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  • Writer's pictureOntario Métis Facts

Métis Fishing in the Upper Great Lakes

After the height of the fur trade, commercial fishing became a way of life for many Métis communities, including those in the Upper Great Lakes.

Beginning in the 1830s and 1840s, records began referencing Métis or “Half-breed” fishermen along the eastern shore of Georgian Bay, particularly around Penetanguishene.

The emergence of commercial fishing as a Métis way of life in the Upper Great Lakes is explored, among others, by Dr. Arthur Ray in An Economic History of the Robinson Treaties Area Before 1860:

“What all Métis communities have in common over time and space was that the [sic] their members earned a substantial part of their livelihood off the land by integrating commercial and subsistence fishing, hunting, and trapping with other economic activities.”

Dr. Ray also highlights the similarities in way-of-life-based economies between Métis communities in the Upper Great Lakes and those farther west, including Manitoba:

“There were some important parallels between the economic life of Saint-Laurent, which was located on the southeastern shore of Lake Manitoba, and that of Sault Ste. Marie. Both communities depended heavily on fisheries, small-scale farming, and a range of other complementary activities. At Saint-Laurent in the 1850s, four extended families – the Chartrands, Pangmans, Lavallees and Sayers (whose family had roots in Sault St. Marie) – resided in the community most of the year combining winter commercial and subsistence fishing with trading.”

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