This [article] is meant to provide a written and visual account of the native history of a very specific geographic area and to put it into context with the ebb and flow of the history of Ontario and North America in general. For researchers, we hope that the following will provide a valuable starting point.
There are many good sources of information on the Wendat. Please see the selected bibliography for some of the more accessible sources. The local Ojibwa and their allies, however, are very sparsely covered. We have attempted to pull together data from various sources and the information in this section more closely approaches the definition of original research. As for the section on the Wendat, we have stood on the shoulders of the giants who have published on the topic. We do hope our presentation provides a valuable synthesis of available sources.
It should be noted that, although Simcoe County is the focus of this study, it has been necessary to step outside these Euro-Canadian boundaries on a number of occasions. The Anishnabe people of Muskoka, for example, were connected politically to the larger group around Lake Simcoe. For this reason, they have been included in our presentation. The use of Simcoe County in the title is not entirely accurate or useful at times but it does provide a geographic centre stage for our story.
Modern day Simcoe County is commonly referred to as “Huronia”. This name honors the original inhabitants of the area. The Huron’s, however, referred to themselves as “Wendat” and the territory occupied by their Confederacy was called Wendake. Wendake has been translated as “the land surrounded by water”. Situated in the extreme north of the County, Wendake was enveloped by Georgian Bay to the north and west and Lake Simcoe to the east. Many rivers and lesser lakes dotted the Wendat homeland. The inhabitants shared the belief of many of their neighbors that their world was created on the back of a turtle.
“Huronia” or Wendake is no longer the homeland of the Wendat. No longer able to resist the attacks of the Iroquois besieging them, the last refugees in the area left their haven on Christian Island for Quebec City in 1650.
Today, the aboriginal population of Simcoe County is made up of Algonkian-speaking Ojibwas, Potawatomis and Odawa. These people are culturally and politically linked through a shared history. The story of how these people came to this area and how the Wendat were forced to leave their homeland in the 17th century are just some of the topics in this discussion of the Native Peoples of Simcoe County.
Wendat (Huron) at Contact
The Wendat are an Iroquoian-speaking people. The Iroquoian peoples occupied the lower Great Lakes region and other areas in the southeast United States. The language group includes, along with the languages of Wendake, the Tionontateronon, Neutral, Erie, Wenroronnon, Susquehannock, Cherokee and the languages of the Five Nations. Iroquoian people inhabited the villages of Hochelaga and Stadacona in the St. Lawrence valley. These two peoples disappeared, however, some time in the 16th century. The Wendat, themselves, may have spoken more than one language or simply different dialects of the same language. The first inhabitants of Wendake, the Attignawantan and Attigneenongnahac, spoke a common dialect. The Tahontaenrat and Arendarhonon, however, seem to have spoken different languages or dialects. In the case of the Arendarhonon, the difference was sufficient to discourage Jesuit activity for a time.
Iroquoian peoples shared more than related languages. Many cultural characteristics such as matrilineal societies and democratic systems of governance were common to most Iroquoian nations. With the possible exception of the Stadaconans near present day Quebec City, all were agrarian peoples.
When Samuel de Champlain arrived in Wendake in 1615 he was keen to get a sense of the size and power of the Wendat. Champlain eventually developed a fur-trading network that used the Wendat as middlemen between New France and the Algonkian nations of the Canadian Shield. The agrarian Wendat were far more numerous than the Algonkian peoples who lived around Quebec City and in the northern parts of present day Ontario and Quebec. Furthermore, they lived in villages, in contrast to the nomadic Algonkians. The Wendat told Champlain that the population of their homeland was 30,000 people in nineteen villages. Historians and demographers have continued to debate this statistic. Some scholars have calculated populations based on the average size of longhouses, estimated decline from established census figures and other factors. The results of the various studies have given us a range of estimates at contact of 16,000 to 50,000.
The Wendat were actually a confederation of four nations or tribal groupings. The largest group by far was the Attignawantan living between Georgian Bay and the Wye River. The Bear people, as they are often called, made up perhaps half of the population of Wendake and dominated the confederation. The Attigneenongnahac, the second largest group, lived along a ridge between the Sturgeon and Coldwater Rivers.
The Wendat Confederacy took its final shape shortly after the arrival of the Europeans. Two nations joined the Attignawantan and Attigneenongnahac from other parts of southern Ontario. The Arendarhonon were the easternmost nation of the confederacy. They lived on the shores of Lake Couchiching and extended west to the Coldwater River. The last nation to join the confederacy was the Tahontaenrat. The smallest of the Wendat nations, they occupied one large village near Orr Lake, southeast of the Attignawantan.
A fifth group formed some time around 1640. The Ataronchronnon were a nebulous combination that seemed to have coalesced from splinter groups of the established nations (with the Attignawantan almost certainly dominant). At least part of their number may also have been made up of refugees from neighboring nations, such as the Wenro. They did not have nation status within the confederation.
The Wendat were semi-sedentary; that is, they were an agricultural people who lived in villages. Due to the nature of their agriculture, however, they were obliged to move these villages every 10 – 15 years. Without the benefit of crop rotation and natural fertilizers, such as manure, the fields became exhausted of nutrients and yields began to diminish. The supply of wood surrounding the village was used up and villagers had to go further a field for this vital resource. The solution of the Wendat and neighboring groups, such as the Tionontatehronnon and Five Nations, was to move their villages to new locations nearby and begin again.
The main crops of the Wendat were corn, beans and squash – commonly known as the “three sisters”. These crops were sown on raised mounds. The mounds helped protect the seedlings from late frost. The sturdy corn stocks provided a conduit for the beans to climb and the large leaves of the squash shaded the mound, keeping the roots of the beans cool in mid-summer and deterring weeds. Tobacco was another important crop, though the best leaves for smoking seem to have come through trade with the Tionontateronon.
Though the products of their fields provided up to 85% of their nutritional requirements, the Wendat also relied on fishing and hunting for sustenance. Wendake was blessed with many lakes and rivers on which to fish. Fishing weirs were constructed on rivers to catch spawning fish. At the Narrows between Lakes Simcoe and Couchiching large weirs were built, the remnants of which can still be seen today.
The Wendat adhered to a strict division of labor. Although men would clear fields for agriculture, the actual tending of the crops was the job of women and children. Men spent much of the year fishing, hunting, making war and trading. The Wendat hunting grounds stretched south to the shores of Lake Ontario and east down the Trent River valley.
Wendat cuisine was heavily dependent on maize or “Indian corn”. The kernels were pounded and ground into a course powder that was mixed into soup and baked into bread. Cornmeal could be stored for a long time, thus providing food for the long winters of central Ontario. When other food supplies failed, cornmeal was usually on hand to see the villagers through until alternative supplies revived. The Wendat and other farming peoples were less prone to famine than the hunter-gatherers of the Canadian Shield though famine was not unknown among Iroquoian people.
Enough maize was usually available for the Wendat to trade with their neighbors, the Odawa and Nippissing to the north and the Algonkins to the east. Trade was carried out over vast distances of the continent before the arrival of the Europeans. Native copper came from north of Lake Superior, shells from the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic coast, tobacco came from the Tionontateronon and Neutral, pelts, unavailable or scarce in Wendake, came from the Shield country.
Trade and military alliance seem to have gone hand in hand. The Algonkin of the Ottawa valley and the Susquehannock on the Susquehanna River in modern day Pennsylvania were both enemies of the Five Nations. Trade links with these people were strong and concerted military action against the Iroquois was occasionally attempted. The Neutral villages around the western end of Lake Ontario were another source of trade. The Neutral provided tobacco and goods from further south, often serving as middlemen between the Wendat and Susquehannock. As their name suggests, they avoided taking sides in the Wendat – Iroquois conflict. The Tionontateronon residing just to the west of Wendake were close relatives of the Wendat and provided most of their tobacco. Despite their proximity and similar culture, the two nations were bitter enemies not long before the arrival of Champlain in 1615. By the time the French arrived in the area, however, the two peoples were trading partners and may have had a military alliance of some sort.
Wendat society was extremely egalitarian. Like many other native societies, the individual enjoyed a great deal of autonomy. A position of authority was based on one’s personal qualities and reputation. A man who showed great courage in battle, skill in the hunt, rhetorical ability or generosity to those around him could aspire to leadership of a group or community. Respect for the individual rather than threat of punishment gave a leader his authority.
Despite this great freedom for the individual, there were checks on behavior in Wendat society. Social pressure, particularly of one’s extended family, those with whom one shared a longhouse, prevented slothfulness. Murder and violence against others in the community were usually dealt with by the families involved. The offended family could seek revenge upon the individual or family responsible for the crime but more often the offended party was appeased with gifts.
Young children in Wendat society were given a great deal of freedom. Parents and other adults were, according to the Jesuits, very tolerant of boisterous behavior. According to the Jesuits, male children received very little direction until they reached puberty, whereupon, they were taught to hunt and fight. In preparation for their future responsibilities, however, they spent much of their time playing with bows and arrows and other weapons. Little girls grew up at the sides of their mothers and other women in their families. They tended to assist in the fields, preparing meals and other tasks appropriate to a woman in Wendat society.
Like most Iroquoian societies, the Wendat were matrilineal. Lineage was traced on the mother’s side of the family. Whereas most Europeans traced their lineage on the father’s side and possessions would be passed down from father to son, the Wendat would expect to inherit the possessions of their mother’s brothers. The longhouses were usually populated by the families of a number of sisters and/or daughters. Upon marriage, a man would normally move into the house of the woman’s parents. The women under a matriarch usually oversaw the affairs of the longhouse.
Wendat society was divided into clans. The clan system, like the matrilineal nature of Wendat society was not well understood by European observers. Our present knowledge of this social structure is, as a result, somewhat foggy. There appear to have been eight clans (turtle, wolf, bear, beaver, deer, hawk, porcupine and snake). These clans represent historic maternal lines of descent.
Other members of the same clan were considered relatives no matter how distant the link. Furthermore, it was forbidden to marry anyone of the same clan. The clan had a further role as a political unit. Clan members elected a civil and war chief to represent them on the village council. The role of chief could be inherited but rather than passing title from father to son, power would devolve to a nephew on a sister’s side of the family. Such a devolution was dependent, however, on one’s qualities and abilities. The system was based on merit unlike the European system of primogenitor.
Civil chiefs of the various villages met frequently. Anyone present could speak. A highly stylized rhetoric was employed with the goal of persuading others. Councils attempted to reach consensus in any decision. If an individual or representative of a clan segment did not agree with a decision he was not bound by it. Coercive powers did not exist at any level of government in Wendake. Tribal councils brought all the chiefs from the various villages together. These councils were only convened as needed. Any chief could call such a council if he considered that a problem involved surrounding villages. The Confederacy Council usually met on an annual basis and its powers were few. The basic purpose of this level of government was to reaffirm the alliance of the tribal units.
The Archeological Record
Anyone who has spent time in Northern Canada knows that ice has had a major role in shaping the landscape of the province. The northern part of the North American continent has been covered at many times by sheets of glacial ice. The Wisconsin glacier, as the last visitation is known, reached its peak about 18,000 years ago but Southern Ontario was not completely free of ice until about 6000 B.C. The area did not attain its present appearance with the retreat of the ice sheet. Huge bodies of water remained, the land was recessed by the recent weight of 5000 feet of ice, all vegetation had been stripped away and the climate was still tempered by the presence of large ice fields to the north. Slowly the water drained, the climate warmed and the forests returned. At first, boreal forests covered southern Ontario but hardwoods gradually moved north.
There is scant evidence of the presence of man in Southern Ontario before 3000 B.C. though the big game hunters of the Clovis Tradition (11,000 – 8000 B.C.) may have visited the area in very small numbers. Their huge fluted spear points have been found but in much smaller numbers than south and west of the province.
The so-called Plano culture spreading from the western half of the continent shared many traits of the Clovis tradition. They seem, like the Clovis people, to have originated as big game hunters. The primary difference between the two peoples is their style of tool making. Finer points replaced the bulky points of the Clovis tradition. The game animals available began to change around 6000 years ago. Mastadons, mammoths and massive deer, called cervalces, were hunted to extinction. The Plano culture may have been the first people in this area of North America to practice a hunter-gatherer way of life. Meat likely remained their primary staple but fish and berries were likely added at this time.
The human population in Southern Ontario throughout the Palaeo-Indian period (Clovis and Plano) was very small.
Around 3300 B.C., a different culture moved into Southern Ontario from Eastern North America. Superior tool making, including the use of native copper and the remarkable throwing mechanism known as the ulu, marked the Laurentian Archaic period. For the first time, substantial numbers of people inhabited the area. Game animals had changed to something approximating the situation in the historic period. Fishing and gathering of food were definitely of more importance to Archaic cultures than to earlier peoples though they remained primarily big game hunters. Patterns of life may have been similar to those of Algonkian peoples in the historic period.
The Laurentian period gave way to what archaeologists call the Woodland tradition. The change is marked by the arrival of a single technological addition. Pottery first appeared in Southern Ontario around 1000 B.C. The population continued to grow and more food types were exploited, such as wild rice, but, apart from the use of pottery, the patterns of life changed by evolution rather than revolution.
The various styles of decoration and construction exhibited by pottery shards tell archaeologists a great deal about the cultural influences of a given people. The people of the Initial Woodland period adopted pottery styles from Northern Ontario, the Southern U.S. and from an adjacent culture called Meadowood. By about 700 B.C., some east – west cultural differences appeared in Southern Ontario. The eastern culture, known as Point Peninsula, adopted the burial practices of the Hopewell tradition, a very sophisticated culture that developed in the Ohio Valley. The building of burial mounds practised by these people seems to have come from Meso-America.
The differences between Point Peninsula and its western equivalent, Saugeen Culture, partly reflect earlier cultural divisions between southwestern and southeastern Ontario. Saugeen people did not, however, adopt the burial practices of the Hopewell tradition.
The Saugeen culture seems to have been supplanted by another Hopewell influenced tradition called Princess Point. These people settled along the north shore of Lake Erie. It is unclear whether Princess Point represents the arrival of different people from the south around 500 A.D. or whether the original inhabitants merely adopted new practices. Princess Point culture was, however, a radical departure from that of Saugeen.
The Princess Point people were likely the first to grow corn in Ontario. The growing of this important crop is fundamental to the next archaeological period in Southern Ontario. By about 900 A.D., the characteristics of Iroquoian society are clearly discernible. Along with the growing of corn, these characteristics include: the construction of longhouses and large villages, pipe smoking and other traits similar to those of the historic period.
Consistent with earlier periods, the Terminal Woodland period is divided into two cultures in Southern Ontario (in actual fact the presence of the St. Lawrence Iroquois constitutes a third group). Glen Meyer existed in the west and Pickering culture occupied a triangular area from the shores of Lake Ontario to Georgian Bay. This division likely reflects the differences between the earlier Princess Point and Point Peninsula cultures. The customary variances in pottery design differentiate the two cultures. Pickering villages seem, in addition, to be somewhat smaller than those of the Glen Meyer.
The importance of agriculture and the sedentary nature of Iroquoian society grow rapidly during this period. The practice of matrilineal descent may have developed during the same time, no doubt influenced by the other changes in society, such as the longhouse, work in the fields, population increase and the sedentary nature of village life.
Around 1300 A.D., the two main branches of the early Iroquoian period coalesced into a single unit. Significant cultural difference disappeared for a time. This melding of cultures has been attributed to conquest by the Pickering of the Glen Meyer people. There is, however, no direct evidence to support this hypothesis. This permutation of Iroquoian culture is known as Uren and it existed for a mere fifty years, being replaced by the Middleport period from 1350 to 1400.
Many sites have been excavated from the Middleport period. The sites suggest lengthening longhouses, relatively few but large palisaded villages and population growth. Sunflowers and tobacco appear to have been cultivated. Certainly, the smoking of tobacco became prominent. Beans and squash, important nutritional components of the historic Wendat diet, are found for the first time in Ontario around 1400 A.D.
The persistent east-west split reappeared one hundred years later when the historical Tionontateronon-Wendat and Neutral-Erie division of Ontario Iroquoians became clear. The tendency to gather in denser clusters of communities and for these clusters to move further away from each other during this period led to the separate development of the various nations in the historic period. By the end of Late Iroquoian period, the Wendat would be consolidated in the northern half of Simcoe County and the Tionontateronon would have sought a separate existence on the Niagara Escarpment south of Nottawasaga Bay.
