The Historic Sault Ste. Marie Métis Council, with support from Know History Inc., has been awarded $200,000 from the Museum Assistance Program – Indigenous Heritage Grant, funded by the Government of Canada. The program supports projects that preserve, manage, and present Indigenous cultural heritage.
The funds will be used to develop an exhibition at the Sault Ste. Marie Métis Cultural Centre and an accompanying documentary, to commemorate the legacy of the 2003 Powley decision and its importance to the Métis community in Sault Ste. Marie and the broader implications for Métis communities across the Métis Homelands.
In 1993, Steve and Roddy Powley were charged for hunting a moose without a licence, and unlawful possession of a moose contrary to the Ontario Game and Fish Act. The Powleys and the Métis Nation of Ontario took the case to court, arguing that, as Métis, Steve and Roddy Powley had Aboriginal harvesting rights that are enshrined in Section 35 of the Constitution Act. After several appeals, the Supreme Court of Canada unanimously ruled in favour of the Powleys in 2003, confirming the existing rights of Métis people under Section 35.
The new exhibit will commemorate this victory by showcasing artifacts like Steve Powley’s hat, sash and hunting notebook, the rifle presented to Steve Powley by Manitoba Métis Federation President David Chartrand, the original copy of the Powley Decision, and the hide from the first moose “legally” harvested by the Métis community after the 2003 ruling. The exhibit will give these and other irreplaceable items a permanent home, where they can be viewed and enjoyed by visitors and community members.
The permanent exhibit will be housed at the Sault Ste. Marie Métis Cultural Centre. The Cultural Centre is one of the three buildings in the former St. John’s Anglican Church Complex which was gifted to the Historic Sault Ste. Marie Métis Council in 2017 by the Anglican Diocese as an act of “tangible reconciliation” in recognition of the existence of a Métis burial ground on the site. The former church is being converted to a cultural centre/museum, the church hall into a community meeting space and the rectory to a program and service hub for Métis Nation of Ontario citizens. The program and service hub will open to citizens in early November, with significant renovations having been recently completed.
A short documentary and a travelling exhibition will also be created and circulated across Canada, in order to share this important story with as wide an audience as possible. The documentary and both exhibits will launch on September 19, 2023, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Powley Case.