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Métis Resilience in Georgian Bay

Rather than succumb to the increasing waves of settlement, a visibly distinct Métis community with its own way of life has persisted along the eastern shores of Georgian Bay.

Almost a century after the Georgian Bay Métis Community’s relocation from Drummond Island to Penetanguishene, its resiliency and protectiveness over its unique identity was captured in a July, 1921 Toronto Star article called, “Strange Old Legends Surround Penetang”:

“Pinery Point is a wooded peninsula directly across the bay from Penetanguishene, the sands of which have given the town its Indian name of the ‘place of the white rolling sands.’ Along its shores dwells a group of people half French and half Indian, isolated in location, distinct in habits and privileges, and fiercely resentful of intrusion on either. It is the origin of these picturesque metis or halfbreeds … living chiefly in low log houses of a century ago, they are almost all illiterate and speak a broken English patois which is all their own.”

The article included interviews with Métis community members, such as Paul Vasseur and “McKoy” Dussome.

Vasseur was described as once, “the terror of Penetanguishene”, when the town was only, “a staggering little lumber settlement, filled with Indians, half-breeds and lumberjacks.”

Dussome was described as, “a short, jolly youth of some 75 years … is as Indian as Tecumseh and as French as Quebec. His big brother turned out to be a frolicsome lad of 86 summers, who was off on a jaunt across the bay guiding a fishing party.” Dussome’s brother, William Dusome, was the Métis man who, in the 1890s, prominently protested government fishing polices that infringed on the Métis community’s rights and way of life.

While told from the perspective of a settler journalist, the Toronto Star article demonstrates that a visibly distinct Métis community endured in Penetanguishene, with a recognizable identity and way of life.

The Georgian Bay Métis Community’s continues maintaining that distinct identity today—more than a century after the Toronto Star’s publication.

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