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.

Surviving the Trip across Lake Simcoe

Sandra Big Canoe

It was a warm summer day on May 30th, 1985. My eight-year-old daughter, Donna, and I were coming home from a shopping trip. The wind had picked up and we were on the mainland, getting ready to catch the little ferry service to Georgina Island. The school children that attended school in town were catching the ferry too. There were about twenty-five people crowded on the ferry with their groceries. There were babies, school children, seniors and adults. We even had a mattress being held steady by some of the men on the back of the boat!

The driver, Eric Charles, was going to let his fourteen-year-old daughter, Lisa, drive the boat, but changed his mind when he saw that the wind was picking up. We were all anxious to leave the dock, as the wind was getting stronger. There was a storm coming from the direction of Barrie. We had already started out when the rain began. Thunder started to rumble in the sky. Eric thought we could beat the storm but we got caught right smack in the middle of it. It was blowing so hard that Eric could not steer the ferryboat. Everyone was scared. I was fearful for my daughter, who was so little. I put a life preserver on her. There were only five or six on the boat at the time. I remember a little baby on the boat, and I was fearful for her life. The rain was so heavy, we could not see two feet in front of us. The boat was rolling from side to side and I thought we would tip over and drown.

“The boat was rolling from side to side and I thought we would tip over and drown.”

I started to pray for our safety. Eric yelled at someone to throw out the anchor, but it would not hold. It seemed like an hour, but it was actually only a few minutes before the terrible storm passed. We were all scared and soaking wet, but grateful to have survived. Most of the community was waiting for us on shore as we neared the island dock. My husband, Buzzy, was upset that I was on the boat and told me I should have waited until the storm was over. Every family on the island had a member on the boat that day. What a near tragedy! Later on, we discovered that a tornado had hit the town of Barrie, and had passed right by us on Lake Simcoe.  Sometimes it takes a close call like this to make you realize how precious our home and community is to us.

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