At the midpoint of the twentieth century, the First Nations people of Ontario’s underdeveloped hinterland lived primarily from the land. They congregated in summer in defined communities but in early autumn dispersed to winter camps to hunt, fish, and trap. Increasingly, however, they found they had to adapt to a different way of life, one closer to the Canadian mainstream. While lifestyles and expectations were clearly changing, the native people’s desire to maintain their rich and distinctive cultural traditions remained strong.
John Macfie, then an employee with the Ontario Department of Lands and Forests, captured in photographs this turning-point in the lives of the Ojibway, Cre, and Oji-Cree, when their traditional culture still flourished but change was fast approaching.
John Macfie, born in 1925 on a farm near Dunchurch, Ontario, spent many years in northern Ontario with the Fish and Wildlife Branch of the province's Department of Lands and Forests. During that time, he successfully combined his government work with a more personal interest, photography. Since his retirement, he has studied the history of Parry Sound District, publishing three books and writing a weekly newspaper column.
Basil Johnson, a North American Indian of the Anishinaubae (Ojibway) tribe, was born on the Parry Island Indian Reserve in 1929. He is associated with the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto and is well known as a lecturer and author, with eight book about the Anishinaubae culture and tradition to his credit. He was a recipient of the Order of Ontario in 1989.
The old ways are disappearing so quickly that this visual record of traditional native ways is invaluable.