Aboriginal History:
The 1836 Treaty

Aboriginal History: the 1836 treaty made promises to the native peoples of the Bruce Peninsula which did not last long before everything changed again.

You have just learned that the government has invited people from another region to live on the property which you own. How would you feel? How would you react? To make matters worse, only a short time earlier the government had arbitrarily taken some of your property. Of course, you had been paid, but you did not sell the land by choice. How would you feel? How would you react?

The Native People of the Bruce Peninsula region, had, throughout the centuries faced many incursions from invaders. On occasion they had been forced to flee their home territory, re-group, and return after the invading forces had been dispatched. In last week’s column I detailed the last of the battles between Native tribes in this region. For more than a century after the bloody battles with the Iroquois, Native life on the Bruce Peninsula had been relatively calm. However, new incursions to the region were about to occur.

In the 1830s the colonial government of Upper Canada realized that it was running out of land to offer the growing number of immigrants from Britain and elsewhere. One of the last unsettled tracts of land in what is now southern Ontario lay to the west and north of the Fergus/Elora region.  But there was a problem. Treaties with the natives had relieved some of this territory, but by and large, there were still large parcels that were the domain of the Natives of the region.

Bruce Peninsula Aboriginal History:
the 1836 Treaty

In 1836 a treaty was negotiated which created a native territory “in perpetuity”. In the next quarter of a century “forever” proved to be something other than the standard dictionary meaning. And, which natives would live in the established territory, became a matter of debate.

The question of which natives held sovereignty over the area came to the fore in 1839. Beginning in that year and continuing until the late 1840s the British government, in conjunction with several missionary groups invited Natives who lived in the United States to move across the border into the Canadian colony and take up residence. One of the areas offered to these natives was the Bruce Peninsula region.

The motive behind this action was purely military. During the War of 1812, many Natives who now resided in the United States had been allies of British. It was the British government’s plan that if these Natives lived in Canada they could once again serve as valuable allies in the event of a future military action between Britain and the United States.

Natives from other parts of the Canadian colony were also forced to relocate in the Bruce Peninsula region. As lands were required for the ever-increasing numbers of non-native settlers in the more populated regions of the colony Native lands were annexed. Those who were displaced were offered territory in more remote areas such as the Bruce Peninsula region.

Perhaps this circumstance could have been tolerable for the native residents, if during the same period this region had not been targeted for non-native settlement.   

The aboriginal history re the 1836 Treaty shows that the Native’s land holdings in the region were reduced from about two million acres to approximately 450,000 acres.


Aside from the arrival of more Natives and the threat of non-native incursions into the region Peter Schmalz suggests that the Saugeens lived in fear of Sir Francis Bond Head’s plan of moving them to Manitoulin Island!

francis-bond-headSir Francis Bond Head

During the 1840s and 1850s the community of Owen Sound, as well as other pioneer settlements grew, creating a need for more land for white settlement. In response the colonial government “negotiated” more treaties in order to make more land available. This led to a reduction of Native territory. This circumstance created problems for the Native communities. Less land and more people made it difficult for the traditional hunting and food gathering process to be continued. 

This article first appeared in my Local History Column in the Owen Sound Sun Times in November, 1997.

NOTE: In 2019, the Indigenous people of the Bruce Peninsula filed a land claim suit pertaining to actions taken by the Crown in the 1836 Treaty and succeeding treaty actions on the peninsula.

Discover More About the Bruce Peninsula

Getting to the Bruce Peninsula is a relatively easy driving trip. Here are driving directions from three regions to the peninsula.

Barrow Bay Ontario a Picturesque Georgian Bay Community owes its origin to the once-thriving Bruce Peninsula lumbering industry. Today it is a quiet summer get-away!

Bruce Peninsula Lumber History details the impact of the forest products industry on the development of the region.

Bruce Peninsula Lumbering provided the stimulus to develop and grow the pioneer economy on the newly settled Bruce Peninsula. 

Bruce Peninsula Municipal Politics: No matter what the venue, or the issue, seldom is a popular decision made that suits everyone. 

Bruce Peninsula Travel Routes were often a matter of debate because in the early years, land travel was virtually unattainable for settlers and lumbermen alike.

Aboriginal History: Bruce Peninsula has a long indigenous heritage not just for the native nation living there today, but for other native groups as well.

