Colonial Rescue

Recently I learned about an event in my family history that left me reeling. Back in 1832, my ancestors were among the first families to settle in Orillia, Ontario. As they approached the area by boat, their craft capsized in the waters of Lake Couchiching near “The Narrows.” On board was a tiny baby, my third great-grandmother Eliza Bailey, and she was brought safely to shore by a kind member of the Chippewa (Ojibway) Nation. As I later found out, many of the early settlers were welcomed and dependent upon First Nations everywhere, who gave us gifts of food, medicine and our very lives. And yet I have to wonder if my family line would even exist, had Eliza perished in the water? And why wasn’t this information an important part of our family story? A member of Mnjikaning First Nation and Keeper of the Fish Fence cared for my ancestor, but what did we do to return the favour? We have a lot to examine, as we make retributions for the terrible years of land seizure, genocide, oppression, relocation and residential schools. And as we move forward together, I hope to contribute to that process.