The Odawa inhabited Odawa Mnis or “Manitoulin Island” for many years prior to any other tribal settlements; Manitoulin Island has also been called “Ogemah Mnis”, the home of the ancestors as recorded by many Chiefs having been buried here. Prior to European contact, a confederacy of Anishinabek tribes composed of the Odawa, Ojibway and Pottawatomi controlled the Northern Great Lakes areas including Manitoulin Island.
In documented records from 1610, the Anishinabek established first contact with the French via Étienne Brûlé along Georgian Bay whom was a part of the Samuel de Champlain expeditions on the North American frontier. In the summer of 1615, Samuel de Champlain met some 300 Odawa warriors just west of the French River to begin a trading relationship. In 1648, a French Jesuit named Joseph Antoine Poncet arrived on Manitoulin Island and set up a mission for the Anishinabek.
British expansion continued west and began to come into proximity of the Great Lakes region due the Hudson’s Bay company controlling the fur trade within the Hudson’s Bay drainage basin. During the Seven Years War (1756-1763), the Anishinabek sided with the French.
The 1763 Royal Proclamation by Britain’s King George III would instill protection of “Indian Lands” by the British Crown and that the Crown identifies the lands the Indians occupy is rightfully theirs. This also sets out the treaty-making process that the British must abide by to gain access to any territory the Anishinabek occupied.
During the War of 1812, the British needed the help of the Anishinabek due to their extensive knowledge of the land and waters. About 2000 Anishinabek warriors from north of Lake Superior, Lake Huron and Odawa Mnisiing volunteered their service.
When Upper Canada wanted to open the southern areas for settlement, they directed Indians to resettle on Manitoulin Island, though they did not. In 1862, the McDougall Treaty was initiated and designed to target the surrender of lands on Manitoulin Island. But Wiikwemkoong did not sign the treaty and vehemently opposed any treaty making with the Crown, and thus it became known as the Manitoulin Island Unceded ‘Indian Reserve’.
In 1968, an amalgamation took place among three bands: Manitoulin Island Unceded Indian Reserve, Point Grondine and South Bay. This amalgamation created the Wikwemikong Unceded Indian Reserve. In 2014, the Constitution- Wiikwemkoong G’chi Naaknigewin was ratified, birthing a renewal of pride in our unique political and legal history.