The History of Sioux Lookout & Hudson
First Nation History
Local archaeological history provides evidence that Sioux Lookout and the Lac Seul area were utilized by First Nations people 8,000 years ago. The Ojibway people from surrounding First Nations have lived off the abundant resources of the land for thousands of years.
Historical Umphreville Park is a known site to gather artefacts from previous civilizations who would utilize the calm waters to portage around nearby Frog Rapids, where Pelican and Abram Lakes meet.
The name Sioux Lookout is a reflection of its strategic location. Early First Nations from the Ojibway Tribe passing through the area would encounter raiding First Nations from the Sioux Tribe. Standing at the top of "Sioux Mountain" and utilizing the view down the English River water system, approaching danger could be sighted from a great distance. The history books note that one such encounter saw the raiding Sioux Tribe slaughtered by the local Ojibway First Nations, all but one young boy who was raised by the Ojibway people to eventually become Chief.
Originally called "Rolling Portage" (freight was portaged across Hudson from Lost Lake to Vermilion Lake); Hudson became established with the opening of a Railway Station in 1910.
Commercial fishing operations based in Hudson began in 1922. During the 1930's and 40's, Bowman Fisheries shipped four boxcars of fish bi-weekly (pickerel, whitefish, jackfish, sturgeon from the north and lake trout from Vermilion Lake) to the market.
Hudson became a transportation hub in 1926 during the Red Lake gold rush. With no existing roads, one had to take the train to Hudson, board one of the many ferryboats or canoes to navigate the water system and traverse the portages to gain access to Red Lake. During the summer, boats and floatplanes were used and tractor trains and planes on skis were utilized in the winter months.
In 1929/1930 Hudson was the second busiest freighting airport in North America (Chicago was the first). Robert W. Starratt purchased Hudson Bay Transport in 1928 and Red Lake Transport in 1929 forming Northern Transportation, which was renamed Starratt Airways and Transportation in 1932.
The opening of a road into Red Lake in 1947/1948 resulted in the decline of freighting on Lac Seul and ended an era of glory for Hudson. During this time of decline, logging increased in Hudson and several saw mills began operation. Lac Seul Land and Lumber, being one of the first mills in Hudson, was built in 1945 on the site of present day McKenzie Forest Products, a Buchanan Company saw mill. Since then, the forest industry has become a major economic force in Sioux Lookout.
Beginning as a surveyors' camp in the early 1900s, Sioux Lookout was eventually settled as a divisional point on the Lake Superior Junction Railway and the Grand Trunk Railway. In the early 1900's, when track was being laid for the railway, to the east the track ended in Superior Junction (about 20 miles east of Sioux Lookout). After five years of political haggling, track was eventually laid to join the east and west by rail, with the last spike estimated to have been driven into the ground somewhere between Sioux Lookout and Hudson in November, 1913.Sioux Lookout was incorporated in 1912 with approximately 150 residents a 9000 sq. ft. Train Station was constructed in Sioux Lookout and began operation in 1912 in anticipation that Sioux Lookout would grow and prosper as a result of the railway. Grow it did, with approximately 1,500 residents by 1914.
Sioux Lookout was a divisional point on the Canadian National Railway system and a base for refuelling, repair services, operations, equipment, maintenance staff, train crews and administration. In 1923 CNR funded the construction of a YMCA building, which became the hub of recreational and leisure activity for the community for many years.
By 1920, with the construction of the road networks throughout the Northwest, reliance was lessened on the use of rail to transport people and goods. In 1940, the construction of the TransCanada highway, ensured even less reliance.
Most significantly impacting the CNR in Sioux Lookout was the elimination of the steam engine and the move to diesel engines. The impact on refuelling and repair services occurred overnight for Sioux Lookout. In the late 1960's and early 1970's, decommissioning of some on CNR's infrastructure took place with the demolition of the round house and water tower. Administrative positions were centralized to Winnipeg and the eventual closure of the "Beanery" restaurant at the Train Station in 1992 ensured the eventual closure of the Train Station altogether.
The Sioux Lookout area has a long mining and mineral exploration history. Records indicate the first prospecting of the area, by Europeans, occurred between 1880 and 1900. Prospectors and equipment ventured north along the lakes from Dinorwic on the CPR line. Several deposits were discovered by the turn of the century and some, like Burnthut Island, Ruby Island and the Parnes Lake Mine, were partially developed.
The building of the Great Northern Railway through Sioux Lookout and Hudson provided a vital transportation link to the east and south. It allowed the construction of North Pines mine on the east shore of Vermilion Lake in 1909. Pyrite was mined there, shipped east on the railway, and processed into Picric acid. Picric acid was used in the production of gunpowder. The mine ceased production in 1921.
