The Georgina Island Storytelling Project

Our stories celebrate our heritage and identity as Chippewa people. They preserve and teach our Indigenous ways of knowing and knowledge for the future generations of Georgina Island. In the tradition of oral history over generations, our youth - in their turn - will carry on this legacy to protect and share our proud history and who we are as the Chippewas of Georgina Island.

History of Georgina Island

Susan Hoeg (nee Vernon)

Life on Georgina Island began in the early 1800’s. The Department of Upper Canada wanted to separate the Indians from the white settlements, putting them on reservations was a way of accomplishing this.

After a nomadic way of life they found it difficult to stay in one area. In 1826, camp meetings were held by the Methodist missionaries who worked Vigorously to convert Indians to Christianity. Schooling was encouraged and children were placed with mission families. They were trained to spread the Christian faith and were forbidden to practice their Native Teachings or to use their Native tongue. Boarding schools were to follow, taking children away from heart broken families.

In the late 1820’s, the Indian Department of Upper Canada began to relocate the Lake Simcoe Indians. The Indians were blamed for destroying wildlife so they were encouraged to farm.

Snake Island was the first island the Indians settled on in Lake Simcoe. With more pressure to farm, they moved to the larger and more isolated Georgina Island. Only a few remained on Snake Island. The population on Georgina Island in 1876 was 131. They gradually changed their lifestyles. Making the island their home.

About 1900 my grandfather built our log house. This is the warm loving home I spent my childhood in. My grandfather always won a prize for the best garden. Strawberries, raspberries and a variety of vegetables ensured enough food for the hard winters.

He rowed across the lake in a boat he had built. Every week the supplies were shopped for in the nearby towns. Hours were spent carving ax handles while my grandmother made beautiful baskets trimmed with sweet grass and porcupine quills. They would then take them to the villages and sell or trade them for food or clothes.

In the spring, maple syrup boiled vigorously in big black pots. Medicines were gathered in the woods. The women nursed the sick and delivered the babies.

“In 1961 Native people were finally able to vote in the Federal elections.”

We had an Indian Agent who looked after the affairs of our people. He always frightened me. Our men and women fought in the wars, some never returned. In 1961 Native people were finally able to vote in the Federal elections. They were also then allowed to bring alcohol onto the reserves. In the early 1950’s the telephone was brought to the Island by underwater cable, then hydro arrived in 1959.

Today we enjoy a new ferryboat and hover craft. Our revenues come from leased land on Fox, Snake and Georgina Island. We have an elected Chief and four councilors. Our Island membership is 600 with 155 members residing on our reserve. We enjoy a new Community Centre, Health Centre, United Church and a Public School. Classes are taught in Native language, art beadwork and traditional teachings. We have a ball team and a hockey team; we enjoy Powwows and Native dancing.

Self-government is in the future. Our way of life is changing, we hope and pray it’s for the better.

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4 responses to “History of Georgina Island”

  1. Sharlena Johnny says:

    The history of your First Nation is inspiring:)

  2. Joncanuk says:

    My mother and grandparents spent a lot of time on Georgina in the ’50s, Someone from the band spoke at my mother’s funeral.
    Mary Jean Waddell, Her mother was Amy Fraser, Anyone out there remember them?

  3. Sarah Gottschalk says:

    My Grandmother is a Charles and she never lived on the Island, but her father would go over from time to time. She lived just in Sutton before moving to Toronto :)!

  4. Joe says:

    Thank you for sharing your memories and stories. Many of us non-natives do not support your treatment by the government.

    I have read some writings from the early 1800 and in some cases believe they may have had good intentions for Natives to have a better life, but it was certainly done the wrong way. Same for Religious order involvement. It was a different world then- but that is no excuse now. I have no doubt government intentions were always self profit-and still are-especially when compared to the seemingly better treatment of non-Canadian refugees and support to other third world countries etc. Hey- weren’t you promised Michigian-Indiana for preventing the USA from winning the War of 1812? Typical Government scam job; morally, ethically, legally.

    I wish more could be done to make the Chippewas of Georgina more entrenched in our daily life. Few streets, neighbourhoods, monuments, holidays etc are named after Natives. Little is done to make your language, culture or images part of daily local/ Canadian life. (When they are they are unfortunately interpreted by some as disrespectful). It seems more attention and “coolness” is given to African Americans in Canada. Maybe one day, First Nations peoples will learn how to tap into to a similar “cool factor” of the youth- but in a respectful way, rather than a “gangsta-Rez” way. Perhaps the environmental mainstream is the start…but to share the Native mind body and soul with daily business, music, art and science…that is my hope.

    Please provide as much education about Chippewa history and current events that may welcome non-Natives. I don’t want to play or become a “pretend Indian”, but learn how to help and support your past, present and future as the First Nations people of this land. Hard to do when all the world is becoming a nation-less new world order, but that makes quickly educating about your Nation among non-Natives even more important.

    Keep the memories and stories coming !!!

    ( oh…and PLEASE require approval of comments to stop the kiddies from making your website look like a joke. Allowing such comments shows a lack of interest and willingness to be taken seriously)