The retreat into present day Simcoe County by the proto-Wendat was, no doubt, motivated by warfare. The nature of warfare seems to have been changing in the Late Iroquoian period. Internecine conflict lessened, possibly as a result of military alliances against enemies farther afield. The primary enemy of the Wendat seems to have been the St. Lawrence Iroquois before 1550. This warfare was particularly important to the groups in the Trent Valley. With the disappearance of the St. Lawrence Iroquois, the primary foe became the Five Nations to the south of Lake Ontario.
After 1550, the Seneca and Cayuga were at war with the Wendat living on the north shore of Lake Ontario. The Wendat in the Trent valley were probably engaged in a similar conflict with the Onondaga. These wars must have impelled the groups in the Trent valley to move northwest and those of Lake Ontario to move north.
The Jesuits reported that the Attignawantan had lived on the shores of Georgian Bay for at least two hundred years. Since there is ample evidence that the area was occupied during this period, there is little reason to doubt this assertion. The Attigneenongnahac, likewise, claimed to have lived for a long time in the area. There is less certainty about this fact.
The Tahontaenrat and Arendarhonnon were recent migrants into Wendake in the historic period. The Arendarhonon were, without a doubt, migrants from the Trent Valley. They arrived in their historic location in the extreme east of Wendake at the end of the 16th century.
The Tahontaenrat were a small nation likely from the Toronto area. They may have lived in Innisfil Township for a short time before continuing their journey north. They founded their village near Orr Lake around 1610. The Lake Ontario villages were populous prior to historic times. Bruce Trigger, one of the foremost authorities on Wendat history, suggests that the small numbers of the Tahontaenrat were insufficient to account for all of the migrants from south to north. Two theories for this demographic quandary have either the Tionontateronon or the Attigneenongnahac as making up the difference. The latter, it will be remembered, were said to have been long time inhabitants of Simcoe County. The Tionontateronon may have split from other groups travelling north from Lake Ontario. This may account for the reports of recent hostilities between the Wendat and Tionontateronon at contact. Another theory states that the Tionontateronon may have been the remnants of a population of Iroquoians who had lived on the shores of Lake Huron.
The development of the Iroquoian tradition in Ontario can be traced back to around 900 A.D to the construction of longhouses and palisaded villages and the widespread cultivation of corn. The roots of Wendat culture can likely be traced further back to the Princess Point and Point Peninsula cultures of the Woodland period. The acquisition of technology and new sources of food are evident in the archaeological record down to 1615. It seems absurd but 1615 marks the beginning of the historic period for the Wendat. Before that date, historians are largely dependent on archaeology for information. After that date, the observations of Champlain, the Recollets, Jesuits and other European chroniclers become the primary sources.
Contact and the Wendat Trading Empire
Although on a small scale, the Wendat were, without doubt, trading for European goods long before their first encounter with these strange people. Coastal peoples had had contact with European fishermen for over a century before the Europeans penetrated to the interior of the continent. Jacques Cartier traded on a small scale with the St. Lawrence Iroquoian on his expeditions in 1535 and 1541. With the establishment of Quebec City in 1608, however, trade gradually increased and the flow of European goods into the interior expanded with this growth.
Native nations, of course, traded extensively before the arrival of the Europeans and trade links, routes and customs predated contact. The fur trade or the trade in European goods (depending on one’s point of view), was built on the foundations of the existing trading culture. The Wendat, for example, had close relations with the Nipissing and other northern peoples before the establishment of the fur trade. These ties were simply expanded in response to the increased trade of the 17th century.
Such trading relations, in fact, led to the first encounter of Wendat and Europeans in 1609. The Algonkin of the Ottawa Valley and the Montagnais had planned a raid on their enemies, the Mohawk, in the previous year. The Montagnais had invited Champlain to accompany them. In a similar gesture to a trading partner, the Petite Nation chief Iroquet invited his Arendahronon ally to join. The raid seriously damaged the ability of the Mohawk to harass trade on the St. Lawrence. More importantly, a link had been forged between the Wendat and French.
Wendat tradition held that the founder of a trade route was entitled to maintain a monopoly in any commerce through that route. Ochasteguin, the Arendarhonon chief who had first encountered the French, stood to gain a great deal by this meeting. Through negotiations with other chiefs, however, the principal chief of the Arendarhonon nation, Atironta, usurped Ochasteguin’s rights. Atironta would serve as the spokesperson for the whole Wendat Confederacy.
The visit of the young Etienne Brule to Wendake in 1609 preceded that of Champlain. Brule was sent ahead to learn the language and customs of the native people. The travels of Champlain among the various nations and tribes became a source of political friction. The Montagnais at Quebec and Tadoussac sought to maintain their primacy in the European trade. The Algonkin, further up the St. Lawrence fought to seize a similar position for themselves. The Wendat had to connive to secure a visit from Champlain. Each group attempted to prevent the free movement of the French in order to maintain their position.
Champlain toured Wendake in the summer of 1615 and accompanied the Wendat on yet another military expedition against the Iroquois. The Wendat did not permit Champlain to return to Quebec after this expedition but, rather, compelled him to over-winter in Wendake. There were good reasons for this refusal on the part of the Wendat. The activities of Mohawk and Oneida raiders in the Ottawa valley would have made travel dangerous at this time but, more importantly, the Wendat likely needed time to solidify their relations with the French.
Champlain’s stay in Wendake secured the position of the Wendat as middlemen in the trade in European goods between the interior and Quebec. Champlain saw in the Wendat a numerous people, well positioned to assure the flow of furs to his settlements. The Wendat managed to acquire a formal alliance with the French which the Algonkin and Montagnais were unable to prevent. The Algonkin Allumette on the Ottawa River, however, demanded tolls from the Wendat to cross their territory and the relations between the two peoples was always somewhat strained.
The year 1611 marked the first journey by the Wendat to the St. Lawrence specifically to trade. Thereafter, the trade grew rapidly. By 1624, approximately 7500 furs were being moved to Quebec each year.
The journey to the St. Lawrence took three to four weeks, traveling from Georgian Bay to the French River, into Lake Nipissing and down the Ottawa River. Trading parties were relatively small, being organized on a village or clan level. Several small groups would start out independently from their respective villages. As Mohawk and Oneida raids increased, the size of the expeditions would grow until 60 canoes would make the journey in company. The inclination of the Wendat to operate on a local basis was overcome by the need for security.
The trade went through several changes. From 1622 to 1627 the Wendat enjoyed a period of peace with the Iroquois. During this period, the first missionaries moved to Wendake. Recollet missionaries Joseph Le Caron, Nicolas Viel and Gabriel Sagard returned to Wendake with the Wendat traders in 1623. This event was not unrelated to the bustling trade that had been established between the Wendat and French. The Wendat clearly accepted the strangers into their community, despite their earlier reluctance, to please their new allies. From the French point of view, the priests would encourage more Wendat to trade their goods at Quebec. Le Caron, in particular, was a close associate of Champlain. Despite their sacred mission, the Recollets were far from being a disinterested party when it came to trade.
The occupation of Quebec by the English from 1629 to 1632 caused a temporary break in the relations of the French and Wendat. With the return of Quebec to France in 1632 trade continued as before.
In the 1640s, the Iroquois mounted massive raids on the St. Lawrence and Ottawa Valleys. The journey to Quebec became even more dangerous than before. Despite traveling in larger groups and other efforts to protect the brigades from attack, losses were inevitable. Between 1642 and 1644 little trade reached the St. Lawrence. It is a measure of how important the trade had become to the Wendat, however, that they continued to risk attack year after year.
By 1647, the military threat of the Iroquois in the Ottawa Valley and in Wendake itself became so acute that no traders traveled to the St. Lawrence. Despite this situation, a massive and successful effort was launched in 1648 and a small number of Wendat made the journey in 1649, even as Wendake was being abandoned.
The survivors of Wendake continued to play a part in the fur trade but, after 1649, their numbers were never substantial enough for them to take a leading role.
The historical assessment of French missionaries in Wendake between 1623 and 1650 has always been obscured by a heroic aura. Certainly many of the missionaries were dedicated to their missions and genuinely believed that conversion would save the heathen Wendat. The deaths of Brebeuf and Lalement at the hands of the Iroquois are emblazoned on the Canadian psyche. A complete revision of this heroic portrayal of the “Blackrobes” based on the standards and morals of today may prove to be somewhat specious. There is little doubt, however, that the presence of missionaries damaged the Wendat through the social division they caused and the disease they unwittingly spread.
The first missionary to arrive in Wendake was Joseph Le Caron who spent the winter of 1615 – 1616 in the Attignawantan village of Carhagouha. It was not until 1623 that the French were able to convince the Wendat to allow missionaries to take up permanent residence. The Wendat accepted the missionaries grudgingly. They apparently had little regard for Europeans who could not handle firearms since they would not assist in defending their party from Iroquois attack.
The Recollet missionaries lived among the Wendat from 1623 to 1628. During this time, the Recollets achieved very little success in their work of religious conversion. Although the Recollets learned Wendat, their grasp of the language was inadequate and their lack of understanding of Wendat culture added to the difficulty they had in communicating with their hosts. According to Bruce Trigger, the insistence of the Recollets on living apart from the villagers was a significant irritant between the missionaries and the Wendat.
In 1626, the Jesuit missionaries Jean de Brebeuf and Anne de Noue joined the Recollets in Wendake. Although the Jesuits were more accepting of cultural differences than the Recollets, Brebeuf was apparently influenced by the practices of Daillon, the Recollet resident in Wendake. The Jesuit order soon supplanted the Recollets in New France, the resources of the latter apparently being insufficient to continue. Despite the greater experience of the order in the art of conversion, the Jesuits had little more success than had the Recollets. Many Wendat eventually accepted baptism but this did not signal a true acceptance of Christianity. The “converts” would continue to follow traditional practices.
When the Jesuits returned to New France in 1632 after the three year English occupation, they brought more than the Word of Christianity. In 1636 the first of the major epidemics that would ravage Wendake was felt. These outbreaks were sometimes experienced by the French as minor illnesses that lasted a few days and were gone. Other outbreaks only affected the Wendat. In either case, the Wendat suffered greatly. Demographic information is imprecise but it appears that the population of Wendake was reduced by one half to two thirds between 1615 and 1641.
The Jesuits did not begin to experience real success in converting the Wendat until the epidemics had devastated the population. The unimaginable magnitude of the loss caused economic and social dislocation. Only then did the Wendat look to the “Blackrobes” for salvation. Ironically, the agent that won converts for the Church was an instrument for the destruction of those same converts.
The work of the Jesuits eventually led to a division of Wendake between Christians and Traditionalists. Bitter conflict ensued just as Wendake was beginning to feel the full weight of the Iroquois onslaught.
Although many Wendat had undergone baptism at the height of the smallpox epidemic of 1639-40, very few Wendat professed to be Christians in 1640. A change in tactics would begin to reap rewards for the Jesuits in the years to come. Through an unrelenting use of threat and reward the “Blackrobes” won a measure of acceptance. A more thorough program of indoctrination assured that the conversions were complete and enduring. One of the prime inducements to conversion was the promise of firearms. Unlike the Dutch and English, the French restricted the sale of muskets to those natives who had accepted conversion to Christianity.
The Jesuits made strong demands on converts. Traditions that had drawn communities together, such as the feast of the dead and the bonds of the clan, were spurned by converts at the insistence of the priests. Converts were encouraged to live apart from non-Christians. Traditionalists often viewed overt expressions of their faith by Christian converts as evidence of treason or possession by demons. The demands made on their converts by the Jesuits were especially onerous in a society that relied on pressures to conform, rather than laws, to achieve social harmony.
Traditionalists naturally attempted to counter Jesuit pressures to convert with pressures of their own. This push and pull reached its zenith in 1648, the year before the abandonment of Wendake. The growing power of the Christian faction led some Traditionalist chiefs to attempt to expel the Jesuits from Wendake. The power of the Jesuits and the Christian faction was too strong by this time and the attempt failed.
The conflict between Christian and Traditionalist factions fell short of civil war but the rivalry was enough to seriously impede the ability of the Wendat Confederation to rally to its own defense in the face of Iroquois invasion. Christians even refused on occasion to fight alongside non-Christians. In such an environment, determined resistance proved impossible and it was a relatively simple task for the Iroquois to destroy Wendake one village at a time.
Mission work in Wendake was made possible by the trade links between the French and Wendat. The importance of this trade protected the Jesuits from those who resented their efforts and blamed them for the many misfortunes that were visited upon Wendake before its destruction. Without a doubt, the Jesuits saw the divisive effects of their work and must have appreciated that, in light of the Iroquois threat, disunity would doom the Wendat to destruction. Despite this, they continued their pursuit of souls until the end. As Wendake crumbled, many Wendat looked to the Jesuits for help but the benefits the Jesuits offered were waiting in heaven. Lalement, Brebeuf and the others possessed no powers that could stem the tide of the Iroquois advance.
The Destruction of Wendake (Huronia)
Seasonal warfare was an integral part of the pattern of Wendat life. Archaeological evidence shows that the St. Lawrence Iroquoian had been bitter enemies, particularly among those tribes living in the Trent Valley. Some have actually speculated that the Wendat may have been responsible for the disappearance in the 16th century of Hochelaga, the village site on which the modern city of Montreal now stands. The eastern members of the Five Nations may, however, be more likely perpetrators of this violence. Nonetheless, archaeological evidence suggests a longstanding rivalry between the eastern Wendat and Hochelaga. The people of the Trent Valley were also likely involved in conflict with the Onondaga. Oral accounts also tell of hostility between the Wendat and Tionontatehronnon. This conflict was settled before the arrival of the French in the early part of the 17th century.
A people’s enemies were, to a large extent, determined by geography. Proximity to a given neighbor did not necessarily determine that they would constitute an enemy but distance decreased the likelihood of hostilities. In general, an enemy would be a close neighbor. Groups further away were less threatening. Geography played a large part in determining one’s enemies but cultural and economic factors were the final determinants. Surprisingly, similarities in culture did not tend to bind peoples together. In many instances, similarities created rivalries rather than partnerships.
The Five Nations and the Wendat shared many common cultural traits. In terms of trade, their needs were similar and what they had to offer was similar. Neither seemed to have much that the other could not produce or acquire themselves. They, therefore, became rivals for the same trade goods. Trade in the Americas took place over vast distances. Decorative shells came to the Great Lakes area from the Gulf of Mexico, native copper from the Lake Superior region and, in the 16th century, European goods came from the Gulf of St. Lawrence. This trade did not take place directly between two parties. Rather, a number of intermediaries or middlemen were established. Complex systems of trade existed to move items from nation to nation over immense distances. Wealth and status accrued to those who acquired middleman status. Neighbors often blocked access to distant sources of trade. Trade, therefore, bred territorial disputes and jealousy among various peoples.
Conflict between the Five Nations and the early Wendat was strongly influenced by geography. The most easterly members of the Five Nations, the Mohawk, made war on the St. Lawrence Iroquoians. The Onondaga lived further to the west and fought with the Wendat in the Trent Valley. The Seneca and Cayuga, the most westerly nations of the confederacy, were likely foes of the early Wendat along the north shores of Lake Ontario. This conflict may have been brought north when the southern Wendat moved to be close to their allies the Attignawantan on Georgian Bay. Archaeological evidence of increased hostilities with the Seneca and Cayuga appears in the middle of the 16th century.
The Seneca remained the chief opponent of the Wendat but, with the increased rivalry caused by the trade in European goods, the former were able to involve the other members of the Five Nations Confederacy in the struggle.
Warfare was, for the most part, a low-level affair for aboriginal North Americans when compared to modern concepts of total war or even then contemporary European standards. Conflict was often motivated by a desire for revenge for past transgressions. Warriors sought status by demonstrating their bravery in war. The economic motivations for war discussed above combined with a cultural need for warfare to create a cycle of violence and traditional enemies.
Capturing prisoners was a prime objective in this kind of warfare. Male prisoners were usually taken back to the aggressors’ villages, tortured and killed. Young women and children were adopted into the aggressors’ community. The reason for this was less to do with concepts of chivalry than with a need to increase the population.
