Aamjiwnaang’s David Plain’s great-great grandfather’s name was Little Thunder.
He’s an ancestor to be proud of.
A respected First Nation war chief who fought along four major conflicts including the American Revolution – he played a key role in Lambton County’s history.
And it all happened in the mid-1700s, long before European settlers arrived to drill oil wells, cut timber, and till the land.
“This isn’t the history you read about in school textbooks,” Plain explains.
The award-winning author and accomplished historian brought his message to Petrolia Library last week, as part of the Petrolia Connection education series.
Despite the significant role Little Thunder and other First Nation people played in the building of Southwestern Ontario, Plain says it didn’t pan out for the First Nation people.
An example, he says, is the loss of a valuable sugar bush in Enniskillen Township.
Documents dated March 8, 1842, show the band ceded Stag Island to the Government of Upper Canada.
At the same time, he explains, the government purchased a tract of land featuring a sugar bush from a David McCall.
The 300-acre plot was located in the vicinity of lot number 8, on the ninth and 10th concessions of Enniskillen.
The government transferred the piece as Indian Reserved Land. But when the oil boom hit in the late 1800s, Plain says the Department of Indian Affairs sold it off piecemeal without a proper land surrender treaty.
Aamjiwnaang filed the Enniskillen land claim in 1978. It was settled in 2006.
Plain holds a Master’s degree in Theological Studies from Tyndale Seminary. Along with theology, his double major includes church history.
Plain has written five historical books, as well as a book of poetry.
Listening to the stories was another way he was schooled in the traditional ways.
“I learned a lot of the oral history from my elders, especially my father and Uncle Levi,” Plain says, adding he would sit at the knees of the two old men while they talked on the front veranda.
“I would be full of questions,” Plain says of his younger self.
As a result, Plain says he gained a deep knowledge of his forefathers’ ways, including their expert skills in fishing, trapping, trading and navigating the region’s abundant waterways.
Finding the names of his ancestors when digging into historical documents is exciting, Plain says.
“It happened a lot with Little Thunder,” he explains, adding the Aamjiwnaang war chief was a key negotiator on many treaties and land grants.
He is listed in the minutes of the Indian council at Fort Detroit in 1778 as the leading War Chief of the Chippewa Nation.
He also signed the peace treaty between George Washington’s United States of America and an Indian Confederacy of several Indian Nations.