EMAIL mj.morris@live.ca


Saturday, January 14, 2017

Michipicoten Ojibwe: A Permanent Home at Chapleau

Ojibwe families at HBC Sub Post (1884) CP Archives and Ian Macdonald 
Based on ongoing research, Mike McMullen and Ian Macdonald have prepared  a series of three articles relating to early Chapleau history. Here is the first: 'Michipicoten Ojibwe: A Permanent Home at Chapleau'. I extend my sincere thanks to Mike and Ian for having these articles ready for while I am in Orlando on one of my periodic visits. My email is mj.morris@live.ca

By Mike McMullen and Ian Macdonald
In a letter dated September 1, 1903, William L. Nichols, Indian Agent located in Sault Ste. Marie, wrote to the Department of Indian Affairs in Ottawa outlining a request on behalf of 16 adult male members of the Ojibwe group living at or near the village of Chapleau. They desired that a small portion of land be acquired for them in this area as this was where they obtained most of their livelihood.  The sixteen, representing a total of 52 family members, wanted to establish permanent homes for their families and cultivate small plots of land. Furthermore, they were prepared to pay for this land out of their Robinson-Superior Treaty annuities.  

The names of the 16 Ojibwe who made this request for land, with the total family units in brackets, were:

Chessewahninie, Simon Sr. (1+1=2)
Quemzause   (1+3=4)
Manawassin, John  (1+1=2)
Penewajisik   (1+2=3)
Kebekmaise, Peter  (1+5=6)
Manawassin   (1+1=2)
Chessewahninie, Simon Jr. (1+2=3)
Ashtijizik   (1+2=3)
Caudissa, Jacob   (1+2=3)
Maymayguess, Moses  (1+2=3)
Johnston, John   (1+4=5)
Maymayguess, Joseph  (1+2=3)
Caudissa, Joseph  (1+1=2)
Maymayguess, Ignatious (1+3=4)
Manawassin, Peter  (1+2=3)
Okeemahbinasie or Grosse Jambetta  (1+3=4)

The 52 persons represented on this list were on the Michipicoten pay list of the Robinson-Superior Treaty. The annuity at this time was $4.00 per person per year.

These Ojibwe were part of the Michipicoten Ojibwe Band (also referred to as Robinson Treaty Indians) located near Michipicoten Harbour on eastern Lake Superior, but were a separate inland group or branch of the band.  They tended to camp in the interior near Chapleau, where they hunted, fished and trapped on both sides of the nearby height of land. They would travel back to the Michipicoten River area to trade furs at the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) Michipicoten post.  Another inland branch of the Michipicoten Ojibwe Band was located near the village of Missanabie (Missinaibi). 

In the fall of 1884, a Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) survey crew came to a site on the east side of the Nebskwashi River where a three-building HBC sub post was being built. The southeast boundary marker of the town site for the future village of Chapleau would be located nearby.  One of the photographs taken that day shows a group of indigenous people with their teepees (Photo 1). We believe that they were members of the Michipicoten Ojibwe inland group that some 19 years later would make representations in September 1903 with Indian Agent Nichols for a parcel of land at Chapleau.  

With the completion of this HBC Chapleau sub post in late 1884, we believe that the Michipicoten Ojibwe group began to stay in the Chapleau area for most of the year. Carrying out their traditional activities, they were able to trade their furs with HBC at Chapleau without having to go specifically to Michipicoten.  There were increasing opportunities for work in the local regional Chapleau economy. These included working in the bush doing such activities as guiding, tree cutting and survey line cutting. At Chapleau, there would have been general labourer activities associated with the CPR and the growing village.   Also, by early 1887, there were merchants now located in Chapleau providing competition to HBC for their furs. Perhaps, these Michipicoten Ojibwe realized that their future now depended upon living in the Chapleau area and this required a permanent settlement on land of their own.

The Nichols letter of September 1903 clearly received a favourable response as correspondence showed that the decision to begin the process for granting this Ojibwe request was made within a month of receiving it. Then in October, Indian Affairs informed the Ontario Department of Crown Lands of its intention to purchase land at Chapleau on behalf of the Michipicoten Ojibwe group.  Ontario Crown Lands was agreeable subject to an evaluation of any lands in question and a survey.
Perhaps, as a requirement of the process, Nichols, in July 1904, prepared a more formal petition addressed to the Dominion of Canada on behalf of the Michipicoten Ojibwe group.  A hand-written document, dated July 20, 1904, with 16 names and witnessed signatures (they signed with Xs), outlined their reasons for wanting land at Chapleau. The group identified themselves as members of the Michipicoten Band, and had just met in Council at Chapleau under local chief Chessewahninie (Simon Sr.) for the purposes of this petition. They requested that land be “set apart for own use and the use of our families while we are absent on voyaging trips or in other work so that we could build small buildings which we could use from year to year.”  They wanted it situated near Chapleau so “our children and wives could attend school & church.” In follow-up correspondence, Nichols indicated that the group was currently camping on CPR lands and was concerned about being ordered off at any time. It is evident that Nichols was sympathetic to their situation and wanted a land transaction completed for them as soon as possible.