The Iroquois – Wendat conflict was one of long standing by the 17th century but it remained at traditional levels of intensity until the arrival of the French. The trade and military alliance between the Wendat and the newcomers seem to have exacerbated the hostility of the Five Nations toward their northern cousins. The involvement of the French in hostilities beginning in 1608 likely outraged the Iroquois. The addition of this new powerful force to those of the confederacy’s traditional foes must have been a bitter pill.
Native peoples rapidly became dependent on European trade goods. This dependence produced an increase in trade activity in the early 17th century. The Mohawk had easy access to European trade goods at Fort Orange in the Hudson River Valley and could even trade with the English if the Dutch failed to satisfy their needs. This access to Fort Orange was enjoyed to a lesser degree by the other nations of the confederacy. The distribution of wealth from the fur trade was not even among the Five Nations. The Mohawks in particular developed a voracious appetite for European goods that could not be supported by the production of beaver pelts in their territory. This shortfall was supplemented by piracy.
Whereas the Wendat sought to trade with their neighbors to acquire furs, the Mohawk took to intercepting trading parties on the Ottawa and St. Lawrence Rivers to acquire sufficient pelts. The difference in approach between Mohawk and Wendat is a factor of geography and culture. Trade and co-operation with the hunter-gatherers of the Canadian Shield country was part of the pattern of Wendat life. Such a pattern did not exist in the case of the Mohawk. The Agonkians to the north and east of the Mohawk Valley were among the traditional enemies of the nation and raiding rather than trading seemed the appropriate approach. In this way, the traditional warfare that existed between the Mohawk and their neighbors was combined with the economic activity of acquiring pelts for trade with Fort Orange.
By the 1630s and 40s, the Mohawk were able to hunt in Algonkin territory, so successful had their raiding been in previous decades. The piracy of the Mohawk and Oneida in the Ottawa and St. Lawrence Valleys threatened to cut trade between Wendake and New France and scatter the Algonkin and Montagnais people.
A more direct conflict developed between the western Iroquois and the Wendat. With less access to the trade routes than the two eastern nations, the Seneca, Cayuga and Onondaga continued to raid the area of Wendake itself. The pattern of this warfare was little changed from that which had existed in the pre-contact period until the 1640s. An increase in the demand for furs combined with the acquisition of a large number of guns seems to have encouraged the Seneca, in particular, to contemplate the destruction of Wendake around 1646.
The western nations of the confederacy had become bolder in their attacks beginning in the 1630s. By the early 1640s, they were raiding the Wendat homeland in force and acquiring furs and European goods through destruction of Wendat settlements.
Some disharmony existed within the Iroquois confederacy. In general the nations pursued their own policies as pertained to war and relations with neighboring peoples. The confederacy was largely established to keep its members from attacking each other. Mutual self-defense was a secondary function. The League did not lend itself to concerted aggression. By 1646, however, the Mohawk were convinced to join the western members in direct attacks on Wendake. Even this moment of convergence was ruined when the Onondaga declared a separate peace with the Wendat in 1647. The defection of the Onondaga temporarily derailed the plans of the Seneca to destroy Wendake. The Onondaga, however, abandoned their peaceful path in 1648 and resumed their attacks.
Despite the best efforts of the Wendat warriors, Iroquois raiders roamed at will in Wendake. Attacks were concentrated at first in the Arendarhonnon territory in the far east of Wendake. By the mid 1640s it had become dangerous to travel between villages or for women to tend fields. Panic began to spread even in the, so far, unaffected west. Contarea, the main village of the Arendarhonnon, was abandoned in late 1647, as was most of the eastern territory. The attack then switched to the Tahontaenrat and Attigneenongnahacs. In 1648, Teanaostaiae, one of the largest and best-protected Wendat villages was attacked and destroyed with a tremendous loss of life.
The attacks had cut Wendat trade with New France, prevented Wendat women from tending their crops and caused a large number of refugees to flee west. The Wendat seemed completely incapable of resisting. Militarily, the Iroquois had an advantage in that they had managed to acquire many guns from the Dutch. The French had been more reluctant to provide muskets to their allies than had the Dutch and, when they had made the weapons available, they were only sold to Christian converts. The deployment of this weapon does not, however, fully explain the defenselessness of Wendake.
The Iroquois attacked the various nations of the Wendat Confederacy one at a time. This strategy encouraged those who had not been attacked to hope that they might be spared. The natural divisions of a confederation were exploited by the Iroquois and the collective effort of the Wendat was found wanting. Under normal circumstances this may not have occurred but Wendat society was rife with conflict between Traditionalists and Christians. The incredible destruction caused by European disease had weakened the will of the survivors and made them question their traditional ways of life. The Iroquois had been devastated by plague too but likely not to the extent of the Wendat. The Iroquois, furthermore, had been able to make good some of their losses by adopting prisoners.
In the summer of 1648 the Wendat were successful in reaching Trois Rivieres with their annual load of pelts. This achievement was compounded by victory in an encounter with Mohawk raiders en route. The following spring, however, more disaster awaited Wendake. On March 16th, Iroquois warriors surprised the inhabitants of Taenhatentaron. Normally, an attack would not have been expected until well after the passing of winter but these warriors had spent the winter north of Lake Ontario in order to surprise the Wendat. Taenhatentaron was well fortified but most of its inhabitants had fled and those who remained were caught off guard. The Iroquois followed this success with an assault on St. Louis. The inhabitants had been warned and most had fled. The warriors who remained defended stoutly but were eventually overcome. The confederacy was able to mobilize sufficient warriors to force a withdrawal by the invaders but the loss of the two villages was sufficient to convince the remaining Wendat that their homeland was no longer tenable.
Evacuation and dispersal began immediately. The Tahontaenrat were the only nation to flee as a whole, seeking shelter among the Neutral. The other groups divided up into small parties, some going to the Tionontatehronnon, others to the north where they hoped to avoid detection by the Iroquois. One group moved to Gahoendoe, an island in Georgian Bay now known as Christian Island. Famine stalked these refugees, as they had not managed to harvest a crop in 1648 and abandoned their cleared fields early in ’49. Despite hardship, the refugees on Gahoendoe managed to clear some fields and build a fortification with the help of the Jesuits who had left Sainte-Marie.
Efforts were made to establish a permanent settlement but the lack of supplies and exhausting effort of clearing fields and beginning afresh combined with the inadequate resources of the island doomed these efforts. The Iroquois meanwhile had returned to Wendake and slew anyone they found including those from Gahoendoe who were forced to forage on the mainland. The new settlement, named Sainte-Marie II by the Jesuits, was flooded with more refugees throughout the summer and fall. A poor growing season in the summer of 1649 sealed the fate of the refugees.
Disease, hunger and cold took a terrible toll on the refugees in the winter of 1649. Many who managed to avoid death on the island were killed making desperate bids to find food on the mainland. The Iroquois patrolled not only the shores of Georgian Bay but raided as far as Lake Nipissing in pursuit of plunder and prisoners. Of perhaps 6000 who had taken shelter on Gahoendoe approximately 600 survived. In June of 1650, about 300 of the survivors accompanied the Jesuits to Quebec. The remaining 300 stayed on the island in order to harvest the crop. They were to have followed but remained on the island until the spring of 1651. There was no hope of a return to Wendake and refuge was nowhere to be found north or south. Finally they were reunited with their relatives in Quebec.
Apart from Gahoendoe, the villages of the Tionontatehronnon offered the closest haven for Wendat refugees. The Attignawantan, in particular, seem to have favored this option. The choice of Tionontatehronnon versus Neutral or Nipissing refuge seems to have been largely dictated by ties of friendship mainly established through trade. The Tahontaenrat, as we have seen, moved en masse to the Neutral with whom they had close trading relations. The population of Tionontatehronnon villages swelled throughout the summer of 1649.
The Iroquois were determined to destroy the Wendat absolutely. They may, indeed, have determined to rid the entire region of rivals. On December 5th, 1649, a party of 300 Iroquois warriors arrived in Tionontatehronnon country and found its main village, Etharita, unprotected. The warriors of the village had been given warning of the approaching Iroquois and had set out to meet them. The Iroquois managed to avoid the defenders and sacked and burned the defenseless village killing or taking prisoner the women and children who remained behind.
When the disappointed warriors returned to Etharita, they were shocked to find it destroyed. Like the Wendat a few months earlier, they determined that their homeland was no longer defensible. The nation, including the Wendat refugees, fled west. They found refuge first at Michilimackinac but Iroquois attacks forced them further west until they settled near the south shore of Lake Superior. Like many other groups that fled the Iroquois onslaught, the Tionontatehronnon – Wendat found that they were not welcomed by the resident Sioux. Unsuccessful battles with these people led to a move back to the Michilimackinac area. Finally, in 1701, they were enticed by Antoine de Lamothe Cadillac to move to the environs of Fort Pontchartrain, present day Detroit. The Iroquois menace had subsided by this point. The Ojibwa had forced the Five Nations out of southern Ontario and the era of Iroquois hegemony in the Great Lakes region was over. The Tionontatehronnon – Wendat, along with the Ojibwa, Odawa and Potawatomi, now felt safe to occupy a site so close to their previous enemies.
The fifty years of wandering in the Upper Great Lakes had transformed the Tionontatehronnon – Wendat. They had come to be known as the, Wyandot a corruption of Wendat, and their ordeal had radically altered their way of life. The harsh climate of the Upper Lakes was not conducive to the patterns of agriculture that had been practiced in Wendake and the Tionontatehronnon lands. The Wyandot became much more like the Odawa, Ojibwa and Potawatomi with whom they associated. The group attempted to revive the fur trade, no doubt, motivated by the Wendat minority, but their numbers were too few to allow them to control the trade. The far more numerous Odawa and Ojibwa were able to take over the role of middleman. Despite this diminution of status, the Wyandot were able to take some part in the revived trade.
The Wyandot lived for almost a hundred and fifty years in the Detroit area. During this time all memory of separate identities disappeared and the Wyandot came to think of this area as their ancestral homeland. Events such as Pontiac’s Rebellion washed over the area and the Wyandot were sometimes able to play a role all out of proportion to their small numbers. At the end of the 18th century, however, the area came under intense pressure from the American government. The Wyandot attempted, at first, to remain neutral in the War of 1812 but were eventually convinced to join Tecumseh and his confederation against the Americans. After the War, settlers moved closer and closer each year and the ability of native people to defend their lands diminished sharply.
The American government adopted a policy of removal to deal with aboriginal people. Tracts of land would be purchased from the various nations, often with the help of coercion or trickery, and the inhabitants would be moved to west of the Mississippi. In 1842, the Wyandot sold the rights to their lands in the Ohio Valley and on the Detroit River and were resettled in Kansas. The second half of the 19th century was a time of exponential growth for the United States and the lands in Kansas were soon required for settlement. The Wyandot were moved again to Oklahoma. Though some managed to remain in or return to Kansas, Oklahoma remains the home of the majority of American Wyandot. [The Oklahoma population refers to itself as the Wyandotte Nation.]
A small group of Wyandot, known as the Anderdon Band, chose to remain in British territory. They settled near the modern city of Windsor. Some of the families remain in this area but do not have a reserve. The small community has been particularly susceptible to the pressures of assimilation. Recent ties with other Wendat – Wyandot communities should lead to a stronger sense of their unique identity.
The Wyandot were not the only survivors of Wendake to suffer in the fifty years after their expulsion from their homelands. In 1653, the French concluded a peace with the Iroquois. Their perceived weakness made the French desperate to maintain this truce. The Iroquois, meanwhile, had made peace with the French merely to gain control of the Wendat refugees from Gahoendoe who had taken shelter at Quebec. These refugees had been settled on the Ile d’Orleans, just down river from Quebec. They were exposed to Iroquois harassment and the French, in their determination to avoid conflict with the Iroquois, did nothing to defend them. The Onondaga and Mohawk began to compete with each other in order to acquire the Wendat for resettlement in their homelands.
Through negotiation and intimidation both competing parties managed to extort assurances that the Wendat would join them. The Jesuits, it seems, encouraged the defection of the Wendat to the Onondaga as they had been promised missions in Onondaga country in return for their co-operation. Eventually, fifty Arendarhonon agreed to join the Onondaga and the Attignawantan infuriated the Onondaga by deciding to join the Mohawks. The Attigneenongnahac had determined to remain in Quebec. The passage of the Attignawantan was peaceful but during the course of their journey to Iroquoia, the Arendarhonon were set upon by their Onondaga escorts. The men were killed and the women mistreated. The Jesuits accompanying the party did nothing to protect the Wendat and continued on to their mission to Onondaga country.
Finally, the French abandoned their passive attitude in the fall of 1657 and decided to defend the remaining Wendat. By this time their numbers had shrunk to under 200. The French moved those who remained a number of times but in 1697 they finally settled at Lorette. Their population began to grow again with the defection of some who had joined the Iroquois. In 1675 they numbered about 300. Another move in 1697 took them to Jeune Lorette, the site they inhabit today.
The rough road to survival for the inhabitants of Jeune Lorette has come at a price. The Wendat language and many customs have been lost. On the other hand, Lorette has been renamed “Wendake” to commemorate the origins of the inhabitants and, like native people everywhere, they are taking a renewed pride in their heritage.
The Wyandot (Wyandotte) of Oklahoma and Kansas, the Anderdon Band and the Wendat of the new Wendake represent a continuation of distinct Wendat cultures despite massive transformation. Most Wendat who survived the ravages of 1649 and subsequent destruction of places of refuge, however, were absorbed by the conqueror. Many were taken as prisoners but many more probably joined the Iroquois by choice. With the destruction of the Neutral in 1651 and the Erie in 1657, there were very few options left to the refugees from Wendake. The Wendat joined the Iroquois, in small groups for the most part, in order to be reunited with family members already living in Iroquois villages.
In at least one case, Wendat moved to Iroquoia en masse. In 1651, a large group of Tahontaenrat founded their own village in the heart of Seneca country. In most cases, however, families in established Iroquois villages adopted Wendat captives. They were often mistreated to begin with; some were even murdered. The Five Nations were, however, in great need of citizens to make up for the loss of population to warfare and European disease. The main purpose of bringing captives to Iroquois villages was to turn them into productive members of society.
The custom of adoption into a given family seems to have been largely successful in absorbing former enemies into Iroquois communities. To be sure, some Wendat escaped from these circumstances and fled to Quebec in order to live among their own people but most remained. In fact, so many Wendat had been absorbed that most captives were living among their own people. The strongest bonds were to the family and the presence of other family members in Iroquoia was enough to keep most Wendat from fleeing. Many adoptees came to identify with their captors in time. In short, the Wendat were quickly absorbed into Iroquois society and the hatred engendered by years of warfare faded into obscurity.
The Tionontati (Petun)
Twenty-five miles west of Wendake lived the Tionontati. Their eight (later nine) villages were nestled along the base of the Niagara Escarpment, an ancient ridge that runs from Niagara Falls, around the western end of Lake Ontario to modern day Collingwood, continuing on to the Bruce Peninsula, across the straits to Manitoulin Island and into the state of Michigan. The Escarpment is like a giant step; lands to the west are at a higher altitude than those to the east. Occasionally, as in the ancient homeland of the Tionontati, the rise is dramatic. The Tionontati found the land below the Escarpment and inland from Nottawasaga Bay to be ideal for their manner of agriculture. The area apparently enjoyed a slightly milder climate from that of Wendake as the Tionontati were able to grow Tobacco. Petun and Tobacco, other names given to this group, commemorate the importance of the crop to the nation.
The Tionontati, with the Wendat, had been part of a general migration from south to north in Ontario. At contact, the Tionontati were still showing signs of consolidating their more northerly location. What motivated this migration is still open to speculation.
Although Samuel de Champlain visited the homeland of the Tionontati in 1616, contact between the French and Tionontati was limited until about 1640. The Wendat and Tionontati were on good terms when Europeans arrived in the area but the Wendat apparently held the upper hand. Jealous of their new trade with the newcomers, the Wendat discouraged for many years any contact between their cousins to the west and the French. The Tionontati themselves exhibited some hostility toward French overtures until the early 1640s.
Two Jesuit missions were finally established in 1640; one at Ehwae in the south (moved to Etharita in 1641) and another at Ekarenniondi in the north. Most of our current knowledge of these people comes from the Jesuits who lived among them between 1640 and 1650.
