History of Thunder Bay

I have always wondered about the vibe in the city I live in. I haven’t bothered doing research. Of course I have heard about the oral stories here. About sacred sites. I have also studied the fur trade and know the contexts. But the stories told thru the euro centred ways of understanding, from the position of a capitalist, and someone who clearly benefited, is a different story that that, say of my grandparents. Clearly, I have found myself impacted by the racialised colonialism here. I’ve looked at the murals in the city, depicting the fur trade, as if it were some sort of celebratory act. I have also nursed along the shores of Lake Superior, feeling very inherently Indigenous and female empowered. At the same time, I have felt demeaned, alone, and tired. I have felt disconnected, dismayed and far from home. I have felt like a stranger in my own territory- Fort William First Nation is a sister to Pic River. I have sought out Land connections only to feel far. Then I have felt the need to connect with the Land in other places- where I truly have felt that sacred connection. I have also dreamed, of being far away. The energy at times too intense. When I think about the fur trade, what that meant, how that looked, I am still not sure I understand. I never romanticized the fur trade. There are so many starting points of history. This one tells the story of Thunder Bay, not of the Indigenous community, but the settler story, of Thunder Bay.

In 1905, the Fort William band was forcefully uprooted and relocated from their reserve site on the shores of the Kaministiquia River so that settlers could build a grain terminus for the Grand Trunk Pacific railway. This intervention was pursued under the auspices of the Indian Act which granted the Governor in Council the power to expropriate lands for the purposes of building public works and securing settler economic development. As historian P. Whitney Lackenbauer recalls, “when the Grand Trunk Pacific indicated that it wanted 1600 acres of prime reserve land to build terminals, and initiated expropriation plans, the Surveyor General at the DIA told the band that he wanted the entire reserve and that it would be moved elsewhere.”[3] Though the grain terminus was never actually built, the settler intervention was supposed to plug the Thunder Bay region into the prairie wheat market and resuscitate what was at that time a fledging local economy by constituting the region as an important transhipment hub…


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