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  • Writer's pictureOntario Métis Facts

The Historic Sault Ste. Marie Métis Community

The Métis Nation has a long and proud history in the Upper Great Lakes. With many of its most important stories having links to Sault Ste. Marie. Here are some stories you might not know!

As early as the 1810s, the Métis community in Sault Ste. Marie acted as a distinct political entity. They made decisions together, as Métis, then acted together, as Métis, separate from their First Nation and European relatives. They’ve continued doing so for generations since.

In 1849 and 50, the Métis community, chose to stand together, as allies, with the Anishinaabe in the Mica Bay Uprising. The Métis chose to do so as a distinct Métis collectivity, under their own Métis leaders. Those Métis leaders, Charles Boyer and Eustache Lesage—an ancestor of the Powley family—were later arrested for organizing their people, alongside Anishinaabe leaders, Shinwaukonse and Nebainagoching, who were arrested for organizing theirs.

In the 1890s, 40 years after the Robinson Treaties, the Borron Report recognized that “the Half-Breeds” of Sault Ste. Marie were still a distinct and identifiable community in the Upper Great Lakes. While some had been forced off their River Lots, they continued to live separately and distinct from the Anishinaabe, and were considered welcomed neighbours.

A hundred years later, the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP) recognized that the presence of historic Métis communities in the Upper Great Lakes remained indisputable. It specifically highlighted the “particularly long and eventful history” of the Métis community in Sault Ste Marie, and recognized it as one of the better known historic Métis communities, alongside the Red River, White Horse Plains, Pembina, Batoche, and St. Albert.

The community’s long and proud history was, of course, further celebrated in the landmark Powley decision, in which the Supreme Court of Canada unanimously affirmed the existence of a distinct historic Métis community in Sault Ste. Marie and the Upper Great Lakes. One with full Aboriginal rights and protections under Section 35 of Canada’s constitution.

That test, grounded in Sault Ste. Marie, as part of the larger regional Upper Great Lakes Métis community, remains the legal test for Métis rights assertions today.

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