Aamjiwnaang accepts offer on historic land sale claim

Aamjiwnaang First Nation and other nearby Indigenous communities were embezzled out of millions from the sale of what is now downtown Sarnia. Glenn Ogilvie file photo

Troy Shantz

The federal government has offered two Lambton County First Nations a total of $35.7 million to settle a 166-year-old claim involving an Indian agent whose family pocketed money intended for the two communities.

Aamjiwnaang First Nation residents ratified its portion of the offer in a vote held Oct. 9, the same day the community re-elected Chris Plain to another term in office.

Band members voted 687 to 26 in favour of the settlement, which could see Aamjiwnaang receive $18.5 million by the end of the year.

“They’ve been working on it for quite a while, so it’s coming to fruition finally. We expected a good turnout of voters,” said Patrick Nahmabin, Aamjiwnaang’s community information officer.

Kettle and Stony Point, which would receive $17.2 million, votes Nov. 13.

Both communities must ratify the settlement for it to proceed, Nahmabin said.

The Clench claim dates to 1845, when Colonel Joseph Brant Clench, a superintendent of Indian Affairs, was responsible for directing revenue from the sale of Anishinabek land to Bkejwanong (Walpole Island), Aamjiwnaang, Kettle and Stony Point, and the Chippewa of the Thames.

In the early 1850s, Clench discovered his wife and sons were stealing money intended for the First Nations trust fund, the Anishinabek News has reported.

Clench was suspended and taken to court, where it was determined his family had stolen about 9,000 British Pounds, the publication said.

In 2005, The Chippewa of the Thames First Nation accepted a financial package totalling $15 million for damages and losses it suffered as a result of the Clench claim.

Nahmabin said the current settlement offer pertains to property in and around what is now downtown Sarnia. The land sale was legitimate at the time, but Aamjiwnaang and Kettle and Stony Point did not get their full share of the proceeds.

The amount is based on inflation and land value increases over the years, Nahmabin added.

At the Aamjiwnaang general election, Chief Plain earned 403 votes. This year’s election had a higher than average turnout, Nahmabin said.

Darren Henry, Mike Jackson, Anthony Jacobs, Tom Maness, Shawn Plain, Lareina Rising, Joanne Rogers, June Simon and Dallas Sinopole were elected to seats on band council.