Shortly after submitting the petition, Nichols suggested land on the east side of the Nebskwashi River, southeast of Chapleau, which he estimated at about 160 acres. He wrote that on this property “the Hudson Bay had a temporary post, but it has all gone to decay” (the sub post constructed in late 1884). Indian Affairs accepted his selection of land for the Michipicoten Ojibwe group.  A review and evaluation  by Ontario Crown Lands in October determined that this land was not subject to any prior claims, was of little value and the timber was only of use for firewood.  Shortly thereafter, arrangements were then made for a survey of the property, which was completed in November 1904 with the official survey submitted in early 1905. The size of the surveyed property was 220 acres.
The land transaction was completed in 1905. In May, Indian Affairs purchased the 220 acre property ($1.00/acre) from Ontario Crown Lands in trust for the Michipicoten Ojibwe group at Chapleau. An Ontario Order-In-Council, dated October 18, 1905, confirmed the transaction.  The property was transferred to the Michipicoten Ojibwe Band and designated as Indian Reserve (I.R.) 61.

The purchase of this reserve by the band was paid out of its general funds and reimbursed over time by the Michipicoten Ojibwe group at Chapleau out of their Robinson Treaty annuities
This Michipicoten Ojibwe group now had their land and the opportunity to build their own settlement close to the village of Chapleau.  We believe that they would have quickly made efforts to salvage and restore the three HBC buildings on their property before constructing additional structures to house their members. They apparently made noticeable progress in a short period of time. The Treaty 9 Commissioners, who were in Chapleau in July 1906, wrote at that time that the land purchased by the Robinson Treaty Indians (I.R. 61) “has already been substantially improved.”  Over time this settlement became commonly known in the area as the Memegos (Maymayguess) site. 

In 1906, a picture was taken of Chief Chessequinn (Chessewahninie) being painted by portrait artist Edmund Morris.  Morris was accompanying the Treaty Commissioners negotiating Treaty 9. The location would have been at the Memegos site with the Nebskwashi River in the near background and the CPR line in the far background along the far shore.
The Painting of Chief Cheesequin (1906) Library and Archives Canada 

A 1924 photograph of the site, taken from across the River on the CPR line, shows about 7-8 buildings and maybe there were more. At some point in time, there were two small churches at this site: one Anglican and one Roman Catholic.
Memegos Site on I.R. 61 on east bank of Nebskwashi River (1924) Vince Crichton  collection

However, by late 1965, only 14 Ojibwe lived on the site with 13 of them being Memegos family members. About 1970, the site was abandoned as a new settlement south of Chapleau, off Highway 129 on I.R. 74A, was established.
On the Memegos Site on east bank of Nebskwashi River (2014) Mike McMullen

We visited the Memegos site in May 2013 and partial remains of three buildings were the only reminder of the first permanent site of the Michipicoten Ojibwe at Chapleau.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Harry Alexander 'Butch' Pellow lasting memories of the most special of Chapleau friends

Butch and Brigitte 2014
Several years ago I wrote a story about "finding a good stick", and even spoke about it at the 90th anniversary reunion of Chapleau High School in 2012.

I hadn't thought about it much recently, until I received huge box from my lifelong friend Harry 'Butch' Pellow early in 2016. Upon opening it. Butch had sent me a walking stick.

It was the enclosed letter that made me fully realize the metaphor of the "good stick". Harry wrote that it was sent with best wishes "as you carry it."

He added: "As our frailties become more evident, we need to be mindful of every step going forward -- be reminded of your friend many years ago who explained "good stick theory."

My friend of many years ago when I still lived in Chapleau and would go for a walk to the Memegos Property was a man I met along the way who told me "I hope you find your good stick."

