Digital story maps chief’s historic journey

Paul Mayne//Western newsPublic History graduate student Skylee-Storm Hogan has created Walk with Chief Shingwauk, a digital story map detailing an account from Chief Shingwaukonse’s journal where he traveled from Baawating (Sault Ste. Marie) to Toronto to petition the Anglican Church to build a school for his people in the early 1850s.

From the moment she first heard it, Skylee-Storm Hogan understood that sharing the story of Chief Shingwauk was a necessity.

“Once you learn of his story,” she explained, “it never leaves you – I’m one of those people.”

Today, thanks to the efforts of the Public History graduate student, thousands across the region – and around the world – can share a similar experience in learning the chief’s story for the first time through an innovative storytelling technique.

Walk with Chief Shingwauk is a digital story map detailing an account from Chief Shingwauk’s journal where he traveled from Baawating (Sault Ste. Marie) to Toronto to petition the Anglican Church to build a school for his people in the early 1850s.

Shingwauk, 70 years old at the time, traveled for days, meeting Edward Francis Wilson, a Huron University College-educated missionary, in Sarnia, Ont., and the pair would make the trip together to Toronto to speak with the Anglican Bishop at St. James Cathedral. Despite their efforts, nothing came from trip. Shingwauk returned home and died a year later.

Wilson, however, took up the charge for the school, but changed the narrative. Twenty years later, he founded the Shingwauk Indian Residential School in Sault Ste. Marie, the only such school to bear an Indigenous name.

As an undergraduate student at Algoma University, Hogan worked at the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre. She connected deeply with the story of Chief Shingwauk, as members of Hogan’s family attended that residential school.

“For me, Chief Shingwauk is one of those people so often misquoted, misunderstood and misrepresented, mostly by the settler community in the Sault,” said Hogan, whose family is from the Mohawk Nation of Kahnawake. “He wanted a schoolhouse where his kids could come to be prepared for this new world – to be able to feed, cloth, take care of themselves and under what their rights were, and what their responsibilities still are, as Anishinaabe people.”

When it came to telling the story, Hogan knew digital was the correct way. When speaking with elementary and high school tour groups, she found explaining Chief Shingwauk’s legacy and vision was difficult. The original journal, she admitted, is dry. Story maps are a relatively new digital teaching tool incorporating text, images and multimedia content to engage an audience.

“This makes it a lot easier,” she said. “When I first started making the map, I wanted it to be for Indigenous People. However, there were limitations with the journal. So I focused on students.”

‘Walk with Chief Shingwauk’ is a digital story map detailing an account from the journal of Chief Shingwauk, above left, where he traveled from Baawating (Sault Ste. Marie) to Toronto to petition the Anglican Church to build a school for his people in the early 1850s.

Hogan found it difficult to customize the map to have Indigenous place names as the chief knew them and reflect the more natural barriers he would have faced. There were no photographs in the original journal, so Hogan pulled images from those areas from the approximate time, usually from newspapers or local archives with digitized collections.

While the digital map is geared towards elementary and high school students, it has been shared through the Shingwauk centre and school boards in the Sault Ste. Marie.

In the future, she plans to create a similar digital map with a stronger Indigenous focus to include more localized language, place names and footnotes that makes sense to Indigenous People. She also hopes to work with descendants of Chief Shingwauk to create illustrations for the project.

“I’ve been working with this history so much, and I have been involved in the story for so long, I just see how important it is. People should be hearing it.”