The Tionontati were culturally very similar to the Wendat particularly the Attignawantan, the western most nation of the Wendat Confederation. The Jesuits noted few significant differences. They may even have been a confederation, like the Wendat and other Iroquoians. The Jesuits considered the Tionontati to be made up of the Wolf and Deer peoples. There is some question, however, whether these represented separate nations or merely clans. Despite these similarities, the Tionontati were not part of the Wendat Confederation and had been, according to the oral history of the Wendat, involved in bitter conflict not long before the arrival of Europeans.
The Tionontati were politically independent and, though allied with the Wendat, pursued a separate set of interests. They were, for example, closely allied with the Neutral and the Odawa. Close trading relations were combined with a military alliance against the Algonkian speaking peoples of the lower Michigan peninsula, including the Potawatomi.
French observers noted the presence of both the Odawa and Neutrals in Tionontati villages. The Neutral were said to be seeking relief from famine and the Odawa frequently over-wintered with the Tionontati. The Wendat guarded their privileged role in the fur trade but the Tionontati found trading partners among their close allies and remained the primary source of tobacco for the Wendat.
The Tionontati, like the Wendat, were decimated by disease. Their population at contact may have been 8,000 people but this appears to have been diminished by a half or even two thirds by 1640.
The final Iroquois assaults on Wendake in 1649 brought a flood of refugees to the villages of the Tionontati. The Attignawantan in particular favored the shelter offered by their western allies. Although the Tionontati and Wendat had apparently agreed to a military alliance, there is very little evidence to suggest that the Tionontati were in a state of open warfare with the Five Nations. It is unclear whether the destruction of the Tionontati homeland in 1650 represented a continuation of hostilities against this military alliance or a desire on the part of the Iroquois to root out the last of the Wendat. The destruction of the Neutral Confederation in the following year, however, illustrates that the Five Nations were little concerned at that stage with statements of neutrality.
The Tionontati people, along with the Wendat refugees, were not annihilated. Instead, they chose to flee their burning villages and seek refuge in lands remote from Iroquois malevolence. Years of wandering in the Upper Great Lakes, seeking a new role in the transformed fur trade, created a new nation from these two groups of refugees. The name “Wyandot” which came to be applied to this new nation is a corruption of “Wendat”. It has been suggested, however, that most of the refugees who headed west from the Tionontati villages were the Tionontati themselves rather than Wendat.
The Wyandot eventually settled in the vicinity of Fort Pontchartrain (Detroit). There, they remained until the U.S. government seized their land. A small group crossed the border and settled near modern day Windsor Ontario. These people are known as the Anderdon Band and remain in the area. Most of the Wyandot, however, were removed to Kansas and, eventually, Oklahoma where they still reside today.
Wyandot (Wyandotte) – The similarity between “Wendat” and “Wyandot” is no coincidence. Wyandot is, in fact, a corruption of the former. The Wyandot are not exactly the same people as the original residents of “Huronia.” Some of the survivors of Wendake fled to the nearby Tionontati. When the latter dispersed the following summer, as a result of Iroquois pressure, they fled west taking the Wendat refugees with them. Over time, these people began to be called the Wyandot though most of the population traced their ancestry back to the Blue Hills rather than Wendake.
Today the indigenous population of the Lake Simcoe/ Georgian Bay area is overwhelmingly Algonkian although there is a small Mohawk reserve in Gibson Township, near Bala in the District of Parry Sound. By a quirk of history, the same people who so radically altered the human geography of this area returned peacefully in 1885.
The Five Nations will ever be remembered as the destroyers of Wendake and the Tionnontatehronnon homeland and the terrorizers of the villages and Seigneuries of New France. After the defeat of the Wendat, Tionnontatehronnon and Neutral nations, the Iroquois became the inhabitants of southern Ontario with several villages having been built on the north shore of Lake Ontario. The Ojibwa ejected the Iroquois from Ontario in the late 17th century. But, with the defeat of loyalist forces in the American Revolution, many Iroquois fled to British territory in the future colony of Upper Canada.
History tends to paint a picture of the Five Nations as ferocious warriors if not “bloodthirsty savages”. But, the Iroquois were very much like their Iroquoian speaking neighbors: the Wendat, Tionnontatehronnon, Erie, Neutral and Susquehannock. They were, like their neighbors, an agrarian people residing in villages, with similar political structures and many common cultural customs. Traditionally, warfare was a relatively low-level affair with seasonal raids on enemy villages in search of revenge for past attacks and killings by the other side. Warriors sought status through their bravery in battle.
Champlain’s ill-considered attack, along with Wendat and Algonkian allies, on the Five Nations near Lake Onondaga in 1615, however, may have increased the intensity of the long-standing conflict between the Wendat and Five Nations. Jealousy over the Wendat position in the fur trade may have been an important motivating factor for the eventual destruction of Wendake.
The destruction of her neighbors did not end this extraordinary burst of militaristic energy on the part of the Iroquois. After the reduction of the Neutral Nations of Southwestern Ontario and the Erie at the eastern end of Lake Erie, the Iroquois continued their raids into the Canadian Shield and west into the Ohio Valley. A major war was begun with the Susquehannock to the south and sporadic conflict continued with the French.
The Iroquois were a confederation of five nations properly known as the Houdenosaunee or “people of the extended lodge”. The lodge or longhouse analogy was applied to the confederation. The Seneca in the west and Mohawk in the east were regarded as the door keepers and the Onondaga in the centre as the keepers of the sacred fire. The Cayuga and Oneida had no special symbolic designation within the confederacy. Each nation was free to pursue its own interests within the confederation. During ordinary times, this arrangement did not cause difficulty but, during the period of incessant warfare that existed in the 17th century, a strain was placed on the relationship of the Five Nations. The Mohawks had always been most affected by war with the French and desired to concentrate the energies of the confederation on this conflict. The western nations, however, pursued their war against the Susquehannock. In order to free themselves from French interference, the four western nations led by the Onondaga concluded a peace agreement with the French in 1665. The Mohawk remained aloof from the peace treaty.
Perhaps this peace between the four western nations and the French allowed both parties to consider a move into Southern Ontario. The French established Fort Frontenac (present day Kingston) in 1673 and Iroquois villages began to appear on the north shore of Lake Ontario. The war with the Susquehannock may have motivated these small bands of Iroquois to move north. North of the lake, Iroquois villages were relatively immune from attack from the south. As we shall see, attack from the north was more of a danger than they perhaps appreciated.
Historians have largely ignored the short period of Iroquois dominance in Southern Ontario. Although some contact between the French and Iroquois was made and trade between the north shore villages and Albany continued, very few European accounts of the area exist. We know that the Seneca established the villages of Teiaiagon and Ganatsekwyagon on the Humber and Rouge Rivers respectively. The Cayuga built three villages to the east of the Seneca settlements. They were Ganaraske, Kentsio and Kente. The Oneida settled near modern day Napanee calling their village Ganneious. Other villages may have been built further inland but for the most part the rest of the peninsula was used as a hunting ground.
From a geographical point of view, it is interesting to note that the Iroquois villages all straddled routes to the Upper Great Lakes via Lake Simcoe. The Humber River valley formed part of the Toronto Carrying Place; the fastest route from Lake Ontario to Georgian Bay. The Rouge River was occasionally used as an alternate route to Lake Simcoe. The four settlements to the east all had easy access to the Trent Valley, yet another route. Whether these locations provided easy access to the northern trade routes for the purpose of raiding or simply made the hunting grounds of the interior easier to reach is unclear. It must be remembered, however, that lakes and rivers were the highways of this time. The Lake Simcoe – Georgian Bay area continued to hold a strategic importance even after the depopulation of 1650.
The Iroquois had angered their new northern neighbors with their raids and open warfare broke out between the Ojibwa and Iroquois. The exact date of the Ojibwa advance into Southern Ontario is unknown but, by the early years of the 18th century, the Ojibwa, not the Iroquois, were in possession of the north shore of Lake Ontario. Ojibwa oral history tells of the assembly of an Ojibwa war party at the fish weirs between Lakes Couchiching and Simcoe. The result of the coming battle was foretold and depicted on the rocks of Quarry Point in Lake Couchiching. The painting has since disappeared but a famous reproduction was created by a resident of Rama Reserve, named Mesaquab (Jonathan Yorke), around 1900.
The Iroquois occupation of Southern Ontario was relatively brief; settlement appears to have started around 1665. The villages on the north shore of Lake Ontario were all destroyed around 1700 and the surviving Iroquois fled to the south. The Five Nations had been weakened by continuous warfare and quickly agreed to peace with the Ojibwa. A wampum belt was made to acknowledge the peace. It was brought out when William Yellowhead had occasion to remind representatives of the Six Nations of their defeat and cession of Southern Ontario.
Though the Five Nations ceded Southern Ontario somewhere around 1700, European maps persisted in including the Iroquois “castles” on the north shore of Lake Ontario until the end of the 18th century! This oversight has only confounded any understanding of this time period in Southern Ontario.
The Iroquois would return to Ontario in numbers after the American Revolution. This war had badly divided the confederation. The Mohawks and, eventually the three western nations, joined the Loyalist forces in opposing the rebels. The Oneida and Tuscarora, on the other hand, sided with the Americans. The council fire was temporarily extinguished. Many Loyalist Iroquois chose to flee to Upper Canada rather than trust in the good will of the nascent Republic. These native Loyalists were reluctantly accepted by the Ojibwa inhabitants who had forced them out of the area a century earlier. In his memoirs, Peter Jones describes the guarded relationship of the two old enemies that still existed in the 19th century in Southern Ontario.
The large reserve established by Joseph Brant on the Grand River in 1784 dominates our perceptions of the Iroquois in Canada. The ancestors of the Iroquois of Ontario actually arrived in several waves of migration and established five reserves in the province between 1750 and 1880.
The first of the modern day reserves to be established was Akwesasne (St. Regis). Established by a splinter group from the Mohawk reserve of Kanawake, in Quebec, the settlement helped to solidify the French hold on the St. Lawrence River. Like Kanawake, Akwesasne was built around a Jesuit mission. The defeat of the French in 1760 did not significantly alter the fortunes of its inhabitants but the American Revolution saw an international boundary drawn through the centre of the community. Today, the reserve straddles the borders of New York State and the provinces of Ontario and Quebec.
The aftermath of the American Revolution saw the largest flow of emigrants from Iroquoia. The Mohawk Captain John Deserontyon and his followers founded the reserve on the Bay of Quinte known as Tyendinaga. The establishment of this reserve was quickly followed by the large reserve on the Grand River under Joseph Brant.
The reserves in Upper Canada up to this point were a representation of the divisions in the Houdenosaunee Confederacy. Mohawks represented a majority of the inhabitants. In their homelands in the Mohawk Valley, in modern day New York State, the Mohawk were closest to both the French and the British. This geographic position gave them a great advantage in trade with the Europeans but also made them vulnerable to European disease, encroachment by settlers and made their territory the battleground between the rival European empires. This distinction led to differing interests that can be traced back to the 17th century.
Although the largest group on the Six Nations Reserve, the Mohawk were joined by enough members of the other nations to allow them to reconstitute the Longhouse in Canada. None of the other reserves were able to duplicate this accomplishment. They lacked the numbers and the diversity of membership to allow many traditional practices. When the Department of Indian Affairs began their assault on traditional customs, they were less able to resist.
The next wave of migrants into Ontario came in response to pressure by the American government to cede land and/ or accept relocation to the west. In the early 1840s, a group of about 300 Oneida bought a tract of 2100 hectares of land on the Thames River in South-western Ontario. The Oneida had supported the rebels in the American Revolution and the division caused by their decision almost destroyed the Houdenosaunee League. This rift was partially settled by their membership in the Six Nations Confederacy of Canada.
Many divisions developed in the various Iroquois communities throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. In 1876, the Canadian Government passed the Indian Act. A portion of this bill outlawed the traditional appointed councils and imposed elected government on all Canadian reserves. This imposition was fought most resolutely by the Iroquois as their traditions of governance were a proud aspect of their culture. When tensions flared on the Mohawk reserve of Kanesatake (Oka) in the summer of 1990, the struggle between elected and appointed councils still raged.
Another division that developed on Iroquois reserves and still resonates today is the battle for souls. Iroquois Traditionalists have endured better than in other native cultures partly because they have a specific written doctrine to follow. The Longhouse religion resulted from the near death experience of a Seneca sachem named Ganeodiyo or Handsome Lake.
In 1799, the Six Nations were at their lowest ebb, particularly south of the Great Lakes. The American Revolution had split their confederation; the new Republic had imposed harsh terms on the League; white settlers were invading their homeland; Iroquois numbers had decreased due to alcohol, disease and warfare. On his deathbed, Handsome Lake had a vision that told him what the people would have to do to save themselves. In part the vision represented a return to traditional ways but it also introduced some new ideas.
Most Iroquois eventually accepted some form of Christianity. Communities that had been established with the help of the French Regime tended to be practitioners of Roman Catholicism whereas those that were established later tended toward the Protestant sects. There was, however, a fierce rivalry. One such competition for souls took place on the reserve of Kanesatake in Quebec in the 1870s. The debate over title to the land that would eventually result in the so-called “Oka summer” was bubbling to the surface. Methodist preachers, who backed the native claims, managed to win a number of converts over from the Catholic Church. In an effort to remove the most vocal protesters, the Canadian Government decided to move the Methodist Mohawks to a separate reserve.
A site was selected in the Muskoka District of Ontario in 1880. Approximately 25 families moved to the 6000 hectare reserve in Gibson Township. The group immediately began to clear land for agriculture. Much of the effort was communal. The area also presented the opportunity for hunting and fishing and these activities helped to sustain the community in a region of marginally arable land. Agriculture has waned as a primary pursuit as on most reserves in Ontario. Many band members have worked in the lumber industry but the familiar problem of finding meaningful employment in a relatively remote area persists.
The reserve in Gibson Township is called Wahta Mohawk today. It represents the only Iroquois population in the Lake Simcoe – Georgian Bay region but the ancestors of these people have cut a broad swath through our history.
The Coming of the Ojibwa
After the destruction of Wendake, the Iroquois turned their fury on other neighbouring nations. The Tionnontatehronnon were dispersed in 1650. Between 1650 and 1651 the Neutrals were attacked and scattered and the Erie defended their villages for a number of years but were finally defeated by 1655. Wendat refugees who had sought sanctuary with their neighbours were, once again, made homeless.
With their Iroquioian neighbours defeated, the Iroquois could raid with impunity. Some Mohawk raids are said to have penetrated as far as the rivers draining into Hudson’s Bay. For many years the Iroquois attacked in every direction in an effort to disrupt the flow of goods between the Upper Great Lakes and Quebec. In so doing, they encountered nations with whom they had had little contact in the past. One of the groups that felt the wrath of the raiders was the Ojibwa of the north shores of Lakes Huron and Superior.
The Ojibwa were, of course, part of the trading network established by the French and Wendat. The Ojibwa were at the end of the trading routes to the west at that time and, while the French merchants and Wendat middlemen became wealthy as a result of the fur trade, the Ojibwa managed merely to develop a dependence on European trade goods. The destruction of Wendake had momentarily halted the flow of goods from the Upper Great Lakes to Quebec. But the fur trade would soon adapt to the changed circumstances and the people of the Upper Lakes would take a more prominent role than before.
When the first Europeans arrived in Ontario in the early 17th century, the Ojibwa were living in small groups from the north shore of Lake Superior to the shores of Georgian Bay around modern day Parry Sound. Unlike their sedentary Iroquoian- speaking neighbours to the south, the Ojibwa could not be said to have a national organization. The Wendat, it will be remembered, had a confederate system of government made up of four nations each autonomous in its own right. As we shall see, the hunter/ gatherer mode of existence of Algonkian groups did not lend itself to sophisticated systems of governance.
The Ojibwa, like other groups occupying the Canadian Shield, were organized in groupings that rarely exceeded 500 people. As a result, it is very difficult to speak of the Ojibwa as a whole. Early French accounts of encounters with these people speak of Amikwa, Nikikouek, Mississauga, Saulteux, etc. The name Ojibwa referred originally to one particular group residing on Lake Superior but has, since, come to be applied to all who speak a particular Algonkian language.
