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Oct. 16, 2021 | Saturday
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Metis encampment offers visitors living history outside Fort George
Derrick Pont, president of the Niagara Region Metis Council, works at crafting a small pouch. (Brittany Carter/Niagara Now)

If you happened upon the Metis encampment outside of Fort George last weekend, you were in for a bit of living history, said Derrick Pont, president of the Niagara Region Metis Council.

Members of the council set up camp early Friday just outside of the entrance for the national historic fort, similar to how the Metis would have set up their camp back in the 1800s, said Pont.

The sharing of culture is something that transcends language, it can be experienced without having to fully understand everything, Pont said, retelling an interaction that he said stood out from a few years ago. A young girl who couldn’t speak English spent the afternoon in the camp, entranced by the clothes, artifacts and activities of the Metis people.

“There was a girl here a couple years ago, maybe eight, nine years old. She was from another country – she couldn’t speak a word of English, but she fell in love with our camp. She wanted us to dress her up and hang out with us, she fell in love with it. That was special – to see how she had zero prejudice, she just loved us,” Pont said.

Brian Kon, chair of the council and Glen Lipinski, community relations co-ordinator for the Metis Nation of Ontario, stayed onsite with Pont and camped until Sunday afternoon. Other members of the council came and went over the weekend.

In the 1800s, the Metis would stay for several weeks to trade fur and establish connections, Pont said.

For the last 10 years, the council has been setting up camp around the same time every year to bring awareness of the Metis people and to share their history and tell their stories to residents and visitors of NOTL.

“At the same time, we get to hear their stories,” he said of the people who come into the camp. “We like setting up this camp here, because it’s so well known throughout the world, this is a destination that people like to come and travel to Fort George.”

The open camp offers passersby the opportunity to walk up and ask questions, or lay back and observe, Lipinski said.

“It’s a good way for people to come and learn, and they’re coming to us. They can stand back and watch or they can come interact with us,” he said.

“The smiles sometimes, the reactions we get from different people,” Pont said that’s his biggest takeaway from these camps.

“The support that we get when we talk to people. How much they realize they don’t know, either about the Metis or First Nations or any Indigenous people. There’s definitely an appreciation,” Lipinski said.