OMAA - The Woodland Métis Tribe's rich past draws on a strong heritage and colourful history of a people in a land which has been our home since time immemorial. Historical documentation commissioned by the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples makes it increasingly apparent that there is a diversity among Métis peoples in Canada which must be addressed. Historians agree that there were several populations of Métis people in Canada which came into existence both before and after the more familiar Métis communities of the prairie provinces normally associated with the Riel resistances of 1870 and 1895.
The development of a distinct, cohesive, mixed blood population was a major factor in colonial life. Colonial exploration pushed its way into the upper Great Lakes area in the 1620's and by 1654 a meeting of Half-Breeds (or Métis) was recorded. Even European historians make it pretty clear that Mackinac and Sault Ste Marie had large populations of Half-Breeds; in fact the Indians and Half-Breeds were the only permanent population in the area up until 1763.
During those many years when neither the English nor the French succeeded in dominating the Upper Lakes area, it was the Half-Breed Langlade family that provided the same kind of leadership that the Riel's were to later provide in Red River in the next century. In fact, the formal surrender of the Sault area to the English was conducted between English officials and the Half-Breed Charles Langlade, not the French military.
For a century, the Half-Breeds of the Sault built their nation on the economy of the fur trade, and their military alliances with both Indian and colonial forces, when it became necessary to defend their homeland against the English and later the Americans. According to research done by OMNSIA (the predessor to OMAA - The Woodland Métis Tribe) in 1978, there were two attempts to set up a separate province or state in the Upper Lakes region which had the full support of most Métis. The first plan for a separate province was proposed by Antoine Lournet de Lemothe-Cadillac in 1760. Cadillac's idea (and that of the Ottawa and Sauteur in his garrison) was to assimilate the Indian population to form one community. Cadillac was charged, arrested, acquitted, and removed from office. A century later the same fate befell another commander in the area, Robert Rogers, who re-opened the Michilimackinac fur trade. In response to local, and a considerable amount of Halfbreed pressure, he considered enlisting the help of the French to set up a separate province. He was charged, tried, and acquitted of treason, but he too was removed from his post. Such historical events confirm the European's awareness of the need for a distinct Métis society as early as 1760 in what is today the Woodland area of Ontario.