Early accounts of these people tell us that they lived by hunting, fishing and gathering wild foods, such as berries and maple sugar. Along Georgian Bay, a crop of corn may have been planted but was not relied upon as a staple. Corn was also acquired through trade with the Wendat. Fishing was extremely important as a food source. This activity drew the various groups to established fishing grounds for a number of months each year. The rapids at Sault Ste. Marie are particularly famous as a gathering place for fishing during the late summer. During the summer months, various clans and bands often assembled on the lakes and rivers. Fishing was the primary purpose of such gatherings but social activities figured prominently in summer activities.
The rest of the year was spent in less settled activities. Hunting big game required an extensive range. Bands would break into smaller family units for the winter and camps would be established in pre-arranged areas. The Algonkian peoples of the Canadian Shield cannot, therefore, be said to occupy a particular geographic spot. The Iroquoian peoples of southern Ontario resided in villages and these settlements could be said to be the locus of group activity. The Ojibwa and their northern neighbours, on the other hand, inhabited ranges spread over vast tracts of the northern forests.
The onslaught of Iroquois aggression in the mid 17th century forced the more southerly groups of Ojibwa to flee northwest and must have been the primary cause for the disappearance of many of the groups encountered by the first Europeans. These groups likely merged with closely related neighbours as opposed to dying out. On any account, the 17th century was a time of rapid change for the Ojibwa. Contact with Europeans had brought material benefit but also disease and the introduction of new and potentially divisive ideas. Although native peoples had traded extensively with each other before the arrival of the Europeans, former patterns of life were radically altered by the requirements of the fur trade. Whereas in the past, trade had brought luxury items, such as decorative shells, supplementary foodstuffs and other materials not available locally, such as tobacco or native copper, the fur trade bred a dependence on trade.
European accounts suggest that native peoples lost the ability to fashion tools in the traditional manner within a very short time after the arrival of European trade goods. Disruptions in the fur trade, such as that caused by the destruction of Wendake, created real hardship for native peoples. While beaver hats were a luxury item for Europeans, metal tools had become a necessity for many native groups throughout North America. Once the gun, for instance, had been introduced as the primary tool for hunting big game, ammunition became essential. From being a people who provided for almost all of their basic needs, aboriginal people had become consumers of European goods.
Trapping fur-bearing animals occupied a great deal of time for native people. This naturally took native hunters from other activities that had previously occupied their time and energy. This shift to the pursuit of trade items rather than the big game that traditionally provided a fairly large part of their diet caused occasional famine among northern groups.
With the collapse of the Wendat trading empire, the French sought to deal directly with the tribes of the upper lakes, such as the Ojibwa. Missions began to appear in this area in the mid 17th century and the important post at Michilimackinac was established in 1660. To some extent the Odawa, a group closely related to the Ojibwa, became the new middlemen in the trade but the Ojibwa too found an enhanced role in the trade.
The attacks of the Iroquois began to slacken toward the end of the century and there is ample evidence to suggest that the Ojibwa began to turn to the offensive. Around the 1690s the Ojibwa embarked on a steady expansion that would see them replace the Five Nations in southern Ontario and move into the lower Michigan peninsula. What motivated this expansion is unclear. Pursuit of the Iroquois and an increased means to defeat them may have drawn groups of warriors into southern Ontario initially. The military defeat of the Five Nations in southern Ontario would have created a void too tempting to resist. The establishment of French forts and trading posts at Detroit in 1701, Toronto in 1720 and Niagara in 1725 may have attracted more migration from the north. Certainly, the French actively encouraged native groups to settle around Detroit. This, no doubt, drew many groups into Michigan but also southwest Ontario.
The Iroquois had established settlements in southern Ontario, particularly on the north shores of Lakes Erie and Ontario. Their passing goes unmentioned, for the most part, in European accounts of the period but, by the beginning of the 18th century, the Iroquois settlements were gone and Ojibwa-speaking people from the north had replaced them as the residents of southern Ontario.
The war is rarely mentioned in historical accounts of the time period; the reasons are twofold. There seems to be a paucity of eye-witness accounts by Europeans; the French did not have a strong presence in southern Ontario due to their general antagonism toward the Iroquois. Furthermore, the war had little impact on the struggle between French and English for hegemony in North America, therefore, Euro-Canadian scholars have, until recently, shown little interest.
Evidence of the war is, to some extent, based on archaeological evidence. Some incidental mention of hostilities is also evident in contemporary French accounts. Perhaps the best record of the war, however, comes from the oral histories of the combatants. It is interesting to note that Simcoe County may have been a battlefield in the war. One major clash seems to have taken place near Penetanguishene and war parties assembled for action further south at the Narrows in modern day Orillia, Ontario.
The exact date for the arrival of the Ojibwa in the Simcoe County area is unclear but by 1710 residence around Matchedash Bay is certain. Direct mention of these people is rare in written accounts of the time but we can be certain of their participation in the fur trade with the French forts in southern Ontario.
Potawatomis make up a small percentage of the population of the Beausoleil First Nation on Christian Island. Other Potawatomis moved from Christian Island around 1880 and now make up part of the population of Moose Deer Point Reserve in Muskoka.
The homeland of the Potawatomi was in the lower peninsula of Michigan. When Europeans first arrived in the Great Lakes region, the Potawatomi were locked in a deadly struggle with the Neutral nation who inhabited Southwestern Ontario. The Neutral people maintained friendly relations with both the Wendat and the Five Nations in order to concentrate their military energy in attacking the Algonkian speaking peoples to their west.
In 1651, the Five Nations Iroquois removed the threat of Neutral aggression from the Potawatomi homeland but the Five Nations soon replaced the Neutral as the deadly enemies of the Potawatomi.
As a result of Neutral and Iroquois aggression, the Potawatomi had moved to the west by the 1640s and 50s. Like the Odawa and Wyandot, the Potawatomi moved from place to place for the next fifty years before returning to their old homeland.
The Potawatomi are close relatives of the Odawa and Ojibwa, all being part of the Algonkian language group. The oral histories of the three nations, in fact, state that they were once one people. During the late 17th and early 18th centuries, the three groups moved closer together as a result of the predations of the Iroquois and the demands of the fur trade. The Potawatomi, unlike the Ojibwa, lived in villages and these settlements provided safe havens for refugees and migrants. During this time, the three nations formed a loose confederation called the Council of Three Fires.
The three members of the Council prospered as a result of the fur trade and their strategic geographic position. The Potawatomi homeland began to expand at this time and continued to do so until the time of the War of 1812.
Tecumseh was a Shawnee chief whose people suffered greatly at the hands of the new American Republic. The “big knives”, as the native people called the Americans, were land hungry. The Republic’s burgeoning population constantly pushed at its frontiers. The Shawnees, like many other nations, had been forced out of their territorial estate. A loose confederation of native nations had been formed in the American Northwest in 1783 known as the Western Confederacy. Native resistance, however, was severely shaken at the Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794 and the confederation was abandoned.
Tecumseh’s dream was to revive the notion of a confederation of aboriginal nations in the North West. Only through uniting could these nations resist American territorial aggression.
The Potawatomi began to face American demands on their territory in the wake of Fallen Timbers and the appeal of Tecumseh’s vision attracted many to the cause.
Tecumseh’s dream was destroyed with the defeat of the native and British armies at the Battle of Moraviantown. Tecumseh was killed and native forces diminished thereafter. Although the Americans could not claim victory in the War of 1812, the British abandoned their native allies in the Treaty of Ghent that followed. The erstwhile British Allies were left to the mercy of the “big knives”.
By 1837, the Republic had swallowed the whole of the Potawatomi estate and resettlement west of the Mississippi was the lot of this proud nation.
Many rejected transport to the strange lands of the West and looked, instead, to British North America for refuge. The border had meant very little to many native peoples before 1812 and travel to Manitoulin Island or Penetanguishene to receive “presents” from the British Crown had been a yearly ritual, even for nations living in American territory.
Many Potawatomis crossed the border into southwest Ontario, settling with their Ojibwa cousins on Walpole Island near Sarnia. Others took a more northerly route to Manitoulin Island and Penetanguishene.
When Chief Assance’s band, now under Kadegwegwon, left Beausoleil Island for better prospects on Christian Island, in 1856, they discovered that a small group of Potawatomi had preceded them. This group had resettled on the Island in 1832. These people were accepted by the Beausoleil band. The Potawatomi were Traditionalists while most of the Beausoleil were Roman Catholics. This difference was known to cause some friction between the two groups.
Around 1880, nineteen families of Odawa and Potawatomis left Christian Island in order to found Moose Deer Point Reserve in Freeman Township in the District of Muskoka. Some families remained behind on Christian Island and, today, count themselves as members of the Beausoleil First Nation.
The presence of Potawatomi people in Simcoe County is a legacy of the Council of Three Fires and of the American policy of relocation in the Old North West.
The history of the Odawa (Ottawa) has been intermingled and, at times, indistinguishable from that of the Ojibwa. At contact, the Odawa occupied parts of the Bruce Peninsula, the east coast of Georgian Bay and Manitoulin Island. Odawa bands often over-wintered in Wendat villages. Like the Ojibwa, the Odawa were hunter-gatherers and had no real national identity. The band was the most important political unit, though alliances were often made with neighbouring bands for the purpose of warfare.
French accounts of these people did not, at first, refer to the Odawa as a tribal grouping but catalogued the many bands or collections of bands that existed in the Georgian Bay area. Groups listed in the Jesuit Relations include: Ouachaskesouek, Nigouaouichirinik, Outaouasinagouek, Kichkagoneiak, Ontaanak and Outaouakmigouek.
Odawa, like Ojibwa refers to an Algonkian language (some would say Odawa is a dialect of Ojibwa) and became a common appellation in the 18th century. Unfortunately, the French often labelled any Algonkian speaking person from the Upper Great Lakes as Odawa. The importance of the Odawa as middlemen in the fur trade beginning in the late 17th century created an association of the name with the activity of fur trading. Thus, Ojibwa traders were often referred to as Odawa. The result of this confusion is that it is virtually impossible to distinguish Odawa from Ojibwa in areas where their ranges met. The migration of Odawa people to the lower peninsula of Michigan, as a result of the predations of the Iroquois, resulted in a similar confusion between Odawa and Potawatomi bands.
The Odawa were forced to leave their homelands, as were many peoples in the Great Lakes basin, under the pressure of Iroquois attacks. Like many other groups, they spent many years wandering from place to place before settling among the Potawatomi and Ojibwa in present day Michigan.
The Odawa occupied a favoured position in the fur trade of the Upper Great Lakes. After the destruction of Wendake, they established themselves as middlemen in the trade between New France and the Northwest. This position made the Odawa the most ardent allies of the French. The changes brought about by the British take-over of the frontier posts after 1760 were perhaps resented more accutely by the Odawa as a result of their former relationship with the French.
Pontiac’s Rebellion in 1763 was an attempt to remove the British from the area or at least to induce them to redress some serious wrongs the people of the area perceived. Pontiac, an Odawa war chief, was by no means an absolute commander of the uprising though he persisted in his bellicosity long after others had made peace. The loose system of leadership among native nations, as compared to those of Europe, can be seen in the way chiefs signed separate peace agreements regardless of Pontiac’s continued resistance. Although the uprising was an undertaking of many different nations, the resolve of the Ojibwa, Potawatomi and other allies was weaker than that of the Odawa under Pontiac.
Pontiac eventually had no choice but to end hostilities since he had been abandoned even by his own people. The Odawa were forced to accept the presence of the British. For their part, the British became very sensitive to the sovereignty of native people west of the Alleghenies. The Royal Proclamation of 1763 recognized the western territory as Indian land. The temporary benevolence of Imperial authorities could not, however, counter the resentment of settlers on the frontiers who regarded the Royal Proclamation as an outrage. The American Revolution would alter the stalemate that existed after Pontiac’s Rebellion.
The Odawa, Ojibwa and Potawatomi nations eventually formed a confederation known as the Council of the Three Fires, likely as a response to pressures from white settlers after the American Revolution. Many Odawa groups assimilated with neighbouring bands of Ojibwa or Potawatomi.
The history of the three groups south of the Great Lakes was intertwined. The Odawa seem, however, to have predominated on the eastern shores of Lake Michigan where the large settlements around the Grand and Muskegon Rivers and Traverse Bay were established. But villages were also located among the Ojibwa and Potawatomi around Detroit and west of Lake Michigan. After some resistance to white encroachment on the part of native groups, the U.S. government began to demand the cession of land in the area at the beginning of the 19th century. By 1836, the Odawa and their allies were almost completely dispossessed of their homelands.
The practice of removal favored by the U.S. government resulted in the relocation of many Odawa to Kansas and, eventually, Oklahoma. A large number of Odawa, however, resisted this forced migration and moved, instead, to Upper Canada. Some Odawa moved across the Detroit River to join their allies on Walpole Island. Most of the new arrivals to Upper Canada, however, went to their ancient homelands on Manitoulin Island and the shores of Georgian Bay. Catholic Odawa were more prone to seeking refuge in Canada and, at the Coldwater Reserve, many refugees were accepted by the band under Chief Assance. The band under Assance were alone among those on the reserve in converting to Catholicism. The bands under Joseph Snake and Chief Yellowhead had converted to Methodism.
Ironically, the arrival of the Odawa refugees in Simcoe County coincided with the beginning of a failed experiment in relocation instituted by Lieutenant Governor Francis Bond Head. Head envisioned moving native people from Southern Ontario to the [then] remote and less arable Manitoulin Island. Resistance was fierce among the various native communities and few accepted Head’s offers of resettlement. Among the few who did were a small group of Odawa from Coldwater under the leadership of Jean Baptiste Blackbird or Assiginack.
When the band under Chief Assance moved to Beausoleil Island in 1842, however, they were accompanied by 45 Odawa (9 men, 10 women and 26 children). These people were accepted as part of the band as were the 49 Potawatomi that they had discovered on Christian Island when they relocated from Beausoleil in 1856. In 1876, however, 19 families of Odawa and Potawatomi elected to leave the Beausoleil Band in order to found their own reserve at Moose Deer Point in Muskoka.
There are still people on Christian Island today who claim Odawa parentage. Odawa identity is often submerged in that of the more numerous Ojibwa. In modern accounts they are often ignored as a separate people. On Christian Island itself the band’s billboard states that it is a reserve of Ojibwa and Potawatomi. Only on the Manitoulin Island Reserve of Wikwemikong do Odawa numbers warrant recognition by officials of their separate status. Their small numbers on mixed reserves in the province has made the Odawa something of a forgotten or at least disregarded people in Ontario today. Though small in numbers, they remain among the population of native peoples in Simcoe County and the District of Muskoka.
Decline of the Fur Trade and the Arrival of White Settlement
The first half of the 18th century has been called a golden age for the Ojibwa and other peoples of the Great Lakes. Despite the curse of European disease, the Ojibwa had undergone an astonishing territorial expansion and their position in the fur trade was greatly improved in comparison to the situation a century earlier. The Ojibwa were at peace with the Five Nations and, as a result, were able at times to traverse their territory in order to trade with the British at Albany, New York. The threat of carrying their trade to New York kept the French merchants honest and British traders were anxious for new commerce in the Great Lakes region.
The Ojibwa served as allies of the French in their wars with Britain. The French were, in fact, greatly indebted to their native allies since they rarely had enough soldiers to stem the tide of Anglo-American expansion. An admirable balance existed most of the time between the nations of the Great Lakes region and their French allies. This balance was to be utterly destroyed by the Seven Years’ War.
Militarily, the French were badly over-extended in North America. They maintained a system of forts stretching from the Gulf of St. Lawrence, down the Ohio and Mississippi valleys to New Orleans on the Gulf of Mexico. Despite her military preponderance in Europe, France was never able to bring sufficient resources to bear in North America. The population of New France was dwarfed in comparison with the Thirteen Colonies of British North America. Despite this, the French were able, with the help of their native allies, to contain the British within their circle of forts. By the end of the Seven Years War, however, the French could not keep their native allies properly supplied. The war had also caused misery in native communities. Increased contact with Europeans had, no doubt, caused the many outbreaks of disease that began in the final years of the war and battle losses had been high in the opening years. The Ojibwa and other French allies began to desert the cause by 1758. The fall of Quebec City in 1759 spelled the end of a system of alliance and trade that had existed for over a hundred years.