All these years later, I realized that I had, in great measure my "good stick" in my friend Butch from the time we were about five years playing at the Big Rock in the Louis Dube Peace Park. 
MJM with 'good stick'

 In the past few years I was able to visit with him in 2012 at the 90th anniversary of Chapleau High School, then in Toronto in 2014 at a fantastic party in Toronto by Butch and his wife Brigitte. It was attended by over 60 Chapleau friends, some of whom I had not seen in more than a long time.
Tout le gang at Butch and Brigitte's 2014 party

In 2015, Butch and Brigitte travelled to Chapleau for the launch of "The Chapleau Boys Go To War" which my cousin Michael McMullen and I wrote.
Alison,Joyand Henry Heft, Butch, Mike, Brigitte 2015

Harry Alexander 'Butch' Pellow died on December 13, 2016. Although he he lived most of his adult life in Toronto, he remained close to his roots, always a Chapleau boy from a family who arrived shortly after the Canadian Pacific Railway did in 1885.

He became one of Canada's most distinguished architects, and Chapleau is included among his projects. He was the architect for the Chapleau General Hospital, Chapleau Civic Centre, Chapleau Recreation Centre, Cedar Grove Lodge and the golf club house. He also made the plans for Trinity United Church.

In paying tribute to Butch I decided to share some excerpts from articles he has written in recent years about Chapleau.
CHS play 1956-57 names below

First: "Chapleau was born of the railway" by Butch

 "Our grandfathers and their children, then their children, their children’s children and now even another generation are still closely aligned with Chapleau and the railroad and it is so disappointing to read of the demise of industry, connectivity which the railway provided, personal attachment to life in the north and Chapleau in particular; and a loss of identity and personality that the community was once known for.  It is time for Chapleau as a community to refocus before it is too late.

"Chapleau was born of the Railway and nurtured by its pioneers in search of opportunity, unafraid of the unknown and adventuresome in the extreme. There is an enormous story still  to be told.

"In these early days men and families were focused on a new beginning. They were building their own homes, creating new industries and businesses as exemplified for example by the entrepreneurial drive of Edgar Pellow. Hotels for labourers, employees and travellers were constructed and schools were built and churches were constructed for several denominations.
CHS Girls Platoon 1950s with Neil Ritchie, CO and Butch 2014

"The railway was the catalyst and it all started with the construction of the rail yard, the station building and maintenance and servicing facilities. Circa 1886, the essentials had only begun with broadly spaced trackage, an original station and a water tower.

"By 1910 things were in full swing and by 1911 there was a formal station building in the CPR style. Chapleau was a divisional point, housed train crews, provided housekeeping and maintenance for trains, marshalled trains and was a stopping point for passengers moving back and forth across the country."
At The Boston names below

"Playing road and pond hockey" by Butch

"I only recall the famous strip between Birch and Cedar but I did play on the pond on the back river once or twice. Both times I froze my toes and fingers and decided that it was too cold for me.

"But on Aberdeen Street it was warmer and much closer to home to play road hockey. Frequently, snow piles were pretty high; often stained with dog urine and rarely without many deep holes in them where the pucks had been lost and had been recovered either by probing sticks or urgent kicks from various team players.

"Players were randomly gathered either by purposeful visits to the destination or picked up on the way by. The skill level was indeterminate but the enthusiasm was always at a critical pitch.
 CHS and other team players from 1950s and beyond in 2014

"Frequently the more proficient and sometimes the more senior amongst us effected a team selection process which created lop-sided weighting of skill and ability resulting in long periods when goals were only scored from one direction. By the way, I was not one of the more senior amongst us if you know what I mean.

 "But there was another venue too and it was on the front river just west of the concrete swimming pier where so many gathered this past July (in 2012)  during the Chapleau High School 90th Anniversary Reunion to celebrate the homecoming and watch the fireworks. 

Butch and Harry 'Boo' Hong
"Like the pond, it arrived when the ice did but it was far more accessible, and collecting a group required far less planning and organization to pull together enough players for shinny. It was often after school and on weekends and as you recall surfaced one Christmas holiday and maybe George 'Ice' Sanders was unable to make a rink on the ‘clinker’ surface of the public school grounds. 
Butch, Joy Evans Heft, Sharon Swanson CHS reunion 2012

"Pickup included anyone who could get enough equipment together to make it worthwhile and at the same time wear warm clothes. Warm clothes because the west wind, however mildly blowing, was cold on that open river front and by the end of a school day
or an early winter weekend evening the sky was grey, sunless and foreboding; and, had it not been for wild enthusiasm why would anyone choose the river over The Boston 
Jean, Butch, Yen
"The wonderful thing about river hockey in Chapleau that I think we all need to think about a lot as we get into the season of joy and remembrances is that it had no religious, racial, language or nationalistic perimeters; there were no upper town or lower town distinctions and I don’t recall there being good players or bad players; albeit there were little ones and big ones too. 
CHS hockey team 1956-57 names below

We were all players and it was a game, a spontaneous moment, a gleeful opportunity to engage in role playing and in doing what northern boys and girls and their parents had done for decades before us. It was about entertaining ourselves, laughter, being out of doors, pushing the limits and building relationships."

