Batchewana First Nation
Batchewana First Nation is found in four locations. Two are located north of the Sault at Goulais River and Batchewana Bay. The other two are located at Rankin, east of the Sault, and between the twin Saults at Whitefish Island. At all of these locations, traditional culture and ways of life are pursued through activities such as fishing, hunting, ceremonies, and social and cultural events. The Grammy-nominated drumming group Bear Creek calls Batchewana home, and also includes members from many other nearby First Nations, such as Garden River First Nation and Bay Mills Indian Community in Michigan. They share their culture with the world through their extensive travel and international tours.
Whitefish Island is a particularly important location in Sault Ste. Marie’s development, especially along the currently existing downtown waterfront. The history of this area goes back thousands of years. In the past, Whitefish Island was the centre of a thriving trade network extending throughout North and South America. Items made from local copper and seeds of area plants were among the many items traded here. It was the annual gathering place for the Three Fires Confederacy, which consisted of the Ojibwa, Potawatomi, and Odawa nations. Batchewana First Nation currently preserves the island – one of few essential habitats for whitefish remaining in the St. Marys River – and provides the trails that are available for the public to enjoy. Future plans for the development of the island include an outdoor interpretation center complete with a reconstructed pre-contact village, smokehouse, teaching lodge, wigwams, and period actors; display for artefacts; and conference facilities.
Other notable developments include Batchewana Band Industries (BBI), which attracts diverse companies to offer skilled employment, training opportunities, and personal growth through which role models can be provided to younger Batchewana First Nation members. Companies located at BBI’s Blue Heron Industrial Park include auto shops, environment and forest product companies, construction companies, a law office, and more.