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  • Writer's pictureOntario Métis Facts

Maple Sugaring on Métis River Lots

Historically, the Métis at Sault Ste. Marie had a diversified economy grounded in their community’s River Lots, as well as in the lands and waters of their surrounding traditional territory.

Métis families at Sault Ste. Marie engaged in a wide range of land- and water-based occupations, which included fishing, trapping, and maple sugaring, in addition to other income-earning endeavours.

In 1891, Stipendiary Magistrate E.B. Borron highlighted this diversity by noting that, “half-breed families were particularly numerous,” at Sault Ste. Marie. “They lived in log houses and when not employed by the Hon. Hudson Bay Company or others—as voyageurs, boatmen, couriers or laborers would eke out a subsistence by hunting and fishing or in various other ways.”

The spring maple sugar harvest was a particularly important seasonal cornerstone of the diverse traditional Métis economy and life at Sault Ste. Marie, highlighted in the 1859 Report of the Fishery Overseer for the Division of Lakes Huron and Superior: “The half-breeds depend upon fish, from September till sugar-making.”

Every Métis River Lot family had a designated sugar bush along “the hill” at the far end of the lots, so that they could participate in the harvest.

As late as 1889, the Miron family were still harvesting sugar on their section of “the hill” decades after the community had been displaced from their River Lots at Sault Ste. Marie.

Even with the loss of their River Lots and a continued influx of settlers, many Métis families continue to carry on the maple sugaring tradition around Sault Ste. Marie today.

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