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Métis on Drummond Island Relocated to Penetanguishene

The relocation of Métis families from Drummond Island to Penetanguishene in the late 1820s made it a southern Métis settlement within the larger Upper Great Lakes Métis Community.

After the War of 1812 and subsequent boundary commissions, the British ceded Drummond Island to the United States of America. Consequently, in 1828, the island’s Métis inhabitants, who alongside the Anishinaabeg allied with the British against the Americans, were forced to relocate when the new international border was enforced.

Some Métis went to Sault Ste. Marie, Killarney, and the north shore of Lake Superior. However, many relocated across Lake Huron to Penetanguishene with the understanding that they would be provided lands to re-establish themselves and their community.

Anticipating the community’s arrival at Penetanguishene, in 1829, Indian Agent Thomas G.

Anderson sent a request to Indian Department official Colonel Napier asking that land be allotted for the Métis Drummond Islanders to re-establish themselves, writing:

“I would beg permission to suggest the propriety of allotting a portion of the unoccupied Lands near this Post [Penetanguishene] to the Poor Inhabitants of Drummond Island and the Sault St Marys [sic]… They are, with few if any exceptions, connected with the Indians, and have not the means of purchasing Lands, most of them followed us from Michilimackinac … and they now lose their dwellings with any little improvements they have made by the evacuation of Drummond Island.”

The relocation remained an important moment in the community’s collective memory. Years later, Michel Labatte described his family’s journey to Georgian Bay:

"I was twelve years old when we left Drummond Island. … Several families started together in sail-boats, bateaux and canoes. We camped at Thessalon River, Mississaga River, Serpent River, LaCloche, She-bon-aw-ning [Killarney], Moose Point and other places on the way. … We were all looking for the place where we expected to see the sand rolling over and over down the hill. I was married in Penetang by Father Charest. My wife's maiden name was Archange Bergé, whose father came from Drummond Island.”

Despite their relocation and subsequent challenges, the Métis community continued to live alongside one another in Penetanguishene, maintaining its distinctive identity, with many families residing together “across the bay” from Penetanguishene harbour to this day.

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