This is a story inspired by my own family and my great-Aunt Bernice. She was like a grandmother to me. It was a joy to imagine their lives on the island (a mile from where my parents have a home today). The story is fiction. It’s a way for people of all ages to learn more about a Métis family in Ontario before they hid their identity for protection and to stay together.
“A treasure map sparks a coastal Canadian Métis eight-year-old’s search for gold in an exuberant, richly detailed novel from a Métis author sharing her family’s fictionalized history…. A sweet historical fiction pick for fans of well-intentioned young protagonists with enlightening Indigenous representation.” Booklist
“This is a novel for young teens, featuring historical fiction depicting life on this part of Georgian Bay in the early 1900s, and a history of the Indigenous people, the voyageurs and the settlers who came later to these islands. It is also a compelling novel about an adventurous girl who finds that the real gold on Georgian Bay is right where she lives.” Charlotte Stein, ParrySound.com
“Author Jessica Outram has given us a story with a difference: a book that incorporates many phrases in the Métis language, Michif.” Helen Norrie, Winnipeg Free Press
“An excellent complementary read for indigenous or Canadian history studies. It is a worthwhile and thoughtful read and an admirable way of paying tribute to past generations. Highly Recommended.” Canadian Review of Materials
“As a story, it will interest readers of all ages, moving deftly between the warm family scenes, industries across the water, and the dangerous storms of Georgian Bay.” Historical Novel Society
“Bernice and the Georgian Bay Gold is an amusing and informative story that serves both to entertain and educate the reader. It would be a positive addition to any home or school library.” Anishinabek News
Bernice and the Georgian Bay Gold is now available in hardcover as a Junior Library Guild selection.
Follow me on social media to learn more about some of the people and places who inspired the book.
Brave Bernice is ready for an adventure!
It’s the summer of 1914. Eight-year-old Bernice lives with her family in a lighthouse on Georgian Bay. One day Bernice wakes up to find a stranger named Tom Thomson sleeping in their living room. When she overhears him talk about gold on a nearby island, Bernice is determined to find it. Inspired by her beloved Mémère’s stories of their Métis family’s adventures and hardships, Bernice takes the treasure map the stranger left behind and sets out in a rowboat with nothing more than her two dogs for company and the dream of changing her family’s fortunes forever.
Product Information: Bernice and the Georgian Bay Gold
- Release: May 16, 2023
- Second Story Press
- $12.95 Paperback
- 190 Pages
- 5.25″ x 7.5″
- Children’s Fiction
- Ages 9-12 / Grades 4-7
- ISBN: 9781772603187
Jessica Outram is a MÃ©tis writer and educator with roots in the Georgian Bay MÃ©tis Community. She is the 4th Poet Laureate of Cobourg, Ontario. For decades she has captured Georgian Bay summer sunsets with her camera. This project is for family and friends who share her love of sunsets. Anyone is welcome to purchase a book.
- Primary Category: Arts & Photography Books
- Project Option: Standard Landscape, 10Ã—8 in, 25Ã—20 cm
# of Pages: 24
- Hardcover, Dust Jacket: 9781006416453
- Published by Sunshine in a Jar Press
- Using a print on demand service: Blurb. Since hundreds of copies were not printed, the cost per book is higher than hoped.
- Limited Edition.
- $55.00 plus tax and delivery
If you know Jessica or live nearby, you can also purchase books directly from Jessica to avoid shipping costs (paying by cash or etransfer: $55 plus GST/HST $7.15 = $62.15).
Sunsets in Britt is also available at Let’s Talk Books in Cobourg.
I wanted to stand next to Gereaux Island Lighthouse, my feet on the rock my ancestors stood upon for so many years. I dreamed to see Georgian Bay from their perspective. What did Grandpa notice here growing up as a child? How can I see through his eyes? How can I learn about living on an island?
This summer everything aligned beautifully. We finally docked our boat and took a self-directed tour of Gereaux Island. For over 60 years my ancestors lived on this land, fed from these waters. My Grandfather grew up living here. Today, my parents live about 1 km away.
Vibrant energy. Time disappeared. The sun, breeze, and waves all sang the same song: welcome home. How can a place hold so much?
The island felt bigger on shore than looking at it from the water. It was hot when I thought it would be cool. My feet ached to memorize each step, each crevice in the granite. My eyes squished to gaze through the walls of the house and tower to imagine life inside. Unfortunately, the building was closed. The Coast Guards told us everything has been stripped inside and it’s unsafe for people to enter.
I took home a piece a granite to remember this visit, to hold onto the energy. We will visit again. This island has more lessons and stories for me to learn.
Here are some pictures from the visit:
About the Building
In 1996, my Uncle Bob wrote to the government requesting information about Gereaux Island Lighthouse. He knew this was a meaningful place for my Aunt Pat: her father grew up in this lighthouse and her grandfather was keeper. The government sent him the plans for Great Duck Island Lighthouse on Lake Huron (built in 1876) stating it was very similar in construction. They also sent a few other spec sheets and an article. Uncle Bob used this information to have a replica built for her as a gift. Fast forward many years later and Aunt Pat and Uncle Bob have shared that gift with me. I have the replica in a special place among family photos in my home.
According to an informal building report from the Federal Heritage Building Review Office, published in December 1990, Gereaux Island Lighthouse is a square tapered wooden lighttower with attached dwelling. This form had living space in both the attached dwelling and in the tower. This model was used especially in remote locations.
Our family history in Britt, Ontario, is rich and goes back to before the town had its name. Britt stretches down one road off Highway 69 along Still River to Lake Magnetewan and out to the mouth of Georgian Bay.
Mom worked on a population study when she was in high school (in the late 60s) and reported five hundred people lived there then. Approximately, three hundred people live in Britt now.
There is nothing like a Georgian Bay sunset. Dad took us out on a beautiful August evening for a cruise around Gereaux Island Lighthouse.Â What makes the water look like a mirror? Why do sunsets feel so much like coming home?
The Sunset is a Teacher
watch the sunset
in a boat if possible
swaying in the shining water
listen closely, our ancestors join us
notice the pulse of Mother Earthâ€™s
lullaby of colour marked across the sky
pause to feel the call of the loon
soften in a moment of stillness
as the sun exhales a good day
in a ballet of light
By Jessica Outram
Our family has lived in the Britt, Ontario area since the late 1800s. The landscape has become part of our family story. We feel a deep connection to the area. This year for Christmas I made my parents a video to try to capture how we feel about Georgian Bay.