I was at a speech given by a senior federal bureaucrat last week, a man not normally given over to political correctness, or complete folly for that matter, and to my astonishment I heard him begin his speech by announcing piously that he was acknowledging standing on some tribe or other’s treaty territory. This seems to be the latest fad in virtue signaling.
As I write I am sitting in a chair on land that goes back to the time it emerged from retreating ice 9,000 years ago. It used to be the hunting grounds of indigenous Ottawas, who emigrated to the Ottawa River from around Manitoulin Island in the upper Lake Huron, and thence to the Ohio River valley in the 17th century, where they were rivals, as were most Algonkian speakers, of the Iroquois Confederacy. My land has at various times been claimed by the King of France until the Treaty of Paris assigned it to the King of England in 1763 at the end of the Seven Years’ War.
The Ottawa [Or Odawa, Canadian] originally lived along the Ottawa River in eastern Ontario and western Quebec at the time of European arrival in the early 1600s. Their historic homelands also included Manitoulin Island in Lake Huron, and what is now Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The Ottawa moved into northern Ohio around 1740. They spoke an Algonquian language; and are thus related to the Delaware (Lenape), the Miami, and the Shawnee. Historically, the Ottawa were enemies with the Iroquois nation, and with the Wyandot because of the former’s ties to the Iroquois.
The Ottawa’s political alliances were complicated and changed with the times. Some Ottawa were allies of the French until British traders moved into the Ohio Country in the early 1700s. Many Ottawa moved into northern Ohio so that they could participate in the fur trade with the British.
And so forth. Normal people: fighting, trading, and moving with the tides of history to greater safety or greater opportunity.
In short, why is the claim of the Ottawas memorialized by the federal bureaucrat in a speech downtown last week – in what ought to have embarrassed him – over those of the King of France? Is anyone yet making a claim that I owe rent or acknowledgment to the remnants of the Ottawas or Hurons who still live around here? Or by contrast do I owe the same to the Bourbon pretender to the throne of France? Should I acknowledge the claims of the Count of Paris to the former New France? Perhaps I can send my loyalty by bank transfers to the Stuart Pretenders to the throne of England? For some hundreds of years the Stuart claim has been held by the Ducal House of Wittelsbach of Bavaria, and according to a certain friend of mine they are the rightful sovereigns of Canada.
Is it any more absurd to start one’s speech acknowledging the traditional rights of the Bourbons or the Wittelsbachs to the ground I stand on than to a bunch of Canadian Indians?
And what about the claims of the Iroquois Confederacy to the lands of the Hurons, whom they exterminated in the 1650s? Do I owe recognizance to the heirs of Joseph Brant, Mason, Loyalist, and Mohawk, in preference to those of the Ottawas? Or is the Roman Catholic style of the House of Wittelsbach more to your liking? Your call. The next time you make a public speech, throw in some other claimants to the ground you walk on.
Franz, Herzog (Duke) von Bayern at his investiture as a Knight of the Holy Grail of Jerusalem