Garden River First Nation
Prior to the signing of the Robinson-Huron Treaty in 1850, the Ojibways of Garden River occupied the entire area of Sault Ste. Marie and Echo Bay. The Anishinaabe name of Garden River First Nation, “Ketegaunseebee,” is connected to the days of the fur trade. The people living in this area were well known for growing vegetables along the route that voyageurs and explorers followed. Garden River has always been a place where Indigenous people can farm and hunt – “The Creator’s Garden.”
The recorded history of Garden River begins with Shingwaukonse and his two sons, Augustine and Buhgujjenene. Before this, history was passed down through the generations in the form of legends. Chief Shingwauk and Garden River First Nation, together with fellow Ojibways (who reside in Algoma, Nipissing and Sudbury areas) were instrumental in the finalization of the Robinson-Huron Treaty. Led by Chief Shingwaukonse, the Garden River First Nation also played a vital role in the Battle of 1812 in Southern Ontario. Chief Shingwauk received three medals from the British government for his efforts, and many other Indigenous participants were decorated as well. Many people enlisted in the Army during the First and Second World Wars.
At Garden River First Nation residents enjoy culture through music events, powwows, language revitalization programs, and gatherings. Local opportunities for recreation and sports have resulted in many well-known athletes. Three members of Garden River First Nation have risen to fame in hockey. Ted Nolan, who played for the National Hockey League with the Pittsburg Penguins and the Detroit Red Wings, is now a well-respected NHL coach. This love of hockey has been passed down to his son Brandon and his son Jordan, a two-time Stanley Cup Champion. The Ted Nolan Foundation now provides the Rose Nolan Memorial Scholarship (named after Ted’s mother) to women pursuing post-secondary education. In partnership with the Tim Horton’s Children Foundation, the Ted Nolan Foundation has also sent over 500 Indigenous youth to leadership camp.
Indigenous education remains a priority for the First Nations of the Sault and area. The land where Algoma University is currently situated was originally provided by the Garden River First Nation. Both Garden River and Batchewana First Nations were involved in the establishment of Shingwauk Kinoomaage Gamig, an independent cross-cultural university that is inspired by Chief Shingwauk’s vision of blending traditional Indigenous knowledge with mainstream teachings. Through their efforts Indigenous culture is becoming a cornerstone of education in Sault Ste. Marie.
The work of Garden River First Nation members is also felt outside of Sault Ste. Marie’s borders. Turtle Concepts, a company founded and led by GRFN member Dave Jones, delivers empowerment workshops to build self-esteem for youth internationally. These workshops are made community-specific while staying true to the foundations of Turtle Concepts, developed in part through Dave’s life experiences and his belief that young people who feel better about themselves make better choices.