It is with profound sadness and a deep sense of loss that we acknowledge the passing of one of our community’s most cherished elders and knowledge holders. Mrs. Mary Dolores Mathilda Pinder née Bussineau took her last breath on Tuesday morning.

Dolores, a one of a kind, hard working, dedicated mother, grandmother and community member, with one of the sharpest wits of anyone who ever lived.

Dolores and her siblings were raised in the Métis village at Agawa Bay, which had been established by her grandfather, Dave Bussineau, in the early 1900’s. From the earliest days of the 20th century, several Métis families, having been pushed off their River Lots in Sault Ste. Marie or out of Frenchtown relocated to Agawa. They continued to live their lives as they always had – symbiotically with the land, hunting, trapping, fishing, maple sugaring, and caring for one another as a community. This ended abruptly when, in 1968, the Ontario Government ordered the Parks Department to bulldoze and burn the homes in the village. With a sadness in her voice, Dolores often told the story of the burning of the village, the injustice of it all, and about the Ontario Government officials, or as she referred to them “a bunch of jerk-asses,” and roll her eyes.


Dolores was a pillar of the Sault Ste. Marie Métis community, who so generously shared her stories, photos, documents, and family heirlooms with all who would listen. She shared everything she had to share and never asked for anything more than a cup of coffee in return. She once asked me to go to the dollar store and buy a notebook, some chart paper, and markers to write down her memories and to draw out some maps of the village. She tried to repay me the 5 dollars it cost. She never wanted to take anything from the community, she only wanted to give.

I had the privilege of knowing Dolores for most of my life. She was both my Grandpa’s cousin, and his friend. I was able to hear stories from her since I was an early teenager. She carried and shared stories of things she saw in her own lifetime, and many that had been passed on to her by her parents, and grandparents. Dolores’ grandfather had passed stories on to her that stretched back to the days of the Sault Ste. Marie River Lots, the War of 1812, and the days of the Voyageurs. She shared with us, both one-on-one and on camera, countless stories about the “old days” war stories, and about our way of life; hunting, trapping, fishing, maple sugaring, gardening, hauling logs with horse teams, and of the liveliest Saturday nights with dancing, jigging, and fiddling until the wee hours. Her stories contained so much wisdom about our history, culture, way of life, and most importantly – our values. Her stories would contain nuggets of wisdom about the way we make decisions, act responsibly, hold each other accountable, and be respectful of the lands which give us sustenance.

Dolores would frequently write down her memories in notebooks. I was reading one this morning and wanted to share some of it here. In three pages of hand-written text, she shared about her family’s way of life in the village, gardening, harvesting, growing roses, and the values that guided their relation to the land:

“Agawa Memories: About twice a summer, my grandpa Dave would say, “I feel like having a speckled trout for supper,” and so he would go and get his fly rod. And in a special cupboard would get some flies, some he had made, some had been given to him. Away he’d go by himself. No one was allowed to go, as he had a little honey hole he kept for himself. He would be gone about an hour or two and when he came back he always had about a 1 ½ lb speckled trout. This we would have for supper along with potatoes, onions, galette and maple syrup or some ort of berries and fresh cream from the cow. I can remember that supper was always so special. When I asked him one time why he only caught one fish his reply was, “well, I only catch one because it is a treat and if we ate all we want it is not a treat anymore.” You can eat lake trout and white fish any day of the week (we usually did) along with losh, ling, livers, suckers and pike. By only catching one fish from the honey hole, we can always have a treat when we wanted. If more people practiced Grampas’s way of life, there would stillbe an abundance of speckled trout in the lakes and rivers.”

Over the past several years, Dolores sat down with our camera crews and recorded some of her stories and she gave us hundreds of photos which are now preserved forever in Sault Métis Heritage Centre’s virtual archive – which can be found here.

I spent as much time with her over the years as I could, stopping in to visit, bringing treats from my garden, maple syrup and chokecherry wine. She would tell stories, give advice and reminders whenever asked, and was never hesitant to tell you what you needed to know. Go visit your elders. Don’t wait. Don’t hesitate.

She shared stories of old traditions and superstitions, recipes for medicines, miracles, monsters and ghosts, tragedy, and hilarity. She knew everyone’s family tree, and knew everyone’s story. And she had the sharpest wit. Our community will suffer her loss greatly, but is stronger because we had her for as long as we did.

I have spoken to Presidents Gjos, Blanchette and Froh, as well as former President Powley and on behalf of the Historic Sault Ste. Marie Métis Council, the North Channel Métis Council, the Huron-Superior Regional Métis Community and the Métis Nation of Ontario we extend our condolences to Dolores’ family including her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and her brother Bud and sister Olive.

Out of respect for the family, and in resurrection of an old tradition which used to be practiced in our community and was kept alive in one of Dolores’ stories about her cousin “Joe the Bell” Boissoneau, who was responsible for ringing the bell at the old Sacred Heart Church and later Precious Blood Cathedral, the Bell in the tower at the Sault Métis Heritage Centre will ring at noon on Saturday, July 13th in tribute to the passing of this most beloved elder.

Family and friends are invited to visit at the Arthur Funeral Home – Barton & Kiteley Chapel (492 Wellington Street East 705-759-2522) on Wednesday, July 17th, 2024 from 12:00 pm until 3:00 pm. Interment Pine Grove Cemetery. Memorial contributions (made payable by cheque or online) to A.R.C.H. or the Canadian Cancer Society – Uterine Cancer Research would be appreciated by the family. Please visit to leave a message of condolence for Mary’s family.

Mitch Case, Regional Councillor – Huron-Superior Regional Metis Community