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For increased historical recognition of the Anishinabe

For increased historical recognition of the Anishinabés


“With the Mohawks, we helped our allies win the Anglo-American War of 1812. Without us and other Indigenous peoples, Canada today might be part of the United States,” said former Anishinaabe community leader Jean-Guy Whiteduck of Kitigan Zibi in an interview with Journal.

Half a century before the creation of Canada, American troops want to invade the lands of the North, but face unexpected resistance: that of the Aboriginal people who know the country well. They allied with the British in the West. 

The invasion stretched out over more than a year when the troops were ordered to conquer Montreal. Faced with this threat, the native warriors joined, in Châteauguay, the ranks of the Canadian Voltigeurs, volunteers from Lower Canada. 

On October 26, 1813, they celebrated the victory against 7000 American soldiers who retreat.


This episode in the history of the Anishinaabe nation is not known to Quebecers, laments Mr. Whiteduck.

“Even today we don't exist in the history books,” he says.

The Anishinabés have been present in America for 10,000 years, however, as evidenced by archaeological discoveries at various sites. 

These nomads lived by hunting, fishing and gathering until the arrival of the French. Then they were 'His Majesty's Subjects' under the English regime.

For many, including the former chief of Kitigan Zibi, the British administration has not been positive.

“The English told us they would respect us if we didn’t get involved in the war. We have kept our word; not them! 

Occupying “unceded territory”, the English imposed title deeds. From 1867, when the Canadian government was created, a solution to the Indian problem was sought. The reserve system was then put in place.

Now numbering approximately 10,000 people, the Anishinabés of Quebec are divided into nine communities. Those once called the Algonquins are only a part of the nation spread across five Canadian provinces and the northern United States.


Mr. Whiteduck did not experience residential school, but said that at his elementary school in Kitigan Zibi, young people were not allowed to speak their language. 

“Reservations were not places where we were free. It was the equivalent of concentration camps aimed at eliminating us,” he says, adding that men could be arrested and imprisoned for hunting a moose on their own territory.

Mr.  Whiteduck also believes that the challenge of the survival of his nation depends on the success of the territorial claims that he is leading with the representatives of the Anishinabés. 

“ We want to participate in the development mining, hydroelectric and forestry that is being prepared in the region. We will not be left out this time,” he concludes.


Spelling: The Anishinabe people (also spelled Anicinabe, Anicinape, Anishinaabe, Anishnâbé and Anishnape) have been present in North America for centuries, probably millennia. It has a traditionally nomadic lifestyle. When the Europeans arrived, who called them “Algonquins”, they took part in the fur trade.

Population: 10,000 (in Quebec).

Language:algonquin (anishinaabemowin).

Meaning: Anicinabe means “original man” or “good man”.

Significant figures: Tessouat is the guardian of Île aux Allumettes, in the Outaouais, who refuses to let Champlain pass in 1613; William and Gabriel Commanda (see text below); Rapper, host and comedian Samian is an Anishinabé from Pikogan. 

The man who brought the Aboriginal cause before the UN

William Commanda (1913-2011) was band chief of Kitigan Zibi from 1951 to 1970. Known for his mastery of canoe making of bark, he paid particular attention to traditional objects such as wampums, these pearl necklaces carrying messages.

Grandson of the community's founder, Luc-Antoine Pakinawatik, Commanda took the cause of Indigenous people to the United Nations headquarters in New York, where he gave several speeches. 

He thus contributed to the adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. His international actions brought him into contact with the spiritual leader of Tibet, the Dalai Lama, as well as the President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela.

Decorated with the Order of Canada in 2008 , he led until his death an international peace movement, the Circle of Nations. 

The Commanda family includes another illustrious personality, his uncle Gabriel Commanda (1891-1967). Trapper, fisherman, lumberjack, guide and prospector, it was he who triggered the Abitibi gold rush after discovering a deposit of the precious metal in Lamaque in 1920. 

But he was “evicted from his land to allow the operation of the mine,” according to the Algonquin Anishinabeg Nation Tribal Council. He will never benefit from the wealth of this vein. 

Val-d'Or considers him today as one of its founders. 

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