The Historic Sault Ste. Marie Métis Council was presented with a 2022 Lieutenant Governor’s Ontario Heritage Award at a ceremony at Queen’s Park in Toronto on February 23.
The award was one of several given to those who made exceptional contributions to cultural and natural heritage conservation, environmental sustainability and biodiversity in 2022.
The Sault Ste. Marie council for recognized for their work in creating the Sault Ste.. Marie Métis Centre. A former church, hall and residence that was threatened with demolition but has since been transformed into a museum, meeting and office space for Métis across the region to gather and call their own.
The citation for the award states in part: The Council transformed several heritage buildings that were threatened with demolition into a new gathering place for a people who for generations have had their land, homes, culture and dignity taken from them.
“I am delighted to join the Ontario Heritage Trust in celebrating this year’s exceptional award recipients,” said Dowdeswell. “In a time of unprecedented change, their tireless efforts to help us understand context is crucial to navigate with wisdom and care.”
In attendance at the ceremony were several representatives from the SSM Council including; Steve Gjos, Chair of the Historic SSM Métis Council, Meagan Gjos, youth representative on the council, Samantha Case, Secretary of the council and Region 4 PCMNO Councillor Mitch Case.
“I am so proud of the work we have done to create this space for our people,” said Case.
“For a community that’s had its land taken since the 1850s, and now to have a place that’s our own – it’s incredible and this award just serves to recognize the tremendous amount of work that has gone into this endeavor.”
“173 years ago, the process of removing our ancestors from their lands in Sault Ste. Marie began and today, we are being recognized for reclaiming a small piece of those lands and for doing some incredible work as a community to tell our story. This is reconciliation in action and it is a step forward in the healing journey of this community.” said Steve Gjos, who accepted the award on behalf of the Council.
“Projects like this are truly self-determination and self-government in action,” said Margaret Froh, President of the Métis Nation of Ontario.
“We at the MNO are so proud of the work our local councils do to maintain our history and culture. My heartfelt congratulations go out to the Historic Sault Ste. Marie Métis Council.”
For more than a hundred years, St. John’s Church stood on a plot of land beside the now-submerged Fort Creek. Decades before the land was sold to the Anglican Church of Canada in 1901, it had been a graveyard, first for the local Métis people, and later for the North West Company outpost erected near where the Fort Creek empties into the St. Mary’s River. In July 2017 the land was given back to the Métis, in an act of “tangible reconciliation” when St. John’s decided to merge with St. Matthew’s Anglican Church in 2016 to create a new parish, Emmaus Anglican Church, the diocese decided to return the property to its traditional owners.