Williams Treaties Harvesting Guide



Williams Treaties First Nations have a special relationship with the lands, including the water and resources — not only in their traditional area, but throughout gichii mukinaak (Big Turtle).

Protection, conservation and sustainable collaborative management are a priority for the Williams Treaties First Nations.

Harvesting of fish, wildlife, trapping and gathering will be carried out in Treaties 5, 16, 18, 20, 27 and 27 1/4 in accordance with these values – the Seven Grandfathers Teachings:

  • Nibwaakaawin – Wisdom
  • Zaagiidwin – Love
  • Minaadendamowin – Respect
  • Aakode’win – Bravery
  • Gwayakwaadiziwin – Honesty
  • Dabaadendiziwin – Humility
  • Debwewin – Truth

Harvesting Rights protected in Williams Treaties areas

Harvesting rights are now constitutionally protected for Williams Treaties First Nations members in certain portions of Treaties 5, 16, 18, 20, 27 and 27¼ for food, social and ceremonial purposes. The First Nations continue to work toward the development of mapping on the specific boundary descriptions of the Williams Treaties First Nations harvesting areas.

Aboriginal and treaty harvesting rights are protected under the Constitution 1982. The Williams Treaties Settlement Agreement affirms that harvesting rights are recognized in Treaties 5, 16, 18, 20, 27, and 27 1/4 continue for food, social and ceremonial purposes. In terms of emergency measures, the current provincial and federal responses to the pandemic do not prevent the exercise of harvesting rights and Williams Treaties First Nation members may continue to harvest. The Williams Treaties First Nations does support the restrictions regarding social distancing, masks, sanitization, etc. to ensure our communities remain safe and help in controlling the spread of infection of the COVID-19 virus. Please continue to harvest in a safe manner and be mindful of these additional measures to protect the health of ours and others communities. In the event that harvesting is planned in Crown lands or Provincial/federal parks, it is helpful to notify us so that we can assist in notifying relevant enforcement/superintendents that Williams Treaties First Nations members are in area exercising harvesting rights and not in contravention of emergency measures.

The Ministry of Natural Resources has worked with Conservation Officers to advise them of these changes. If you are approached, please be prepared to show your status card to confirm your membership in one of the Williams Treaties First Nations communities. Anyone in your party who is not a Williams Treaties member will be required to abide by the regulations and licensing requirements set out for hunting and fishing by the province of Ontario.
As always, please respect the communal nature of our right to harvest. Take what you need and keep conservation in mind at all times. Our ability to conserve and be positive stewards of our lands, resources and harvesting rights, are important aspects of having our rights constitutionality protected and respected by the province of Ontario and the public.

If you have any questions, please contact communications@williamstreatiesfirstnations.ca or inquiries@williamstreatiesfirstnations.ca

Traditional Harvesting

In addition to hunting and fishing, the Williams Treaties First Nations have traditionally harvested for medicine, food, social and ceremonial purposes, including but not limited to the harvesting of:

  • Manomin – Wild Rice
  • Wilgwaas – Birch Bark
  • Miinaan – Berries
  • Mushkiikiiwug – Medicinal Plants including Cedar, Sage, Sweetgrass, Sweetflag, Ginseng, etc.
  • Maple Syrup

The harvesters of the Williams Treaties First Nations recognize the importance of conservation and protection and will only harvest the above for personal and community use.

What is the Interim Enforcement Policy?

This policy directs the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry to use enforcement discretion and was designed to recognize the priority rights of Aboriginal people exercising a constitutionally protected right to harvest fish or wildlife for personal or community subsistence purposes.

Aboriginal people harvesting fish or wildlife for personal consumption or for social or ceremonial purposes are not required to hold the otherwise applicable Ontario license and will not be subject to enforcement action, except in certain circumstances. These exceptions include:

  • Hunting and fishing in an unsafe manner
  • Taking fish and wildlife for commercial purposes (where a commercial harvesting right has not been  recognized by a Court and no license is held)
  • Taking fish and wildlife that puts conservation  objectives at risks
  • Hunting or fishing on privately owned or occupied  land without permission of the landowner

The Interim enforcement policy is relied on while the Williams Treaties First Nations develop and implement their Harvest Management Plan. The development and implementation of the Harvest Management Plan is overseen by the seven First Nations through its Harvesting Committee. The Committee has developed and the First Nations have approved an incidental cabin protocol, requisite forms and guide. The Committee will be working toward the updating of mapping of harvesting area and updating all information required in harvesting management to assist its harvesters.

Transportation of Wildlife

Members of Williams Treaties First Nations may transport fish and wildlife harvested in the area of Treaties 5, 16, 18, 20, 27 and 27 1/4 anywhere in the province.

If you encounter a conservation officer, you can expect that the officer may ask:

  • For identification verifying membership in a Williams Treaties First Nations community
  • Where/when the fish or wildlife was harvested
  • Who participated in the harvest
  • If hunting, a conservation officer may ask to see your firearm to ensure it is being transported safely (unloaded and encased)

Inter Territorial Harvesting (ITH) and Permission Forms

Consistent with the Court’s decision in R. v. Shipman, permission to harvest must be granted by the Chief or his or her designate.

Should a Chief choose to grant an individual from another First Nation — other than the Williams Treaties First Nations — permission to harvest in the area of Treaties 5, 16, 18, 20, 27 and 27 1/4, generally the permission would be recognized by conservation officers.

The Williams Treaties First Nations have an internal protocol for considering and approving ITH which includes establishing time limit, catch limits, boundaries, and contacting and collaborating with one another.

An ITH form is available in the Permissions Forms section of this website.

Fish Sanctuaries

Please refrain from fishing during the spawning season in fish sanctuaries.

A map of the fish sanctuaries is available in the Maps section of this website.

Safety Concerns

Night Hunting
The primary concern with respect to night hunting is safety, and given the geography of Treaties 5, 16, 18, 20, 27 and 27 1/4, it is likely that night hunting would be considered unsafe and would be investigated by a conservation officer.

Calibre Restrictions
Generally, calibre restrictions do not apply to individuals harvesting pursuant to an Aboriginal or treaty right. However, all hunters including Aboriginal hunters are required to handle and discharge firearms in a safe manner.

Firearm Transportation
Firearms must be transported unloaded and encased.

Harvesting from a canoe or motor boat
Safety consideration for harvesters include:

  • Type of firearm (shotgun/rifle)
  • Number of people in the boat/canoe
  • Stability of the boat
  • Other boats/people in the vicinity


Areas for harvesting in Treaties 5, 16, 18, 20, 27 and 27 1/4

Access to crown lands is allowed.

Access to parks and protected areas is addressed on a case-by-case basis and always includes safety concerns. Please contact your First Nation office for the protocol before harvesting.

Permission to access privately owned lands is required. A landowner permission form in the Permissions Forms section of this website.

In accessing provincial parks, as a courtesy and in recognition of safety concerns, a harvester can contact the Park Superintendent to advise of intent to access and to coordinate, and to ensure safety, parking and vehicle identification are addressed. Contact information is available in the Permissions Forms section of this website.

Access to Williams Treaties treaties First Nations harvesting areas is considered on a case-by-case basis by the applicable First Nation party to that treaty. If you are seeking access to a Williams Treaties First Nations harvesting area permission is required and the inter territorial permission form should be completed and forwarded to the First Nation.