Prospecting and development work continued in the Sioux Lookout area throughout the 1920's. Late in that decade and into the 1930's several sites were developed. About 23 ounces of gold was reported from Vermilion Lake Mine on the south shore of Vermilion Lake. Considerable development took place on several sites in the Alcona area, the largest operation being the Alcona gold mine west of Forty Mile Lake. During this time Sioux Lookout and Hudson became the transportation link during the gold rush eras of Red Lake and Pickle Lake.
In 1929, Northern Aerial Minerals Exploration established an airbase in Sioux Lookout and the provincial government opened the office of the Mining Recorder.
Air Force History
Between 1953 and 1987, the Pinetree Radar Base was one of the major employers in the Municipality. For over three decades, the Sioux Lookout landscape included large white globes on top of a mountain near Pelican Lake. Unseen by the public was electronic equipment inside these globes or domes, equipment important in the defense of North America. In the early 1950s, the Sioux Lookout area was chosen by the United States Air Force (USAF) for the establishment of a Ground-Control Intercept (GCI) radar site, one of the many that would make up the Pinetree line. The Air Force formed the 915th Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron at Grenier AFB in New Hampshire in 1952 and in April of the following year, operations began at the unit's permanent home, Sioux Lookout Air Station. As a GCI base, the 915th's role was to guide interceptor aircraft toward unidentified intruders picked up on the unit's radar scopes. These interceptors were based at Duluth International Airport in Minnesota.
In the early 1960's, the USAF relinquished control of the base to the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). Upon hand-over on 1 October 1962, the operating unit was re-designated 39 Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron and the base, RCAF Station Sioux Lookout. Second, approximately one year later, radar operations at 39 Squadron were automated and the station became a long-range radar site. It would no longer guide interceptors but only look for enemy aircraft. As a consequence of the change, the operating unit was once again re-named, this time as 39 Radar Squadron.
In October of 1967, Sioux Lookout was once again re-designated. This time, the change was due to the creation of the Canadian Armed Forces, the new tri-service organization that absorbed the RCAF, RCN and the Canadian Army. 39 Radar Squadron, RCAF Station Sioux Lookout, became simply Canadian Forces Station (CFS) Sioux Lookout.
The next major change came in the 1980's. After a lengthy review by both the Canadian and American defence ministries, it was decided to modernize the North American air defence infrastructure. DEW Line equipment was upgraded and the Line was renamed the North Warning System. With this newer equipment, it was decided to close most Pinetree Stations. CFS Sioux Lookout was thus disbanded in July 1987 and the large white globes, the radar domes, became a thing of the past.
The Honourable Leo Bernier (born 1929) is a former politician in Ontario. He served in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario from 1966 to 1987, and was a cabinet minister in the governments of Bill Davis and Frank Miller. Bernier was a member of the Progressive Conservative Party.
Bernier was born in Hudson in Northern Ontario and educated in the area. He became the general manager of Bernier & Sons Contractors, and served as President of the Hudson Chamber of Commerce. He is an honorary member of the Royal Canadian Legion and the Knights of Columbus.
Bernier first ran for the Ontario legislature in the 1963 provincial election, and lost to Liberal-Labour candidate Robert Gibson by 840 votes in Kenora. Gibson died in 1966, and Bernier was elected in a by-election to replace him. He was returned by an increased margin in the 1967 provincial election, and served as a backbench supporter of the John Robarts administration. When Bill Davis succeeded Roberts as Premier, he appointed Bernier as his Minister of Mines and Northern Affairs.
Bernier was easily re-elected in the 1971 provincial election and he was given additional responsibilities as Minister of Lands and Forests. During the same year, his portfolios were restructured as the Ministry of Natural Resources.
Bernier was re-elected without serious opposition in the elections of 1975, 1977, 1981 and 1985. He was named Minister of Northern Affairs in February 1977 and held this position for more than eight years. Bernier was the most powerful minister for Northern Ontario in the Bill Davis government, and was sometimes called the "King of the North". Like most Progressive Conservatives of his time, he supported government intervention in economic matters.
Bernier initially supported Dennis Timbrell in the Progressive Conservative Party's January 1985 leadership convention, but crossed to Frank Miller after Timbrell was eliminated. Miller retained him in the Northern Affairs portfolio after becoming Premier of Ontario in February 1985. The Progressive Conservatives under Miller were reduced to a tenuous minority government in the 1985 election, and were defeated in the house in June 1985. In opposition, Bernier served as his party's critic for Natural Resources and Northern Affairs and Mines. He did not run for re-election in 1987.
Items of Interest