Economics & History

In the early 1900's religious organizations were very aggressive to convert Indians to Christianity. In particular the Methodists highly supported a life of farming as opposed to hunting and fishing. In 1883 an Indian Agent was assigned to Cape Croker who promoted agriculture. In these early times, timbering was also important for the peninsula. Sawmills were located in Colpoy's Bay and Wiarton. Fishing was a resource base source of food and income. But as the Greatest Depression approached even abundant fish resources could not shield the community from economic hardships. Great Depression of the 1930's was universal. Work was not to be found on or off reserve. Farmers could produce crops but profit levels were miniscule if attainable. Fish prices were low and the timber days were over.

As the 30's turned into the 40's there was still a local market for fish but the start of World War II changed the labour force dramatically. A total of 102 Band Members enlisted. Six were members of the Canadian Women's Army Corps (C.W.A.C.). Seven were killed and twenty wounded. Comparativley, 57 enlisted in World War I. Six were killed and fourteen wounded. When the war ended and Band members returned to their community there was little opportunity. One or two took advantage of a program by the federal government to begin farming with the assistance of a small grant. Once again, however, the business of farming grew more difficult every year with improving technology. By 1966 only one farm remained on Cape Croker.

Commercial Fishing was equally difficult. The sea lamprey was devastating the lake trout population throught the Great Lakes in the late 30's, 40's and 50's. Larger boats were needed to chase depleting fish stocks. Few could afford the business on any scale. Timber was still a resource at Cape Croker but only provided occasional income. By the 1960's farming, fishing and timbering could not provide the employment needed for growing a community.

The 60's were a period of focus for the Band, because job opportunities in the traditional resource sectors were limited, other opportunities were explored. Initially there was a proposal to mine dolomite and another proposal to establish a manufacturing centre for the Lovable Brassier Company. Nothing became of either project although the Brassier Company did establish in nearby Wiarton where it provided employment for a few women in Cape Croker.

It was not until 1963 that a proposal was developed for the community for a furniture factory in partnership with a businessman from Wiarton. The proposal was to train about thirty individuals for the production of a local design and finish called "semi-rustic" furniture. Cedar was to be used from Band lands. The project was unprecedented for an Indian reserve by July 1967. At about the same time in 1965 one band member began a silk screen business. It developed a good market in urban areas and operated for about five months. The business was basically family run and it became too difficult after a few family members had to leave the community to return to school.