17 years has passed since the landmark Supreme Court decision which recognized Métis rights
Sault Ste. Marie — Métis Nation of Ontario – Region 4, consisting of the Historic Sault Ste. Marie and North Channel Métis Community Councils, along with our citizens, will pause this weekend to commemorate the 17th anniversary of our landmark victory in the Powley decision and to pay tribute to the man who led our community in this hunt for justice.
144 years after his ancestors stood up for Métis rights during the Mica Bay Resistance, a humble Métis man, Steve Powley and his son, Roddy – shot a bull moose and tagged it with his Métis card and a note that read “harvesting my meat for winter.” This simple act of compassionate defiance led to an epic battle in the courts, with Steve Powley leading the way and the entire Métis Nation, from Ontario to British Columbia, rallying around him. The victory was summed up in unique Métis oratory style by a well-known prairie Métis leader, Gerald Morin who said, “Powley was a slam dunk, 9 to nothing, kick ass decision for the whole Métis Nation. What the Powleys did, it was for all of us.”
Sadly, the Creator called Steve Powley home not long after his victory and the Métis Nation has been left to take what he fought for and protect and defend it in his stead. “At that time, when Steve was first charged – right through to when the Supreme Court made their decision, it is often joked that the Métis couldn’t even get the parliamentary janitor to talk to us, never mind having the government respect us, our history or our rights – no one in government, and far too few in this country wanted to acknowledge our existence – Powley changed all of that” said Mitch Case, Region 4 Councilor, Provisional Council of the Métis Nation of Ontario.
In the years since the Powley decision, the political and legal landscape for the Métis Nation has shifted dramatically. From the 2004 MNO-Ontario Harvesting Agreement and 2008 MNO-Ontario Framework Agreement to the Canada-Métis Nation Accord and the 2019 Métis Government Recognition and Self-Government Agreement, the Métis Nation has secured victory after victory in our quest for justice and recognition.
MNO Region 4 wants to encourage our citizens to take time to reflect on all that has been sacrificed in order to defend our rights. We encourage families to talk with their children about our community’s history, tell them of the way we have persisted, resisted and continue to be proud of our unique Métis identity. Tell them how hard our leaders have fought to ensure that they could still proudly say they are Métis.
“It was not an accident that Steve and Roddy were charged that day in the fall of 1993, they had discussed it, they talked about it with their family, their community – they were tired of hiding, tired of “skulking through the woods like common criminals.” Judge Vallencourt put in his ruling. “There is much more to this story and we are going to be doing more work to tell that story” said Case. “We have so much to be proud of.”
“Powley Day is an important day for Métis people because it gives us an opportunity to celebrate the recognition of our right to hunt and fish; a practice reinforced by Steve and Roddy by hunting that day for their family. It was a very proud day for all Métis people” said Yvonne Jensen, President of the North Channel Métis Council.
“The Supreme Court recognition of our rights has been so important for our community” said Kim Powley, President of the Historic Sault Ste. Marie Métis Council. “My father and brother did not set out to make history, they were simply trying to live their lives as Métis people as our family had always done. I sometimes wish it wasn’t called “Powley Day” because it wasn’t about us, it was about our people and our collective rights. None of what was accomplished could have been done if the whole Nation had not come together; from the community volunteers, to MNO staff, lawyers and political leadership. When Métis people come together, we can achieve great things.”
For many years, the Historic Sault Ste. Marie Métis Council has recognized this day by hosting a community feast. In light of the COVID-19 Pandemic, the feast will not be held this year but the Council hosted Sunrise Ceremony to pray and pay tribute to those Métis leaders who have gone on. The ceremony took place on September 19, 2020 at the Algoma University Fire Arbour, in partnership with Algoma University Anishinaabe Initiatives Division. All necessary COVID-19 precautions were observed.
As the Regional Government for the Métis Communities in the Sault Ste. Marie, Superior East and Huron North Shore, MNO Region 4 encourages Canadians and Ontarians to take time this September 19 to learn about the Powley Case, learn about the history of the Métis in the Upper Great Lakes and take time to reflect. Ask yourself, “What am I doing to further reconciliation with the Métis people?” “In what ways have I contributed to the Métis being largely overlooked in our community?”
For those looking to learn more about the Métis in the Sault Ste. Marie Region, or about Métis Rights, some links are provided below.
The Powley Case – Video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=12K7l0-lHXA
Sault Ste. Marie Historic Métis Community Fact Sheet http://www.metisnation.org/media/654039/joint-fact-sheet-sault-ste-marie-18-august-2017-final.pdf
MNO Historic Research http://www.metisnation.org/registry/citizenship/historic-research/
Powley Day message from President Froh http://www.metisnation.org/news-media/news/powley-day-2020/
APTN Powley Feature https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JkXRk7Bvk-g
Powley Case Summary https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/powley-case
Métis Government Recognition and Self- Government Agreement Video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m8SGenHUW2c
Métis Nation of Ontario Documentary https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WSniHvhnAaU