The defeat of the French in North America meant that the British no longer had a European competitor in the fur trade. It also meant the threat of Anglo-American settlement in the Great Lakes region. Although the Ojibwa of southern Ontario may not have fully appreciated it at this time, it was the expansion of white settlement that was the greatest threat to their way of life.
In 1760, with the conclusion of peace between Britain and France, the British army began to take control of the forts of the Northwest. British traders moved in to take advantage of new sources of fur. The transition from French to British regimes was not a smooth one. Whereas the French had been sympathetic to the local natives and Canadiens had often intermarried with native women, the British had a different perspective on native people in general. The Thirteen Colonies were driven by the need to settle more and more territory. The frontier in American history has been a dominant factor since the first tentative settlements straggled out of the swamps of coastal Virginia. Administrators, such as the Commander-in-Chief of British forces Sir Jeffrey Amherst, held native people in contempt. Unlike the French, many Anglo-Americans simply had no use for native people.
Whereas trade with native peoples was always regulated strictly by the state in New France, British traders were very independent of state control. Furthermore, many of them lacked scruples and had little respect for native people. Alcohol was often distributed liberally in order to take advantage of native traders. Unfair trading practices, official neglect and, south of the Great Lakes, a fear of white settlers led to Pontiac’s Rebellion in 1763.
A mere three years after the British take-over in the Great Lakes region, native people of many different nations rose up to protest their ill treatment at the hands of agents of the state and Anglo-American traders. Ojibwa from southern Ontario took part in the war but seem to have been less disaffected than their counterparts in other parts of the Great Lakes Basin. Wabbicommicot, a powerful chief in the Toronto area, apparently played a role as a moderate and peace negotiator.
The many defeats suffered by the British during Pontiac’s Rebellion frightened them into accommodating many of the demands of the native people. The Royal Proclamation of 1763, for instance, attempted to limit the expansion of white settlement. This was to irritate many on the Anglo-American frontier. The “big knives”, as native people in the Great Lakes region called the Americans, needed living space and were not content to limit their frontiers.
After 1763, the British government was much more careful in its dealings with native peoples. The Quebec Act of 1774 reaffirmed the protection afforded native territory west of the Allegeny Mountains though it implied British administrative sovereignty over the region. The Act further designated the territory as part of the province of Quebec. This has often been sited as one of the “Intolerable Acts” that led to the American Revolution. It is no coincidence that events leading up to war between the colonies and the mother country began that very same year.
Native people in the Great Lakes region generally supported the Loyalist cause during the Revolution but few could have had any knowledge of the importance of the cause for which they fought. The defeat of the British forces in the American Revolution threatened the Great Lakes region and the patterns of existence that had been established since the arrival of the Europeans almost two centuries earlier.
Though the native people south of the Great Lakes would face immediate threat from the military forces of the newly established Republic, the Ojibwas of Southern Ontario too would find that life had been altered by the signing of a paper in Europe.
The Treaty of Paris had surrendered all of the territories south of the Great Lakes to the Republic, including the strategic forts at Detroit, Niagara and Michilimakinac, important centres in the lands occupied by Britain’s native allies. Southern Ontario was far from the American frontier and, had the American Revolution not taken place, would not have been settled for many years (though settlement certainly would have occurred). The British defeat, however, caused Loyalists to flee to areas of the continent still controlled by Britain. The Ojibwa allowed the United Empire Loyalists, as they were called, to settle in their territories. The Imperial authorities had suggested that the presence of the settlers would help the Ojibwa in acquiring material goods and knowledge of European ways. The Ojibwa were even convinced to permit the presence of their traditional enemies the Iroquois. It was not long before many Ojibwa would come to regret their generosity.
It is at this point that the native groups centred on Lake Simcoe and Georgian Bay begin to come into historical focus. We know that they have been here all along due to a rough French survey of the native population done in 1736 in which Matchedash Bay is cited as one of the areas of Ojibwa settlement. Although they would, without a doubt, have been involved in many of the larger events of the late 18th century, there is little direct reference to these people.
The unhappy state in which native people found themselves brought Yellowhead, the principal chief of the Lake Simcoe area, along with 140 followers to York in 1797. A serious epidemic had broken out around Lake Simcoe at the time of Lieutenant Governor Simcoe’s visit to the area in 1793. Upon their arrival at De Grassi Point on September 29th, Simcoe’s party found Chief Canise dying of smallpox. By the time the expedition passed through on the return voyage, Canise had died of the affliction. This epidemic may have added to the misery of the Lake Simcoe bands for, on this occasion, Yellowhead complained of the poverty of his people. The lack of “presents” was also lamented. They were given some assurances at York but were required to continue on to Niagara to speak to Peter Russell, the Administrator of the Government, in order to receive official acknowledgement of their plight.
Peter Schmalz, author of The Ojibwa of Southern Ontario, states that there was a real danger of rebellion by disaffected natives at this time. Many chiefs were actively campaigning for a concerted effort on the part of the various groups in Upper Canada. The murder of Wabakinine, the principal chief of the Credit River band, by a British soldier in 1796 almost sparked such an uprising. Yellowhead, John Assance and Akepatwewe (all Lake Simcoe chiefs) were principal among a group who met with Peter Russell to protest the outrage by an officer of the King’s army. Many chiefs favoured war in order to revenge the incident but, in the end, peace was maintained by the assurances of Russell, the fear that the Six Nations would oppose any uprising and the cooler heads of less belligerent chiefs.
The cession of native land in the Lake Simcoe area began in 1785 with the Collins Purchase. A nebulous agreement, Collins is being renegotiated today. As written record of the agreement disappeared shortly after the signing, Lieutenant-Governor Simcoe was forced to seek a statement of its contents from the translator who had been present at the time. Simcoe also sought reassurances from Chief Yellowhead that the purchase was recognized by the Lake Simcoe bands.
The reason for the purchase was to acquire a secure route to the Upper Great Lakes. As such, a mile on either side of the Severn River from Lake Couchiching to Georgian Bay was purchased along with a similar swath of land along the Indian Portage from the Narrows, at present-day Orillia, to Matchedash Bay.
A similar concern with access to the upper lakes motivated the Penetanguishene Peninsula Purchase. One of Lieutenant Governor Simcoe’s motives in visiting the Lake Simcoe area in 1793 was to find a suitable location for a military base on Georgian Bay. The Penetanguishene site was chosen and the purchase of the area was secured in 1798.
At the turn of the century, the Lake Simcoe bands had ceded very little land and white settlers had not yet appeared. Trouble with settlers had appeared further south. The early settlement of Upper Canada took place, for the most part, along the lower Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River and waterways feeding into them. Overland transportation was extremely difficult owing to the massive primordial forests and almost complete lack of roads. Thus, the lakes and rivers were the roads of the early settlers. In the areas where settlers could easily reach, they began a war with the forests.
The psychology governing settlers to Upper Canada was in complete contrast to the ways of the native inhabitants. Whereas the native people obtained sustenance from the forest and revered the spirits they saw existing in nature, the Europeans viewed the forest as an impediment to their agricultural way of life. Timber was also an important building material for the pioneering homesteaders and potash could be made from burnt logs and sold. So powerful was the urge to clear the land that, by the closing decades of the nineteenth century, there were virtually no substantial stands of forest south of the Canadian Shield.
Bands of Ojibwa living along the north shore of Lake Ontario saw the forests in which they hunted cleared and the lakes and rivers in which they fished over-exploited by settlers by 1800.
The Ojibwa of Southern Ontario were from the boreal forests of the upper Great Lakes and had maintained most of the patterns of life that had served them so well in the northern woods. They are often referred to as hunter-gatherer societies. This is in opposition to the way of life pursued by the Wendat, Tionontatehronnon and other Iroquoian peoples who relied on farming for a large part of their sustenance. The Ojibwa did plant corn but were not often involved in clearing fields for the purpose. Crops of corn were often sown at the mouths of rivers in the spring and left to grow as nature dictated until the harvest time. Gathering of berries and seeds, producing maple sugar and harvesting wild rice were activities primarily carried out by women. Hunting was a year round activity for men though more so in the fall and winter when bands dispersed into smaller units to seek big game. Families often had traditional hunting grounds, otherwise, the territories would be agreed upon by the band before dispersal. Fishing was far more important than hunting in terms of the proportion of the native diet. Family groups would come back together in the spring and congregate on a river or lake in order to take advantage of the spawning of fish. The Narrows between Lakes Simcoe and Couchiching were famous as a fishing ground for native people. Weirs had been constructed by the Wendat and maintained by the Ojibwa to trap fish passing between the lakes.
The dependence of the Ojibwa on the land in its natural state was in conflict with the hatred many settlers had of the dark forests. European practices of land use and ownership destroyed the forests and precluded a nomadic existence. Some of the Lake Simcoe bands were lucky in having their hunting territories in Muskoka. Muskoka is in the Laurentian or Canadian Shield and proved inhospitable to agriculture. The territories they occupied for the other half of the year, however, began to come under pressure in the first decades of the 18th century.
The Lake Simcoe Purchase of 1815 was comprised of a substantial territory. The old Nottawasaga Bay route from Kempenfelt Bay to Lake Huron (now Georgian Bay) formed the southern boundary of the tract while the Severn River formed the northern. This agreement was reached in 1811 but was not ratified until after the War of 1812. The main purpose of the purchase was to secure the Nottawasaga Bay route to the upper Great Lakes and acquire land for the construction of a military road from Kempenfelt Bay to the proposed base at Penetanguishene.
Land purchases in the Lake Simcoe area had been based on a desire for access to the Upper Great Lakes for economic and strategic reasons. In 1818, however, a half million hectare tract in southern Simcoe and adjoining counties was purchased for the purpose of settlement. William Claus, the Superintendant of Indian Affairs at the time, described the land as “idle” and the Lake Simcoe bands as “destitute”.
It is a matter for speculation whether the Ojibwa were fully aware that they were consigning their lands to the settlers for good. Many may have thought that they would be able to continue to use their lands as ever; they had merely agreed to share with the settlers. The incompatibility of the two cultures, however, dictated that the sharing of land was impossible. Desperation may have played a large part in the signing of the 1815 and 1818 treaties. It does seem certain that, in a very few decades following the arrival of European settlement at the end of the 18th century, the fortunes of the Ojibwa of Upper Canada had declined dramatically. European diseases played havoc with native populations largely isolated previous to the arrival of U.E. Loyalists. Alcoholism became rife in native societies leading to child neglect and premature deaths, such as that of Wabakinine. Poverty, alcoholism and the apparent disintegration of their way of life led to a despondency that forced them to accept material compensation for their land.
In 1812, the Ojibwa of Upper Canada went to war, along with their British allies and other native nations of the Great Lakes region. The foe was the United States of America, as had been the case thirty years before. In the case of the nations south of the Great Lakes, the preservation of their homelands was at issue. The great Shawnee chief, Tecumseh, had established a confederation of native nations in opposition to increasing American pressure in the old Northwest. They had been skirmishing with the U.S. army since the end of the American Revolution. Initially, native forces inflicted stunning defeats on the newly created U.S. army. In 1789 a confederated native force annihilated a much larger army under the American General St. Clair at the Battle on the Wabash. But weight of numbers and superior resources were brought to bear and, in the battles of Fallen Timbers of 1794 and Tippecanoe in 1811, native forces were defeated. Military defeat led to land cessions and further military pressure. The declaration of war by President Madison against Britain in 1812 meant that Tecumseh and his allies would finally get direct support from Britain in their struggle.
The year 1812 saw some startling successes by the enemies of the Republic. These early successes were largely due to the military exploits of the native nations. The capture of Michilimackinac was engineered when a small British force accompanied by a much larger native contingent intimidated a small American garrison to surrender without a shot. Shortly thereafter, the powerful Fort Detroit was surrendered to an inferior force of British regulars and native warriors. In both cases, fear on the part of the Americans of native atrocities was decisive in motivating the surrenders. At Queenston Heights, an American invasion of Upper Canada was thwarted partly through the action of native armies.
Native fortunes in the War of 1812 would decline sharply after the first year culminating in the death of Tecumseh in the Battle of Moraviantown, near London, in 1813. The Treaty of Ghent in 1814 acknowledged a stalemate between the American and British participants but signed over the old Northwest to the Americans. Once again, the native allies of the British had been abandoned at the peace table.
The war also marked a milestone for the native people of Upper Canada. Although they would be called on again in 1837-38 to defend the province, their value as military allies would rapidly diminish as their populations declined in relation to that of the settlers. Until the War of 1812, the British government valued the native people as allies in future wars with the United States. As long as that was the case, natives were treated with a modicum of respect. After 1814, they were seen more as subjects of the crown or wards of the state than as allies.
Disease: The Fifth Column
When Europeans arrived in the Americas, they found a vast variety of cultures from the hunter-gatherers of the Canadian arctic to the fantastic civilizations of Meso and South America. Despite the huge diversity in social and political sophistication and the many achievements of pre-Columbian cultures, they were all stone-age societies. The teeming cities of the Aztec Empire, the complex systems of cultivation and irrigation of the Andes cultures, the astonishingly accurate calendar and mathematical finesse of the Maya and the superior political philosophies of the Iroquoian peoples may bring into question the value of such a crude label. From a technological point of view, however, it can be said that the tools with which the aboriginal peoples of the Americas worked were inferior to those of the newcomers.
The history of the Americas has often been portrayed as the inheritance of a civilization stronger technologically, culturally, spiritually and numerically from a series of weak and primitive cultures. There is little question about the technological advantages possessed by the Europeans. As for the other supposed advantages, there is considerable doubt.
In the 19th century, when Europeans began to settle modern day Southern Ontario in numbers, the settlers found the province thinly populated by its Ojibwa inhabitants. Indeed, the white population of Upper Canada may have equaled that of the aboriginal as early as 1785. This is the very beginning of white colonization in the province. The settlers considered much of the province to be “idle” land though the difference in land use between agrarian and hunter-gatherer societies, in fact, accounted for this misconception.
These relatively small numbers led historians to conclude that Europeans had inherited an empty wilderness. The forests, however, had not always been so empty. Champlain reported in 1615 that the population of Wendake had been 30,000 people. Pre contact demographics are extremely difficult and a great deal of debate persists as to the true size of native populations throughout the Americas. A contemporary estimate of the Iroquoian population of southern Ontario (Wendat, Tionnontatehronnon and Neutral) at contact posits the figure of 75,000 – many times the size of the Ojibwa population at the end of the 18th century.
The truth is that native populations throughout the Americas had dramatically declined since the arrival of Europeans in the “New World”. The primary agent of this devastation was not European steel but European pathogens. Thousands of years of isolation had left native Americans with no knowledge of measles, influenza, rubella, chicken pox, typhus and, above all, smallpox. In Europe, an infectious disease such as smallpox, was endemic. The disease ran through the population, relatively small numbers became sick and died while others recovered from the illness. Others exhibited no outward sign of the disease. These survivors became immune to the contagion. Most of these diseases killed only the young and elderly.
When Old World pathogens were brought to the New, the inhabitants lacked immunity. Endemic diseases in Europe became epidemics and pandemics in the Americas. The carnage created by these contagions in the New World puzzled both the Aborigines and Europeans. A German missionary reported in 1699 that “the Indians die so easily that the bare look and smell of a Spaniard causes them to give up the ghost”. Some estimates claim that as many as 90 million people may have succumbed to disease after the arrival of Europeans in the Americas, perhaps 90% of the pre-Columbian population. As Ronald Wright states in his book Stolen Continents, “it was the greatest mortality in history. To conquered and conqueror alike, it seemed as though God really was on the white man’s side”.
Indeed, disease may have arrived, in many cases, before the invaders. A strange disease killed the Inca Huayna-Capac and many in his court between 1525 and 1527. These deaths threw the Inca court into confusion as the succession was uncertain. The disease may have been smallpox introduced by a Spanish party who had been reconnoitring the coast or it may have come overland from Columbia. Shipwrecked Spaniards may have infected parts of Meso-America in the same way in advance of Hernan Cortes.
Some evidence exists to suggest that the interior of North America suffered from unknown epidemics in the 16th century. Indication of recent depopulation and the abandonment of sophisticated social practices greeted early visitors to the South-east of the present United States. Although little direct evidence exists, some scholars have suggested that the entire population of North America was affected by massive epidemics beginning in the early 16th century.
