor Roy Avis, who had told her of the town’s plan to make the name change prior to council passing its resolution.
She recognized that it was “symbolic.”
“But I think it is a good thing and I think my community will see it as a good thing, as well,” she noted.
“A step towards to reconciling our claim there, a movement toward returning the land to reserve, and also having some meaningful discussions on that park and why it’s important to not just the municipality of Fort Frances but its importance to the First Nations, as well.”
As previously reported, there have been five lawsuits before the court involving the Point, road allowances in and in the vicinity of the park, and the waterfront lands surrounding (and in the vicinity of) the park.
Back in February, Justice J.S. Fregeau of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice passed down a decision regarding the “Point two-chain” in favour of the town.
Chief Mainville said the four bands are protecting their right to appeal the decision, but right now are concentrating on whether or not there’s opportunities to settle the matter out of court.
“It’s something that we all see the importance of,” she remarked.
“We were in court for many, many years, spending a lot of money that none of the parties [could afford]. . . .
“But I think Fort Frances and Couchiching didn’t feel like it was money well-spent because really what it got was public access to a piece of land that is likely under water.
“The resolution was just too expensive and it didn’t really resolve anything,” added Chief Mainville.
“I think we have to have a good discussion on how we’re going to live together, particularly with that reserve.
“I think it will yield economic benefits for the entire district if we can finally resolve how to get it back into First Nation control, and out of Ottawa’s control, because that’s right now where it is,” Chief Mainville noted.
“We can’t do anything on those lands so getting it out of Ottawa’s control is important for the entire district,” she stressed.
“It’s a key to tourism, it’s a key to economic development, and it’s certainly an opportunity for the town and four local First Nations to work together and build something positive together.”
Coun. Andrew Hallikas said Monday night that the town has made a “progressive” move.
He also indicated his appreciation to Chief Mainville “for reaching out to Fort Frances and the district, and indicating her desire to work together and move forward together as neighbours should.”

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