Aboriginal History: the 1836 Treaty made promises to the native peoples of the Bruce Peninsula which did not last long before everything changed again.

Aboriginal land history continues the story of aboriginal land issues on the Bruce Peninsula. How it happened is a point for discussion by everyone.

Settler Impact on Bruce Peninsula Natives was not only from the imposition of treaties, but also from British military plans.

"Half Mile-Strip" Treaty made it possible for a relatively smooth overland connection to be built between Owen Sound and the Lake Huron shoreline.

Catherine Sutton: aka Nahneebahweequay was a hero, fighting for her Indigenous rights and those of her family.

Allenford United Church history details not only some important information about that community's church, but also about one of the founders of this Ontario community.

Colpoys Bay Vista - Awesome! A short drive from either Wiarton or Owen Sound is one of the most magnificent views to be found in the province of Ontario!

Dyer's Bay Ontario: Began as a Lumbering Settlement and today it is a wonderful vacation retreat.

Elsinore Ontario is the southern-most point on the Bruce Peninsula, located about half-way between Owen Sound and the Lake Huron shoreline.

Forest Products on the Bruce Peninsula contributed greatly to the growth and development of that region of the province of Ontario.

Gillies Lake: aka Ghost Lake has a mysterious past as its original name, Ghost Lake, implies.

Great Grey Owls on the Bruce Peninsula was a surprise discovery for ornithologists and others. Sadly, the story of their visit had an unfortunate conclusion.

Pioneer Campers: Hope Bay mostly considered the peninsula untamed wilderness and some of the locals were not about to disappoint them!

A Pioneer Community: Driftwood Crossing, at the southern-most part of the Saugeen/Bruce Peninsula was at the midpoint between the Georgian Bay and Lake Huron coasts.

Pioneer Missionary James Atkey arrived on Colpoys Bay to minister to the native community near Oxenden until a treaty uprooted his parishioners.

Pioneer tourists first visited the Bruce Peninsula in the 1800s and the region continues as a great recreational and tourism destination today!

Pioneer Vacations on the Bruce Peninsula got an eerie start in the Hope Bay region of the peninsula.

Lighthouses  Lighthouses were vital to Georgian Bay Sailing.

Sauble Beach Ontario has seen it all. A fishing outport; a sawmilling centre; and an internationally acclaimed tourist resort area!

Sauble Beach  This popular beach is known as Canada's Daytona Beach.

Lion's Head  Sailors often sought refuge from the stormy Georgian Bay waters in its well-protected harbour.

Park Head  Grand Trunk Railway in Park Head Ontario was an important railway depot on the Bruce Peninsula when in 1894 the first train chugged through Park Head.

Stokes Bay  Welcomed fishermen as their first non-native visitors. Today, if you are a fisherman, you will also probably want to try your luck landing a walleye, lake trout or any of the other game fish that live in the coastal waters of Lake Huron.

Tobermory Ontario has a rich history and, is the northern- most destination point for travellers visiting the world famous Bruce Peninsula.

Tobermory Ontario Tourism is focused on shipwreck diving which has become so popular that tourism has become an important part of that community's economy. 

Tobermory pioneers experienced a life in a community that was anything but the tourism hive of activity that it is today.

A Flowerpot Island cruise is not only entertaining, but it is also very educational as you will see things that you have never viewed before!

Wiarton Ontario  This historic community was a great place to live in the early settlement days and still is a busy tourist stop on your way up the Bruce Peninsula.

Wiarton  had ambitions to Succeed but while success brought them a railroad and other ventures did not have a sweet ending for many in the town.

Wiarton Ontario’s First Newspaper  A catalyst in supporting road construction and bringing the railway to Wiarton in hopes of making the town the economic leader of the area. But disappointment looms...

Wiarton news: 1890s, as seen in the pages of the local newspaper revealed problems typical of today's communities 

Wiarton Beet Industry was to be a great boost to the town's economy. Instead, it left most people with a bad taste in their mouths.

Travel the Bruce: Owen Sound to Wiarton  A wonderful journey from Owen Sound to Wiarton.

Travel the Bruce: Wiarton to Tobermory  Relaxing and historic journey.

Bruce Peninsula  The Bruce Peninsula is a compelling place, with a rich history, to visit. Once you have traveled there, we guarantee that you will return, again and again!

  1. History Articles
  2. Bruce Peninsula
  3. Aboriginal History: 1836 Treaty