The Chippewas of Rama First Nation are an Anishinaabe community located in central Ontario. Prior to the mid-1800’s, our territory consisted of millions of acres across central and lower-northern Ontario. In 1816 and 1818, much of our territory was surrendered.
In the early 1830’s, our ancestors were re-located to what became one of the first “reserves” in Canada, stretching between Atherley and Coldwater. The government, attempting to assimilate our ancestors into settler-society, encouraged our ancestors to adopt a Euro-Canadian lifestyle of agriculture, religion, and school, and give up their traditional hunting and harvesting practices. Our ancestors generally resisted these efforts, and continued to live off the land as our people did for millennia.
Frustrated, the colonial government coerced our Chiefs into surrendering the reserve. From there, our community, then officially labelled as the Chippewas of Lakes Huron and Simcoe, split into what have become known as the Chippewas of Georgina Island, Beausoleil First Nation, and the Chippewas of Rama First Nation.
The three groups re-located to the places found in their name (Beausoleil First Nation were initially living on Beausoleil Island, before moving to Christian Island). Our ancestors moved to Chief Island and Rama. In the late 1830’s, our ancestors purchased some abandoned farmland in Rama Township from farmers who had give up trying to grow anything in the rocky, sandy earth. It was purchased using pensions earned from serving alongside the British in the War of 1812.
Since 1836, our people have been crafting a life on our little tract of land in Rama. Our early years were similar to the rest of First Nations across Canada. Our territory had dwindled to a couple thousand acres, and our treaty rights to live off the land (hunting, fishing, and harvesting) were taken in the 1923 Williams Treaties. Our people struggled but persevered through poverty, racist policies and laws, forced unemployment, and abuse.
Our ancestors’ strength and perseverance finally began to create new opportunities. Our people found work in Muskoka as hunting and fishing guides, or nearby in lumber mills and logging camps. Many worked in Orillia. Some survived by selling their crafts. Our community’s foresight and location resulted in economic development picking up in the 1970’s.
In 1996, Casino Rama opened. In the years that followed soon after, we built our school, police/fire/EMS stations, health centre, early childhood education centre, water treatment centre, and much more. More recently, Rama Cannabis opened in 2021 and a new health centre/retail building is scheduled to open in 2021 as well. Rama First Nation is a proud, progressive community.