Native Background Information Report
Big Island First Nation
(Anishinaabeg of Naongashing)
Kenora Forest Management Plan
updated October 12, 2004
The Salteaux Ojibway people (ancestors of the Big Island First Nation people) inhabited
the Ontario portion of the area subsequently covered by the Northwest Angle Treaty of
1873 – Treaty #3. They participated in fishing, hunting, gathering, trapping, the
harvesting of wild rice and some agriculture, until the late 18th century when they became
involved in the fur trade with Hudson’s Bay Company.
A. Inhabited Reserves
Big Island First Nation is located approximately 8 kilometres north of Morson on Saug-a-
gaw-sing Reserve #1, on the south shore of Lake of the Woods. Saug-a-gaw-sing
Reserve #1 is approximately 58 hectares in size. The Saug-a-gaw-sing reserve was
officially established in July 1981. Big Island purchased its present reserve land from
private landowners in 1984. Road access to the community is provided by Highway 621.
There is also water access on Lake of the Woods. There are approximately 119 on-
reserve residents, and 182 off-reserve residents (INAC 1997).
B. Uninhabited Reserves
Big Island First Nation has 9 uninhabited reserves on Lake of the Woods and Shoal Lake:
1. Big Island Mainland Indian Reserve #93 consists of 42 hectares, located adjacent to
the north boundary of Big Grassy IR #35G. These reserve lands are the former town
site of the Big Island First Nation. Road access is available to Highway #621. This
land has been cut over in past years. Presently used as a burial ground.
2. Big Island Indian Reserve #31D and 31E consists of two parcels of land (370 hectares
and 777 hectares respectively) located on the southeast shore of Big Island on Lake of
the Woods. Access is by water only. FRI data indicates 60% of the area is protection
forest with the remainder dominated by poplar.
3. Naongashing Indian Reserve #35A and 31A consist of 1036 hectares of land on the
southern shore of the Aulneau Peninsula, immediately north of Split Rock Island.
These reserve lands are owned jointly with Big Grassy First Nation and are only
accessible by water. The jack pine stands on these lands could provide a small
logging operation for the First Nation.
4. Big Island Indian Reserve #31F consists of 354 hectares located on the north shore of
Big Island. Access is by water only. Terrain is very rough with 40% non-productive
forest and limited areas in softwood of a young age.
5. Lake of the Woods Indian Reserve #31B consists of 274 hectares located on the south
side of the Western Peninsula on Lake of the Woods between Portage Bay and Outer
Bay. Access is by water only. Terrain is rough and rocky and the majority of the land
is protection forest with non-existent forestry opportunities.
6. Lake of the Woods Indian Reserve #31C (Birch Island) consists of 323 hectares on
Birch Island, located near the Canada-U.S. border on Lake of the Woods between
Squaw Island and Mica point. Access is by water only. Topography is rolling and
flat, with 60% of the island in protection forest with poplar the dominant species.
7. Lake of the Woods Indian Reserve #31G consists of two islands (111 hectares total
size). The larger island is known as Bukete Island at the mouth of Northwest Angle
Inlet on Lake of the Woods. Access is by water only. About 50% of the island is
rock, swamp and alder swamp, with poplar the dominant specie elsewhere.
8. Lake of the Woods Indian Reserve #31H and 31G consist of 963 hectares on the
southwest corner of Big Island on Lake of the Woods. Access is by water only. The
gently rolling topography is dominated by hardwood forest. Timber harvesting of
black ash and elm has occurred on these reserve lands by Big Island community
9. Shoal Lake Indian Reserve #31J consists of 518 hectares located at the south end of
Shoal Lake between Moosin Bay and the Ontario-Manitoba border. Access is
provided by water across Shoal Lake in summer or by winter road. The forest is
predominately poplar with a few black spruce and cedar stands on generally flat land.
Portions of the reserve have been cut (1981-82).
Summary of Past Use of Timber Resources
The First Nation has been involved in forest management activities on reserve lands in
the past. Parts of Reserve #93 and some of the more accessible uninhabited reserves on
Lake of the Woods have been cut for saw logs, pulp and firewood at one time. Limited
harvest of black ash from Big Island reserve lands took place in the late 1980’s-early
1990’s. Forest management opportunities exist on reserve lands that could provide
employment and economic opportunities to community members.
The First Nation has no involvement in forest management activities on the Kenora
Summary of Past Use of Other Resources
Big Island First Nation actively uses portions of the Kenora Forest for many resource-
The First Nation holds five commercial fishing licences on the south portions of Lake of
the Woods. Quotas are held on these licences for walleye, pike, and crappie. A fishery
has recently developed for yellow perch and sauger. Lake of the Woods and surrounding
lakes are used for subsistence fishing by community members. The First Nation operates
a cooperative enterprise that processes and sells retail and wholesale fresh fish from band
Surrounding tourist lodges provide some employment opportunities for First Nation
residents as guides in the sport fishery.
Members of the First Nation hold 2 registered trap lines located all or partially within
Wild rice is harvested annually by community members for personal use and re-sale. Big
Island controls harvesting area #6 on Lake of the Woods covering most of the Aulneau
Peninsula and all of Big Island.
All of the First Nation reserves are located within a major tourism area. Deer, moose,
grouse, ducks and fish are abundant. The First Nation owns and operates Cedar Island
Lodge, catering to anglers and moose hunters.
Certain wildlife, such as the bald eagle, have a cultural and social significance to First
Nation people. The protection and management of these species and their habitats is
Cultural and Social
Special sites within the Forest are used for traditional cultural purposes such as fasting,
vision quests and offerings. The specific location of these sites are known to community
members, and the community is encourage to participate in the forest management
planning process to ensure these values are considered in proposed forest management
While the subsistence hunting, fishing, and gathering of resources from within the forest
are an integral part of community existence, there are no records of the level of such
harvest. The harvest of deer, moose, waterfowl, rabbits and grouse provides an important
source of food to community members.
A values map for the Big Island First Nation study area is contained in Appendix A. The
purpose of the values map is to provide a summary of the geographic locations of known
natural features, land uses and values which will be considered in forest management
planning. Values are added as they become known. Known archaeological sites such as
pictographs, petroglyphs, cultural sites are mapped and maintained as ‘protected’
information at the district office.
Summary of Forest Management-related Problems and Issues During
Implementation of the 2001-2021 Kenora Forest Management Plan.
No problems or issues were raised during implementation of the 2001-2021 Kenora
Forest Management Plan. The First Nation expressed an interest in black ash harvest
from Big Island, Falcon Island, western peninsula in the 1996-2016 plan (public record
27-1, 1996-2016 FMP). Limited access and markets worked against the harvest of these
Summary of Negotiations at the Local Level
The Big Island First Nation is a member of the Anishinaabeg of Kabapikotawangag
Resources Council, comprised of six Lake of the Woods First Nation communities. The
resource council has requested that all negotiations be conducted with the council, and
not with individual communities. The resource council and the Ministry have entered
into a partnership to initiate the collection of native values and to develop capacity in
Geographic Information System (GIS technology that can assist the community in future
planning efforts. These values will be incorporated into the Kenora Forest management
planning process as they are identified.
As of October 12, 2004 the First Nation has not contacted the planning team with its
intent to participate in the planning process. Attempts will continue to involve the First
Nation in the Kenora Forest management plan.