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Louis Riel Day in the Heart of Georgian Bay


On this day, November 16th, Louis Riel Day, the Culture Alliance works to celebrate, foster, and promote the cultures of the area, bringing together the five communities of Beausoleil First Nation, the Towns of Midland and Penetanguishene and the Townships of Tay and Tiny. We, recognize that cultures are not bound or restricted by any geographic or municipal boundary, and we acknowledge the collaborative, valuable, unique, and positive relationships that exist in these communities. As such, the Culture Alliance acknowledges that November 16th, Louis Riel Day, is a time to celebrate Métis culture and recognize the contributions that the Métis citizens in our communities have made to their history, culture, and heritage. The resilience of the Métis people continues to flourish despite the struggles they have faced and continue to face. The formation of the Historic Georgian Bay Métis Community developed from the inter-connected Métis populations in and around Penetanguishene and Parry Sound. The formation of this community resulted from the migration of Métis families from Michilimackinac to Penetanguishene. In 1761 the British military gained control of Fort Michilimackinac from the French. A civilian population began to develop around the Fort that included many families of mixed First Nation-European ancestry. In 1779-1781 the British military moved the fort from Michilimackinac to Mackinac Island, along with the garrison town. In 1794, the Jay Treaty came into force, Mackinac Island came under American control, and the British garrison moved to St. Joseph Island, along with part of the town’s civilian population. Then, in the War of 1812, the British (assisted by 180 voyageurs) re-took Mackinac Island. In 1814, the Treaty of Ghent ceded Mackinac to the Americans. The Americans burned down the British fort on St. Joseph Island, which resulted in the garrison, along with its civilian population, moving to Drummond Island. In 1828-1829, Drummond Island was ceded to the Americans and the British military, along with a civilian population of approximately 288 people (75 families), including many Métis families, relocated to Penetanguishene Bay. By the 1830s, Tiny Township became home to many of the Drummond Islanders, many of whom were known to be Métis. By the 1840s, in addition to the significant Métis population in Penetanguishene and the surrounding area, some of these families also established themselves on the eastern shore of Georgian Bay in the Parry Sound area, for fishing as well as other economic and trading opportunities.

A group of Voyageurs from Drummond Island (Lewis Solomon, John Brissette, James Larammee, Francis Dusome)

The interconnected Métis population shared customs, traditions, and common vocations, including the fur trade, guiding, and interpreting, logging, and surveying, hunting, and fishing, and making clothing. November 16th is a day of celebration for Métis people; while it is the day that marks the anniversary of the execution of Louis Riel, it inspires us to remember his story and the sacrifices he made to try secure lands and preserve a way of life for the Métis people in 1885. It is a time to remind us of the historical contribution Louis Riel made to framing the future of Canadian history. It is a time for us to recognize the contributions Métis people have made across this land throughout history, and it is an opportunity for us to come together to celebrate Métis culture. It has taken years for the Métis people to be able to fully acknowledge their proud heritage and culture. Today they proudly raise their flag with the infinity symbol, representing the two cultures of European and Indigenous peoples at the junction where the symbol crosses. It is a symbol of continuity and pride for all people of Métis heritage. The Culture Alliance exists to build bridges and bring awareness to the multitudes of cultures that exist in our communities, and to encourage continued learning about one another in doing so. Today, according to the 2021 Census, the total Métis population within the Culture Alliance is approximately 7,710, which represents 12.3 per cent of the total population. The highest number of individuals identifying as Métis live in Penetanguishene, where they represent 17 per cent of that total population. We encourage all community members to learn about the vibrant Métis people who live in the Heart of Georgian Bay.

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