Exploring Historic Métis Connections

Fort St. Joseph National Historic Site

By Jeralyn Bohms

Parks Canada is collaborating with the Métis Nation of Ontario’s Huron-Superior Regional Métis Community to research the historic ties of Métis people with Fort St. Joseph and the surrounding region. The results of this project will contribute to future updates to the museum and programming at the national historic site.

Fort St. Joseph National Historic Site received funding from Parks Canada’s Métis Reconciliation Fund to support this research project. The Métis Reconciliation Fund aims to build and strengthen meaningful relationships with Métis people and communities who have historical links to heritage places administered by Parks Canada. The goal of the project was to identify and develop resources to help Fort St. Joseph better share the history of the Métis people at and near the fort. The Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) Region 4 Consultation Committee worked closely with Parks Canada to achieve the best results.

Parks Canada recognizes that there are gaps in the stories being told at Fort St. Joseph, particularly regarding Indigenous Peoples. With that in mind, the themes for the research were broad, hoping to touch on as many aspects of historic Métis life related to the fort as possible. Topics included:

  • Métis involvement in the fur trade,
  • Métis community locations in the region,
  • Métis lifestyle and social connections,
  • Métis involvement in the War of 1812, and
  • other related areas.

The MNO engaged a contractor to conduct he research project, which had several interconnected components. The contractor conducted a review of primary and secondary sources, including historic documents in local, regional, and national libraries and archives, that were relevant to the topics. In addition, they reviewed and compiled the work of experts in the field of Métis history in the Upper Great Lakes, which included scholars and academics. The results were compiled into a list of resources that will provide a wealth of information about the role, lifestyle, and history of Métis people connected to Fort St. Joseph. Additionally, oral history interviews were conducted with local Métis Elders and Knowledge Keepers. The MNO recommended interview subjects, and those who were willing to share their experiences and family stories were invited to participate. Together, all these resources contribute to telling a more complete story about the important and vibrant history of the Métis people in the Great Lakes region and around Fort St. Joseph.

In the upcoming years, Parks Canada will use these stories to help update and revitalize the exhibit space and programming at the visitor centre, adding more Indigenous voices to provide a fuller and more balanced story of life at Fort St. Joseph during the years surrounding the War of 1812.


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