The mysterious disappearance of the St. Lawrence Iroquois between 1542 and 1603 has baffled historians for many years. Warfare between the various Iroquoian peoples has often been suggested as a possible cause. An equally plausible explanation, however, is that the population was so devastated by disease as a result of their contact with the French that they could no longer sustain their villages. Jacques Cartier brought back from his voyages an account of an epidemic that raged in the village of Stadacona in the winter of 1535-36.
Whether or not epidemics predated the arrival of Europeans in Wendake, the presence of missionaries and other Frenchmen after 1615 had a demonstrably disastrous affect on the Wendat. Population estimates for Wendake range form 16,000 to 50,000 prior to the outbreak of epidemics in the 1630s. Champlain’s figure of 30,000 still seems reasonable. The truth will probably never be known. What we do know with a high degree of certainty is that the population was reduced to approximately 9,000 by 1640. This massive demographic change took place over a period of 25 years.
The destruction of Wendake left the Iroquoian populations north of the Great Lakes scattered or absorbed into that of the conquering Five Nations. Taken as a whole, the population of the “Hurons and Iroquois” are estimated to have reached a low of 8,000 people by the middle of the 18th century. The Great Lakes Iroquoian (Wendat, Tionontatehronnon, Neutral and Five Nations) numbered between 110,000 and 160,000 at contact. If these figures bear any relation to reality, the reduction in the population of Great Lakes Iroquoian within the first two hundred years after contact is in excess of the 95% estimate for the Americas as a whole.
It is not as easy to document a similar decline among the Ojibwa of southern Ontario in the 18th and 19th centuries though there are a number of accounts that suggest a profound decline after the arrival of European settlers. The Mississauga on the north shore of Lake Ontario, for example, declined from about 500 people in 1788 to 191 by 1827. In 1793 an epidemic consumed the populace of the Lake Simcoe area. One victim of this outbreak was Chief Canise who died in the autumn of that year.
Disease acted like a “fifth column” of the European invasion. Contagion spread before the newcomers and accompanied them upon their arrival. The effect was to thin native populations and clear space for settlers. In other parts of the world, Europeans did not supplant the native people (with the exception of the equally isolated Australia) because the aboriginal populations were no more susceptible to European disease than the Europeans themselves. Many native people in North America were never subject to military attack, they were simply sapped of their strength by disease. Smallpox is the true conqueror of the Americas. The alliance of the Europeans and their accompanying microbes was acknowledged by General Sir Jeffrey Amherst when he instructed the commander at Fort Pitt to issue blankets infected with smallpox to native people during Pontiac’s Rebellion.
The effect of the devastation on those who remained must not be ignored. The loss of so many loved ones, the destruction of their society and the apparent failure of their belief systems inevitably demoralized survivors. The decline in numbers as a result of mortality was soon compounded by a fall in birth rate. Women would often abort fetuses rather than bring life into such a world. The Iroquois had arrived at such a position in 1799 when Handsome Lake had his vision.
How much disease and its accompanying social ills contributed to the fall of Wendake is difficult to assess. It can be said, however, that Wendat society was torn by divisions that can be traced to the stress of epidemic. The relatively small numbers of Algonkians who replaced the Wendat, Tionontatehronnon and Neutral in Southern Ontario were similarly assailed by European disease. In the end, the newcomers easily pushed the aboriginal inhabitants of the province aside. The fifth column had been doing its work for a century and a half before the arrival of the Loyalists at the end of the 18th century.
The Reserves and the Changing Circumstances of Native Peoples In Canada
Lieutenant Governor Simcoe’s expedition to Georgian Bay in 1793 provides the first real glimpse as far as written history is concerned of the bands that inhabited the region. Simcoe visited with Great Sail near the mouth of the Holland River and the unfortunate Chief Canise at De Grassi Point. These two bands were part of a larger group under Chief Joseph Snake. These groups ranged from the mouth of the Holland River, up the western coast of Lake Simcoe in the present day Town of Innisfil and probably inland from there. Lake Simcoe was a wonderful source of whitefish, trout and bass. The swamps at the head of Cook’s Bay provided wild rice and abounded with waterfowl. Easy access to the trading post at Toronto was obtained via the Toronto Carrying Place which ran from the mouth of the Humber River on Lake Ontario to Cook’s Bay on Lake Simcoe via the Holland River.
William Yellowhead was the principal chief of the Lake Simcoe/ Georgian Bay/ Muskoka area. Yellowhead fought on the British side in the American Revolution, though there is some confusion with his father, also known as William Yellowhead. The range of the Yellowhead band before the establishment of reserves is unclear though the fact that they settled at the Narrows probably indicates that this area was within their previous range. The Narrows provided a particularly productive fishery. Fishing weirs had been constructed at the site where Lakes Simcoe and Couchiching meet since the Wendat had controlled it. The Yellowhead band used the vast forests of Muskoka as their winter hunting grounds. The name for District of Muskoka comes from Yellowhead’s Ojibwa appellation variously rendered as “Misquuckkey” or “Musquakie”in contemporary documents.
John Assance was the chief of another band that seems to have ranged the southern coast of Georgian Bay. Matchedash Bay was likely the focus of their activities; Assance is one of the signatories of the 1798 Penetanguishene Purchase.
Two other bands were later associated with William Yellowhead. The Sandy Lake and the Muskoka bands lived in the shield country of Muskoka the former near Georgian Bay and the latter near modern day Port Carling. Both bands viewed Yellowhead as their principal chief.
The strategic nature of the Lake Simcoe area astride one of the most direct routes to the Upper Great Lakes caused their territory to come to the attention of the British authorities in advance of any real demand on the part of white settlers. Early land purchases were all aimed at securing access to the Upper Lakes. The Penetanguishene Treaty of 1798 was designed to permit the building of a military base on Georgian Bay. The earlier Collins Purchase acquired the two routes to the bay via the Severn River and the “Indian Portage” from the Narrows to Matchedash Bay. The Lake Simcoe Purchase in 1815 was at least partially intended to secure the Nottawasaga Bay Route and allow the building of the military road from Kempenfelt Bay to Penetanguishene.
It is not until the Lake Simcoe – Nottawasaga Purchase of 1818 that settlement is the primary motivation on the part of the authorities. Settlement north of the area outlined by this treaty was slow in coming. However, Sir John Colborne, Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada from 1828 to 1836, decided that native people, having legally ceded title to the land, should be removed to reserves. The reserves established under Colborne were intended to teach the native people to farm like Europeans, enlighten them about Christianity and to “civilize” them in general. The thinking behind this policy was that native people could only survive if they assimilated the ways of civilization. Reserves were established throughout the province in which the natives would receive “instruction” from missionaries and various Indian agents.
It appears that the plight of native people at this time was sufficiently desperate that many viewed the relocation favourably. The conversion of the native people to Christianity became widespread at this time. Most native groups, finding themselves in the path of the frontier, seemed to grasp for answers to their plight. Some native people became missionaries themselves, most notably Peter Jones or “Kahkewaquonaby”, the great Methodist preacher and Anishnabeg spokesman.
Competition between Christian sects was fierce: Methodists against Anglicans, Roman Catholics against Protestants. This competition is evident in the Lake Simcoe bands. The bands under Joseph Snake and William Yellowhead were early converts to Methodism while the band under John Assance embraced Catholicism. Assance was related to Peter Jones and the conversion of his band to Catholicism was a source of pain for Jones. The Muskoka bands, sheltered from the onslaught of civilization in the rugged Canadian Shield, maintained their traditional beliefs until the 1860s. Ironically, the acceptance of Christianity by many native people became a source of division in the various communities.
In 1830 the three groups in the Lake Simcoe area (excluding the Muskoka bands who had yet to cede their land) were settled on 9300 acres stretching from the Narrows between Lakes Simcoe and Couchiching and Matchedash Bay at the village of Coldwater.
The band under John Assance settled at Coldwater and Yellowhead’s band at the Narrows. The location of the band under Joseph Snake is unclear. Although they seem to be accounted for on the 1834 census, they likely spent much time on the southern shores and islands of Lake Simcoe.
Most of what we know about these people comes from the descriptions of the Coldwater – Narrows Reserve. William Hawkins provides a particularly interesting account of the reserve. Hawkins was Deputy Surveyor of the province and visited the reserve in 1833. The village at the Narrows, according to Hawkins, accommodated forty families and was comprised of sixteen houses, eleven old log shanties, a Methodist meeting room and school and some scattered wigwams. A fine frame house was constructed for William Yellowhead.
At Coldwater thirteen houses, a sawmill and six log shanties were constructed along with a meeting house/ school and a house for the superintendant. In 1833 a gristmill was constructed in the village to grind the grains grown on the 280 cleared acres of the reserve.
Another band appears in accounts of this time period. The group referred to as the Potaganusus Band under Chief Ashawgashel settled just outside of Coldwater and had 28 acres cleared in 1833. Some accounts perpetuate an old mistake that identifies this group as Potawatomi from Drummond Island. This error has been traced to George Copway, a Methodist preacher and one of the first Anishnabe chroniclers of Southern Ontario. Copway may have simply misinterpreted “Potaganusus” as meaning Potawatomi. Whether this band was, indeed, from Drummond Island is unclear. The policy of removal of native people to west of the Mississippi River at this time caused many Three Fires bands to seek refuge in Canada.
An Odawa refugee of particular note came from L’Arbres Croches in Michigan. Jean Baptiste Blackbird (Assiginack) was a Roman Catholic lay preacher. Assiginack was a powerful speaker and a rival of Peter Jones. He settled at Coldwater in 1832 but left for Manitoulin Island later that decade.
Thomas Anderson, Superintendant at Coldwater, wrote a letter to Lieutenant Governor Colborne in 1835 in which he passionately proclaims the successes of the Coldwater Reserve in giving the natives “sufficient Knowledge of the Arts of civilized Life”.
Despite the apparent success of the experiment, the new Lieutenant Governor, Sir Francis Bond Head, resolved to remove native people from the destructive influences of civilization. Head seems to have been influenced by the American policy of removal. The Lieutenant-Governor and his agents attempted, with little success, to encourage native bands to settle on Manitoulin Island. Manitoulin was, at that time, out of the reach of the settlers’ frontier. To encourage migration, Head made the island the centre for the distribution of yearly “presents”. Previous to this change, Penetanguishene was the magnet that attracted natives from Upper Canada and the United States.
Many Odawa from the U.S.A. made Manitoulin their new home and Assiginack moved from Coldwater to Wikwemikong in order to join his people at this time.
Few established bands in Southern Ontario, however, accepted the offer of cash for removal. Nevertheless, Head broke up Colborne’s reserves. Many of these reserves found themselves surrounded by land-hungry settlers who lobbied the government for access to the reserves.
Head managed to convince the Coldwater bands to surrender the reserve in 1836. The Lieutenant Governor quoted Yellowhead as telling him: “Father, our Children and our Children’s Children, will pray to the Great Spirit to bless your Name for what you have this day done for us…”. However, in a letter dated May 26, 1842, the chiefs of the former Coldwater Reserve complained to the Governor General, Sir Charles Bagot, that Head had “insisted on [their] selling this Land”. The promise of the Coldwater Reserve and other reserves like it in the province had been swept aside for the purpose of acquiring all arable land for white settlers. Native bands in Upper Canada would find themselves living on the rocky margins of the province in the years to come.
The three bands would go their separate ways. The band under Joseph Snake moved to Snake Island in Lake Simcoe, established a village and cleared about 360 acres for agriculture. However, this was not enough land to sustain the band properly. The population on Snake Island declined in the ensuing decades. In 1847 the reserve had 142 inhabitants. By 1857, the population had dropped to 132 and by 1901 there were only 115 inhabitants. The population was also aging. In 1847, children made up almost half of the population but, by 1901, they numbered barely a quarter of the whole. In the 1860s and 70s, Snake Island was gradually abandoned for the larger Georgina Island. Today, Snake Island is leased to cottagers and the band lives entirely on Georgina.
The Coldwater band had a similar experience when they moved to Beausoleil Island in Georgian Bay in 1842. Agriculture proved almost impossible in the poor soils of the island and a move to Christian Island was necessary in 1856. Just before the move, the band was joined by 45 Odawa from Michigan. This conglomeration was further amended on arrival on Christian Island. It was discovered that a small band of 49 Potawatomis had been resident since about 1835. The Ojibwa, Odawa and Potawatomis agreed to live together as they had so often in the past. There was, however, some friction between the Traditionalist Potawatomis and the staunch Catholics who comprised the remainder of the community. Pressure was put on the Traditionalists to accept Christianity. Whether this friction had anything to do with the eventual parting of ways that took place in 1876 is unknown. In that year, nineteen families of Potawatomis and Odawa left Christian Island to found their own reserve at Moose Deer Point in Muskoka.
Life has been difficult on Christian Island. Transporting fish or agricultural produce to market has always been a challenge. Penetanguishene is a fair distance from the reserve and the waters of Georgian Bay provide a barrier especially in the winter. As is the case on many reserves, economic opportunities are few. Many enterprises have been attempted such as charcoal production. Tragedies have visited the small community. In 1918 -19, sixty islanders succumbed to influenza and in the early 1970s the ferry connecting the island with the mainland went down with loss of life. Despite all these challenges, the population has grown. The current population of Christian Island is 1482 Ojibwa and Potawatomis. The Odawa seem to have assimilated with the other groups.
John Assance led his people to Beausoleil Island but, according to Peter Jones, he had become “confused and bewildered” by the turn of events that had seen his band go from free and sovereign to dependant wards of the state. In 1847, Assance fell out of his canoe and drowned on his return from Penetanguishene.
In 1838, William Yellowhead’s band purchased 1621 acres of land in Rama Township along the east coast of Lake Couchiching. This land appears to have been passed up by settlers previous to the purchase. Farming was continued but government enthusiasm for teaching native people to farm began to wane after 1836. The band was lucky, however, in having continued access to their traditional hunting grounds in Muskoka. William Yellowhead continued to use the forests surrounding Lake Muskoka as his winter grounds until his death in 1864. Yellowhead was 95 (though many claim he was over one hundred) and admired by all in the native and white communities. The Robinson – Huron Treaty of 1850 had removed title for the land in Muskoka from the native people. William Yellowhead was not included in discussions preceding the signing of the treaty despite the fact that his hunting grounds were within the territory at issue.
The recent establishment of a casino on the Rama reserve has provided some local opportunity for the M’Njikaning First Nation, as they are now known. Casinos are big money makers but there are other partners involved. The operators take a large portion of the revenues as does the provincial government (an estimated 20%). The casino was established on the reserve in order to provide a benefit to the local native community. At the time of writing, Casino Rama is the largest employer of aboriginal people in Canada, providing jobs directly and indirectly for 6000 people in the native community.
The two bands in Muskoka were eventually settled on a reserve at Parry Island. The request of the Muskoka band for a reserve of its own near its former territory was conveyed to the government by William Yellowhead in 1859. Some friction continued between the Sandy Island and Muskoka bands over their joint reserve at Parry Island, the latter desiring a separate reserve. The two groups seem, eventually, to have been reconciled to their joint reserve.
The status of native people and how they were viewed by Anglo-Canadian society changed drastically from the beginning of the 19th century to the late 20th. Prior to 1812, native people were valued allies. As late as 1838 they were called upon to defend the province when, in the wake of William Lyon Mackenzie’s rebellion, an invasion from the south was feared. But, in reality, their stock had begun to decline after the War of 1812 when their numbers diminished relative to those of the settlers. The terminology used in the various treaties between the government and native peoples indicates the change in attitude on the side of the government. Early treaties were worded in such a way as to make clear that native bands were sovereign entities. Annuities were assigned to the group to be divided as seemed fitting. By 1850, however, native people were subjects of the crown and payment for the surrender of the land was assigned to individuals. Furthermore, the crown stipulated who was eligible as a band member. A document dated 1860 from W.R. Bartlett, Indian Superintendant, to James Begahmigabow, chief of the Muskoka band, indicates the new relationship. Bartlett informs Begahmigabow that his recent designation as chief of his band had “met with the approval of the Superintendant General of Indian Affairs” but only until the son of the previous chief grew to the age of majority. Indian Affairs could determine who was chief and who was eligible for band membership.
