Members of an Ojibway community who have struggled for more than century for a home to call their own were celebrating the official opening of a new reserve in northern Ontario on Saturday.
Animbiigoo Zaagi’igan Anishinaabek (Lake Nipigon Reserve) consists of 12.5 square kilometres at Partridge Lake, along Highway 11, between Jellico and Geraldton — about a three-hour drive northeast of Thunder Bay.
Almost 70 per cent of the 310 community members now living throughout the region say they’re planning to make the new reserve their home.
Chief Yvette Metasinine says her people always thought of themselves as a community, even though they were not part of a reserve.
"We were called ‘Lake Nipigon, Various Places,’" she said. "We didn’t belong anywhere. We were always recognized by the federal government, but we didn’t have a place to call home, I guess"
Elder Mary Ann Nord says she remembers her parents working with the government to get a reserve, but wondered whether the day would ever come.
"Every time we’d get a letter it would say, pretty soon, pretty soon, and then all of a sudden we got it," she said. "I almost started crying."
Unlike most First Nations in Canada, Animbiigoo Zaagi’igan Anishinaabek has more elders than children.
There are plans to build an elders complex, a housing subdivision, powwow grounds and perhaps a school and daycare.