Fort William First Nation

About this Nation

Fort William First Nation (FWFN) is located on the western end of Lake Superior adjacent to the city of Thunder Bay. The reserve land was set aside under the provisions of the Robinson-Superior Treaty in 1850 and the reserve was officially formed in 1853. The traditional territories occupied and used by the FWFN people stretch from Pigeon River to the south, north to Treaty 9 boundary and east to Nipigon. In the negotiations of the Robinson Superior Treaty, FWFN agreed not to interfere with colonial settlers. In return, the Crown promised cash payments and trade goods, annuities beginning in 1851, and complete freedom to continue to hunt and fish as before (except on private land). Most people made their living in traditional ways, utilizing an aquatic territory on Lake Superior that encompassed Pie Island, Flatland Island and south to Sturgeon Bay as “the Grand Fishery”. The people of FWFN would spend their winters in the interior on their hunting grounds. The community has a registered membership of 1,798 people, with 832 members living in the community.

Food Sovereignty Visions
  • Sugarbush Collective: The Fort William First Nation people have harvested maple sap since time immemorial and a community collective of members have been resurrecting that ancestral tradition for the last 8 years. As community members began to get a little older and have families, and those that came from families that were taught about the sugar bush their blood memory began to drive them to learn more about the history of their people in harvesting maple sap become reality in 2013. The group is made up of a number of families who have now made a yearly tradition of harvesting the sap and making maple syrup for their respective families and other community members. This is a fully grassroots driven initiative that has struggles to fund their actions over the years with supplies and machinery needed for the production of maple syrup. The Understanding Our Food Systems team hosted a member of the Sugar Bush collective this year as a staff and the project funding went to support their initiatives through the purchase of much needed supplies and resources. The project team met with the Sugar Bush Collective to discuss next steps and there is hope to work towards a sugar shack in the new phase of the project.
  • Community Fishing Supplies and Ice Fishing Event: Through the Diabetes Department staff and the project team the department decided to expand on an initiative that had been happening for a few years that brought people and community members out on the lake for a day of fishing. The project purchased the community a range of fishing supplies such as nets and knives, the department asked community members who had fishing skills to assist with the event. The community volunteers taught kids and parents a wide range of skills from setting a proper net to cleaning the fish once caught. The event brought out over 45 people into a local bay where the Fort William First Nation people would have historically fished along the shores. There was a feast at a later date with some of the fish harvest and other harvested food from the program. The department continues to connect land-based activities with human health in the fight to prevent and manage diabetes in the community.