For many years, Killarney was known as Shebahonaning and as a sheltering spot for Indians, voyageurs and others traveling Georgian Bay. Etienne de la Morandiere, a fur trader and its first white settler, moved his family here in 1820 and built a trading post near the channel's east end.
In 1849, the Governor General of Canada approved the appointment of two Commissioners to investigate land claims of Ojibwe Bands along Lakes Superior and Huron. They were Alexander Vidal, Deputy Provincial Surveyor, and Thomas G. Anderson, Superintendent of Indian Affairs.
As joint Commissioners, Vidal and Anderson traveled along the shores of Lakes Superior and Huron throughout the late summer and fall, meeting with various Indian bands to discuss land issues. They filed their Report in Toronto on December 5th, 1849.
Vidal and Anderson noted that "...long established custom, which among these uncivilized tribes is as binding in its obligation as Law in a civilized nation, has divided this territory among several bands each independent of the other, having its own chief or chiefs and possessing an exclusive right to and control over its own hunting grounds, the limits of these grounds, especially their portages on the Lake, are generally well known and acknowledged by neighbouring bands; in two or three instances only is there any difficulty in determining the precise boundary between adjoining tracts...".
Appendix B of the Report lists Shawwawnesseway as a Chief of Shebawwenawning Band, with territory extending (west to east) from "La Cloche R. to Grumbling Point". West of La Cloche River was the territory of the Spanish River and La Cloche Band. East of Grumbling Point was the territory of the French River Band.
In Appendix D, under the title Reservations which the Indians wish to make, the Commissioners note that Shebawaynawning (sic) band wants "a reserve at the head of the Bay near Waw gwos ke ne gong (East of and adjoining W.H. Boulton's mining location)".
The Commissioners also attached a map showing the rough locations of territories belonging to various Indian Bands along the Lakes (see the bottom of this page for a reproduction of part of the map).
On September 9th, 1850, William Robinson, acting on behalf of Her Majesty the Queen, signed a treaty with the Ojibwe bands of the north and east shores of Lake Huron. It provided the Crown with the legal authority to govern a specified territory. Known as the Robinson-Huron Treaty, it also outlined the compensation to be provided to the Ojibwe, the rights they retained over the territories, and the lands that would be set aside for various bands.
Listed fourth in the Schedule of Reservations is Wabakekik's band. He was allotted "three miles front, near Shebawenaning, by fives miles inland, for himself and band". (A 1922 newspaper clipping says Wabikekeke (White Hauwk) had settled at Wikwemikong in 1835.)
Government records state the post office Shebahonaning was scheduled to open in 1853, but the assigned postmaster refused the job and returned the equipment. The office opened in 1854, with the same postmaster, as Killarney.
The wording of the Treaty passage about Wabekekik's land ("near Shebawenaning") suggests the Reserve did not include the village of Shebahonaning. Perhaps that is what prompted the 1854 change in the postal name.
The 1869 Province of Ontario Gazeteer and Directory states "Killarney -- or Shebawanahning (sic) -- Is beautifully situated on the main shore f Lake Huron...the population, numbering about 100, chiefly Indians and half-breeds, live by fishing and hunting...".
In 1874, the Governor-General of Canada visited here. A correspondent reported: "Upon His Excellency land [in Killarney] he was met by some half dozen chiefs of the ...Ojibways and Ottawas...Thomas Kinoshameg (the Pike) alias Kitche-Mokoman (Big Knife), chief of the Ojibways, and I. Wakegijik (The Setting Sun) were introduced...the other chiefs were also introduced...". With them were Father Hennesseaux, Jesuit missionary, and Mr. Nadeau, schoolmaster, both of Wikwemikong.
Were the Chiefs then living at Shebahonaning Reserve or at Wikwemikong? (Wabakekik's former home)? When did the Reserve cease to exist?
From the late-1800s to the mid-1900s, many Killarney people either relinquished or were stripped of their legal status as Indians. Since 1985, many of us have restored our status and Treaty rights (see de la Morandieres regain Indian status).
The specific boundaries of Shebahonaning Reserve are unknown to this writer, as are the circumstances under which the Reserve was "lost". Could we get it, or part of it, back? Do we want to get it back? Those questions cannot be answered without further research and careful consideration. Possible land claims aside, we need to continue to search out and preserve information about our heritage, including the history of Shebahonaning Reserve.