Government paternalism grew throughout the 19th century. By the early 20th century, Status Indians were not full citizens, could not vote and could not hire a lawyer in order to pursue land claims. Only by moving off the reserve and renouncing Indian status could a native person become a citizen. The communal nature of native cultures was at odds with that of Canadian society. A reverence for the individual in society is a particular obsession of Anglo-Saxon thought. Much of Canadian history has been a struggle to force this world view on native people, French-Canadians, Mennonites, Hutterites, Dukhobors and others.
Assimilation has been the object of government policy at least since 1830. It took over a hundred years for Victorian attitudes of “carrying the white man’s burden” to wane. Today, the past policies of Indian Affairs and the abuses of the residential schools have come to the attention of the general public. Early in the 20th century, the aboriginal population of this country was thought to be doomed as distinct peoples. To quote from Indians of Canada by Diamond Jenness, first published in 1932:
Doubtless all the tribes will disappear. Some will endure only a few years longer, others, like the Eskimo, may last several centuries. Some will merge steadily with the white race, others will bequeath to future generations only an infinitesimal fraction of their blood. Culturally they have already contributed everything that was valuable for our own civilization beyond what knowledge we may still glean from their histories concerning man’s ceaseless struggle to control his environment.
This bleak vision does not appear to be taking shape at the end of the 20th century. Aboriginal populations in Canada are growing rapidly and the impulse to “civilize” and absorb native people into the dominant Anglo-Canadian culture has been checked. But the future of native peoples in this country is very much unsettled as the incidents at Ipperwash and Oka prove. Are native people to remain on the margins societally, economically and geographically? This is one of the great issues of our time.
The aboriginal people of the Lake Simcoe and Georgian Bay area have a rich history. As a people they have certainly travelled a rough road since the beginning of the 18th century when they first appeared in this area. Like aboriginal people in other parts of the country, survival has never been certain. But their survival as culturally distinct enclaves in the Lake Simcoe-Georgian Bay area has been achieved in spite of powerful pressures from government agencies, churches and Canadian society as a whole.
Notes on Nomenclature
There are several difficulties to do with nomenclature that have presented themselves in the course of this project. European mapmakers saw the “New World” as a blank slate on which to apply new names meaningful to Europeans. In many cases, native names for geographic features were preserved. “Toronto”, for example, is either a Wendat name meaning “meeting place” or a Mohawk word meaning “trees standing in the water”. Otherwise, we see such appellations as, “New France”, “York” and “Barrie” that commemorate places back home in Europe or others that celebrate explorers and other notable persons (Lake Simcoe was named for Lieutenant Governor Simcoe’s father).
Some landforms have no recognized European name until quite late in our history. Others suffer from a surfeit of monikers or the name changes over time. Our province, for example, has been known by three names since the end of the 18th century. Georgian Bay has had several names, including Baye de Toronto. Until the early 19th century, however, it was merely seen as Lake Huron. Using the most appropriate name for a given place and time period becomes a problem. It is, of course, paramount that the reader understands the meaning of the name applied. This often results in the use of the modern name even if it was not used in the time period being discussed. Georgian Bay, therefore, is always referred to as such since no other names will be recognizable to the reader. Ontario, on the other hand, has been referred to as “Upper Canada” from 1791 to 1840, “Canada West” from 1840 until 1867 and by its modern name thereafter. Before 1791, the region was part of the Province of Quebec, as outlined in the Quebec Act of 1774. Where some confusion may arise, the phrases “modern day Ontario” or “what is now known as Ontario” might be applied.
More problematic than historical vagaries surrounding modern (European) names is the use of native names. The native cultures of the Great Lakes region had not developed written forms of their languages before the arrival of the Europeans. Had they done so, Europeans likely would not have made use of these systems anyway, so foreign would they have seemed to the newcomers. European chroniclers had to render strange languages into written form. As some of these languages used sounds that were not present in European tongues, this task proved difficult. Linguistic standardization is a relatively new concept and native names were spelled as each chronicler saw fit. This may cause problems for the historian in terms of recognition. Even names that are recognizable may be rendered several different ways. Muskoka, the name applied to a district in the Province of Ontario, comes from the name of a prominent area chief and a key figure in the above history. It has been written “Misquuckkey”, “Musquakie” as well as the version that has been preserved by modern cartographers. Native people often adopted European names, so “Muskoka” was also known as “William Yellowhead”. A search for a reference to William Yellowhead by an unsuspecting researcher may prove futile if the Ojibwa name is used in the reference material. Native names were often passed down to the following generations. William Yellowhead’s father seems also to have been known as William Yellowhead. When Chief Canise died in 1793 on the shores of Lake Simcoe, the inheritor of his position was his son, “Canise”.
Many sources ascribe meanings to native names. Native names invariably meant something, as in the case of the name “Toronto” quoted above. The vast variation in given meanings has encouraged me to avoid applying translations to native names. These translations appear in many cases to be speculative and, in some cases, to be value laden. The meaning of the Ojibwa name “Manitonabe”, for example, is given by the famous local historian, Andrew Hunter, as “male devil”. “Manitou” is the name of an Ojibwa spirit; the translation of “devil” seems to represent a Christian bias against so-called “pagan” beliefs.
The application of names, for all the problems it may cause, often presents interesting stories in of itself. The name “Toronto” for example, first appears on European maps in reference to Lake Simcoe in 1673. Subsequently, it referred to Georgian Bay, the Severn River and the Humber River before coming to settle on the banks of Lake Ontario. Travelling names provide one of many sources of mystery surrounding the naming of the province after 1615.
Ojibwa, Chippewa, Mississauga, Anishnabe:
Ojibwa – This is the common language of the Chippewa, Mississauga, Saulteaux, etc. Alternative spellings have been “Ojibway” or, even, “Ojibwey”. Ojibwa originally referred to one of the many groups of hunter-gatherers in the Upper Great Lakes; it has come to be applied to all who speak a common Algonkian language (Ojibwa).
Chippewa – Chippewa is a common name applied interchangeably with Ojibwa or, in Southern Ontario, in opposition to “Mississauga”. The use of Chippewa is generally preferred to that of Ojibwa in the United States. Chippewa and Ojibwa are actually the same word rendered differently.
Mississauga – This name refers to a particular Ojibwa speaking group originating around the mouth of the Mississagi River that flows into the North Channel of Lake Huron.
The Mississauga were, no doubt, prominent among those who migrated into Southern Ontario. The name has sometimes been applied to all the Ojibwa speaking peoples of Southern Ontario but is also used to distinguish certain groups from those who prefer the name Chippewa.
It is not know whether the distinction between Chippewa and Mississauga has any basis in the origins of the people who came to Southern Ontario or whether it is merely a matter of preference.
Anishnabe – Anishnabe has been translated as “original man” or “the people”. It has become the preferred appellation of Ojibwa speaking peoples in Ontario. Although it is not a new word, it has come into popular use recently. Anthropologists and other professionals have given us most of our labels for people outside of the mainstream. This practice is only now starting to change.
Algonkian, Algonkin (also Algonquian, Algonquin):
Algonkian (Algonquian) – This is the name of a family of languages that includes Ojibwa, Odawa, Potawatomi, Cree, Montagnais, Micmac, Algonkin and many others. It is, in fact, one of the largest language groups geographically and demographically in aboriginal North America.
The different spelling of Algonkian/ Algonquian is likely the difference between English and French lexicography, the latter representing French, the former English.
Algonkin (Algonquin) – The Algonkin occupied southeastern Ontario and western Quebec around the Ottawa River at contact. Such groups as the Kichesipirini, Matouweskarini, Petite Nation and Weskarini were Algonkin speaking. The only Algonkin reserve in Ontario today is Golden Lake near the eastern boundary of Algonquin Park.
Iroquoian, Iroquois, Five (Six) Nations, Houdenosaunee:
Iroquoian – Like Algonkian, Iroquoian refers to a family of languages that includes Huron, Petun, Erie, Neutral, Susquehannock and the languages of the Iroquois Confederacy.
Iroquois – The Iroquois are the six nations that belong to a confederation first established in the “Finger Lakes” of upstate New York. The six nations are: Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, Mohawk and Tuscarora.
Five (Six) Nations – The Tuscarora were not admitted into the confederacy until 1722. For this reason, the Iroquois are referred to as the Five Nations before 1722 and the Six after that date.
Houdenosaunee – This is the name given to the confederacy and Iroquois people by its members. The league is figuratively depicted as a longhouse. The Mohawk are the eastern doorkeepers and the Seneca the west. The Onondaga have a very special status as the keepers of the central fire, the most important symbol of Iroquois unity. Houdenosaunee means “the people of the Longhouse”.
Huron, Wendat, Wyandot (Wyandotte):
Huron – The name that is most commonly applied to the original inhabitants of northern Simcoe County is not a native word. “Huron” is a French word that may have meant “ruffian” or “rustic”. As it was apparently a reference to the “exotic” appearance of the Wendat, it was originally somewhat derogatory, in reference to wild boars that inhabited Europe.
Wendat – Wendat, like Houdenosaunee, referred to a confederacy of four (or five) nations rather than a single tribe. Unlike “Huron”, it is a native name and it is what the “Huron” called themselves. As such, it has been the preferred appellation in this account. The use of Wendat in place of Huron is becoming more common but the well known history of this nation makes such a change difficult. Many people recognize the name Huron but few can identify the Wendat with the history they studied in school.
Wyandot (Wyandotte) – The similarity between “Wendat” and “Wyandot” is no coincidence. Wyandot is, in fact, a corruption of the former. The Wyandot are not exactly the same people as the original residents of “Huronia”. Some of the survivors of Wendake fled to the nearby Tionontatehronnon. When the latter dispersed the following summer, as a result of Iroquois pressure, they fled west taking the Wendat refugees with them. Over time, these people began to be called the Wyandot though most of the population traced their ancestry back to the Blue Hills rather than Wendake.
Tionnontatehronnon, Tobacco, Petun:
Tionontatehronnon – This name will likely be unfamiliar to most readers. The people who lived in the shadow of the Niagara Escarpment and tended their crop of tobacco referred to themselves by this name. It remains uncertain as to whether this name is applied to a single nation or a confederation of two.
Tobacco – A more familiar name for these people is the Tobacco people. This name obviously derives from the importance of that crop to these people.
Petun – “Petun”, like “Huron” is a French name applied to these people. The fact that it has five rather than seventeen letters means that it may continue to be favoured over the more appropriate Tionontatehronnon in the years to come.
Odawa – Like the name “Ojibwa”, Odawa refers to a group of people that originally identified themselves as members of local bands. The stresses of the seventeenth century forced these people to identify (or be identified) with a larger entity. Modern scholars see Odawa as a dialect of Ojibwa but, clearly, a separate identity developed in the past and persists to this day.
Ottawa – Ottawa is likely more familiar to most students of history than Odawa. The latter has, however, come to be more accepted in Canada. Ottawa is still favoured in the United States.
The Ottawa were very active in the fur trade after the fall of Wendake. Many European chroniclers referred to any Algonkian-speaking people involved in the fur trade as “Ottawa”. This is misleading. Often, these people would be Ojibwa or Potawatomi or other western nations.
Today, many Odawa live among Ojibwa people in Canada. The former group, being less numerous, often lose their identity as a distinct people. The Manitoulin reserve of Wikwemikong is the only Canadian reserve on which Odawa people form an identifiable majority.
Council of Three Fires:
The Potawatomi, Odawa and Ojibwa formed a loose confederation in the 18th century. The three peoples shared similar languages and cultures and lived in increasingly close proximity with each other beginning in the 17th century. As with most native alliances, there was little or no coercive power to enforce unity. The alliance simply cemented a partnership that already existed.
Upper Canada, Canada West, Ontario:
Upper Canada – After the conquest of New France by the British in 1760, the southern portion of the present province of Ontario was part of the colony of Quebec ruled by the Governor in Quebec City. In 1791, however, the colony was divided between Lower Canada (Quebec) and Upper Canada (Ontario). The colony was, however, administered by a Lieutenant Governor who continued to take orders from the Governor in Quebec City.
Canada West – After the 1837 Rebellions in Upper and Lower Canada, it was decided to reunite the Canadas under one government. Southern Ontario was known as Canada West from 1841 until confederation in 1867.
Ontario – The name “Ontario” had been applied to the lowest of the Great Lakes for hundreds of years. In 1867, the name was adopted for the new province of Ontario.
We wish to thank the following organizations and individuals for their assistance in the production of this project.
The Metropolitan Toronto Reference Library, Archives of Ontario, The National Archives of Canada and the Royal Ontario Museum were all generous in helping us to locate archival images in their collections.
Huronia Museum, Casino Rama, Huronia Historical Parks (Sainte-Marie-among-the-Hurons) and Parks Canada (Champlain Monument) gave us permission to photograph their sites/ facilities. We are grateful for their co-operation.
We must also thank the Simcoe County Archives for steering us toward the significant items in their collection of local native history.
Crosby, Alfred. The Columbian Exchange: Biological and Cultural Consequences of 1492. Westport: Greenwood Press. 1972.
Hunter, Andrew F. A History of Simcoe County. Barrie: Historical Committee of
Simcoe County. 1948.
Rogers, Edward and Donald Smith ed. Aboriginal Ontario: Historical Perspectives on the First Nations. Toronto: Dundurn Press. 1994.
Trigger, Bruce, ed. Handbook of North American Indians, vol. 15: Northeast. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution. 1978.
The Wendat and Tionontateronnon:
Garrad, Charles and Conrad Heidenreich. ‘Khionontateronon (Petun)’ in Handbook of North American Indians, vol. 15: Northeast. ed. Trigger, Bruce, Washington D.C. 1978.
Heidenriech, Conrad. Huronia: A History and Geography of the Huron Indians 1600 – 1650. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart. 1971.
Tooker, Elizabeth. An Ethnography of the Huron Indians 1615 – 1649. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution. 1964.
Trigger, Bruce. The Children of Aataentsic: A History of the Huron People to 1660, vol. I & II. Montreal: McGill – Queen’s UP. 1976.
Trigger, Bruce. Natives and Newcomers: Canada’s “Heroic Age” Reconsidered. Kingston and Montreal: McGill – Queen’s UP. 1985.
The Ojibwa, Potawatomi and Odawa:
Clifton, James. A Place of Refuge for all Time: Migration of the American Potawatomi into Upper Canada 1830 – 1850. Ottawa: National Museum of Man. 1975.
Clifton, James. “Potawatomi.” In Handbook of North American Indians, vol. 15: Northeast. ed. Trigger, Bruce, Washington D.C. 1978.
Copway, George. Traditional History and Characteristic Sketches of the Ojibwa Nation. Boston 1850.
Eid, Leroy. “The Ojibwa-Iroquois War: The War the Five Nations Did Not Win.” Ethnohistory 24(4), 1979.
Feest, Johanna and Christian. ‘Ottawa’ in Handbook of North American Indians, vol. 15: Northeast. ed. Trigger, Bruce, Washington D.C. 1978.
Murray, Florence, ed. Muskoka and Haliburton 1615 – 1875: A Collection of Documents. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. 1963.
Rogers, E.S. ‘Southeastern Ojibwa’ in Handbook of North American Indians, vol. 15: Northeast. ed. Trigger, Bruce, Washington D.C. 1978.
Schmalz, Peter. The Ojibwa of Southern Ontario. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. 1991.
Smith, Donald. Sacred Feathers: The Reverend Peter Jones (Kahkewaquonaby) and the Mississauga Indians. Toronto: U of T Press. 1987.
Smith, Donald. “The Dispossession of the Mississauga: A Missing Chapter in the Early History of Upper Canada.” Ontario History 73(2) 1982.
Benn, Carl. The Iroquois in the War of 1812. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. 1998.
Konrad, Victor. “An Iroquois Frontier: The North Shore of Lake Ontario During the Late Seventeenth Century.” Journal of Historical Geography 7(2) 1981.
Robinson, Percy. Toronto During the French Regime 1615 – 1793. Toronto: Toronto
University Press. 1965.
Wright, Ronald. Stolen Continents: The “New World” Through Indian Eyes Since 1492. Toronto: Penguin Books Canada. 1992.
Simcoe County Archives:
William Hawkins (Deputy Surveyor). “Report and Description of the Native Reserve
Between Lake Simcoe and Coldwater” York, March 14,1833. 987-15 E24 B7 R3A S8 Sh3
1834 Census of Coldwater Reserve, “Coldwater Reserve” file. 983-84 E5 B6 C0 S11 Sh1
©1999 – Innisfil Public Library