"The Big Rock was just that" by Butch
Butch and MJM ready  to play at Big Rock circa 1947

"Emerging from the coarse grass and somewhere from the centre of the universe this seemingly giant granite boulder sat waiting for us to creep up on it as the sun rose on any weekend on a spring, summer or fall morning.  Beside it, the ground was exposed by the regular weekend scraping of heels, the rock’s movement due to frost heave in the winter and erosion along the edge of the hillock. 

"In the early mornings as the sun rose low from the east with dew on the grass it had a crystalline appearance that quickly faded as the shadows shortened, and by evening it was dark and foreboding.  We hid from passersby and calls to dinner from whatever origin in the east of downtown and from the river to lower town.  

"It was our place, and we shared it only infrequently with new friends or others who we would invite in because we needed reinforcements for the cavalry or our posse.

There were the usuals including Morris, Evans, Schroeder, Bolduc, Stein, Hong, Fink, Pellow, Cachagee and other guys too; and even on occasion a few girls who for now will remain nameless, but they would saunter in to see what going on and wanting to be part of the intrigue and never at the early hour we were there.

"It was our time, and it remains a mystery to me today that I would even be able to have this incredibly vivid visual and olfactory recollection of the cool, fresh morning air being carried on the breeze over the windy, weedy, Nebskwashi River with its sparkling water creating a glare over the rock that was blinding.   

"There were other rocks too, other players, and other intrigue, but it was always the cowboys and the other guys; the good guys and the bad guys; and until I saw “Shane” I don’t recall anything meaningful but the out of doors in the movies of the day, and never really seeing the kitchen or parlour of a good guy’s family home.  For sure they lived somewhere besides behind a big rock, but in those days at the big rock we really didn’t care."
Butch, Ian, Jim Evans, Brigitte 2014

Ian Macdonald, retired head of the department of architecture and professor emeritus at the University of Manitoba: "I knew Harry since 1947 when my family moved to Chapleau. We went through Public and High School together, shared an apartment in academic session 1962-63 when we were both attending Ryerson University, were classmates for a year at the University of Manitoba and interned as professional architects at the same office in Toronto.

"Despite taking different paths upon gaining professional registration, we stayed constantly in touch in subsequent years. The professional work that he provided oversight for is well documented, impressive and will remain his permanent professional legacy. Harry’s engaging personality and boundless energy was also his professional style and the style of his distinctive architectural practice.

"It should also be a matter of record that Harry, in his professional activity, always publicly acknowledged the consultants and team members that contributed to the success of his large project work.  

"My enduring memory of Harry, however, will remain his basic decency as a human being.  He was continually generous with his time and always made himself available for a host of reasons. He was supportive of me professionally on many occasions whenever needed . From my position as an architectural educator, I was particularly, sensitive to the importance he assigned to quality mentoring and the opportunities he provided in his office for the personal growth and development of a generation of young architects. While some might argue that this may not have been a cost effective use of employee time, he accepted that this was an important and fundamental part of his professional responsibility . Harry was and will always remain the most special of friends."

Thanks Butch. May you rest in peace.
Butch, his brother Dr Bill, Ian, MJM at book launch 201

Note: I extend my most sincere thanks to Michael and Alison (McMillan) McMullen, Ian Macdonald, and all those who assisted me with this column. My email is mj.morris@live.ca

Names for photos

Dolly' Doughnuts CHS play 1956-57 From left back Phyllis Chrusoskie, Butch, Margaret Rose Fortin, David McMillan, Lorraine Leclair: Front Mary Serre, Dr Karl Hackstetter (director), Donna Viet, Jim Evans, Michael Leigh

At the Boston Café from left Georgette Cormier, Rita O'Hearn, Shirley Cormier, Butch, Donna Lane, Joy Evans, Harry 'Boo' Hong, Sparky the restaurant dog

The CHS team of 1956 . Back row from left: David McMillan, Doug Sleivert, Stan Barty,Thane Crozier, Clarence Fiaschetti (teacher and coach), George Lemon (principal) Second row: Doug Espaniel, Roger Mizuguchi, Bill Cachagee . Front are Jim Hong, Bert Lemon, Harry Pellow, Ken Schroeder, Robbie Pellow (Mascot) Marc Boulard, Harry Hong, Jim Machan, Ron Morris. 

Michael J Morris

Michael J Morris
MJ with Buckwheat (1989-2009) Photo by Leo Ouimet


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Following the American Dream from Chapleau. CLICK ON IMAGE