Sainte-Marie among the Hurons – Midland, Ontario. Not just your average Museum
Several years ago I was lucky enough to visit this Museum and Living History Re-creation, and my memories were so strong, I insisted that we go again. I didn’t have enough time to really look hard at the museum, the outdoor portion is so outstanding.
A little history as background – From 1639 to 1648, here in an isolated and seemingly abandoned part of Canada, the Jesuits established and maintained a settlement among the Wendat (Huron) Indians. Their purpose was to convert the natives of course, but the trading opportunities were of great interest as well. Eventually – attacks by the Iroquois became too much for the colony to continue, although the loss of the founders – Fathers Jean de Brebeuf and Gabriel Lalemant – might have been the determining factor.
This museum/living history exhibit attempts to recreate the settlement in great historical detail. The exhibit starts with a 15 minute movie – which ends with the screen opening to reveal the entry to the outdoor component. There we find an entire settlement, numerous costumed interpreters available to provide explanations and in-depth descriptions of the soldier’s barracks, the Stone Bastions, the Granaries, the Gardens, the Cookhouse, the Hospital, the Chapel, and my favorite – a non-Christian Longhouse. Still in use during reenactments, the Longhouse smells of smoky fires, and feels full of Wendat Legends and tales.
But even better is the museum, which starts with the cobbled streets of Europe of the 1630’s. There are movies galore – available in both English and French with the press of the correct button. There’s a sideshow describing a canoe trip from Montreal to the Midlands done in traditional clothes – which means full habits for the Jesits – 39 portages, and numerous rapids. In another section, there are a series of short videos of Wendat stories and tales. The walls of the museum start off resembling the towns in Europe, and end off becoming the woods of Northern Ontario. Among the birches and pines are set the exhibits, examples of tools and axes typical of the period, books of Jesuit prayers, the bits and pieces of everyday life in Northern Ontario in 1650.
Remarkable and well worth visiting.