Celebrating Mixed Heritage Along Lake Huron

Natasha Oldfield

September 15, 2021

A community with ties to the fur trade.

A Distinct Community

Located in Southampton, Ontario, along the shores of Lake Huron, is the Historic Saugeen Métis. This is where you’ll find the annual Rendezvous event, traditional skills workshops for finger weaving and mitten making, and opportunities to learn about traditional medicines.

Welcome to the Historic Saugeen Métis Rendezvous event.
Traditional Métis music

There’s a deep and rich history behind this community and its independence.

“A lot of people are familiar with the provincial organizations that are across Canada like the MNO (Métis Nation of Ontario), and the Manitoba, Alberta, and Saskatchewan Federations, but our community represents ourselves independently,” explains Jenna McGuire who is the Executive Director and Culture Keeper for the community.

“Historically we were part of the MNO, but we decided that it would be best if we represented ourselves, due to the way theythose things are administered. We have a really specific and unique cultural history in this region that is specific to here, and it was at risk of losing that specific connection and those stories if we were to be represented by a provincial collective,” she explains.

Rooted in the Fur Trade

That unique history starts with the fur trading industry. Jenna says that fur traders in the 1800s were centered around the Great Lakes, and the Saugeen territory was a popular spot.

“Our ancestors were Indigenous women and fur traders who that had intermarried and formed this new culture of people. What was happening around that time was that these people of mixed heritage didn’t identify well with people from their First Nations ancestry, and they didn’t identify well with people from their European ancestry, so essentially a new kind of nation was formed out of the Great Lakes fur trade,” she says.

Jenna McGuire

The community now covers over 275 kilometreers of shoreline from Tobermory to south of Goderich and includes the counties of Bruce, Grey, and Huron counties.

Fur trade event gathering

“Essentially, a new kind of nation was formed out of the Great Lakes fur trade.”

Preserving the Culture

As the Executive Director of the Historic Saugeen Métis, Jenna has several roles.

“I do everything from historical research about understanding our community’s history, to teaching traditional Métis skills, to helping with language revitalization and everything in between. I kind of have a dual role working in the office and doing outreach in the community as well,” explains Jenna.

While Jenna would normally be busy planning in-person events and workshops, the community has a few things in the works for the fall.

Plans for the Fall

“We’re planning on holding a Symposium in the fall. It’s going to be virtual so it will make it a lot easier for people all over to participate. We’ll also be doing a Rendezvous-by-mail event which is open only to our members. Because we can’t do it in person, we’ll be mailing out packages to participants that will have elements of the normal event,” says Jenna.

Although it’s happening virtually this year, Jenna says they’re hopeful that the community will be able to celebrate together in person next year.

“The last Rendezvous event was in 2019 and that was the eleventh year that we had done it. The plan is to do it in person next year, on the second Saturday in August. We typically have live traditional Métis music like fiddle players, and great food like Whitefish on a bun, and cultural displays as well,” she explains.