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Physical Observation of the City of Toronto

In: Social Issues

Submitted By bonoisgod
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The majority of Torontonians are ghastly unaware of the aboriginal settlements in their own city. The Native tribes of the Great lakes region were living relatively peacefully until the interjection of European colonizers. Along with currency and market trades, the Europeans brought another attribute, which was deadly. “…It was estimated that approximately 65,000 Iroquoian people lived in the area and that about fifty percent of these died as a result of the introduction of European diseases” (Bobiwash, 1997, p. 11). However devastating after losing thousands of members, the Native peoples of Toronto were “demoralized and weakened by the effects of an alien epidemiology” (Bobiwash, 1997, p. 11). A foreign party was altering the Native way of life. This contributed to the ultimate hostile take over by European colonialists. To say Aboriginals were not treated with respect nor fairly given a chance to partake in the European trading system is an understatement. Nonetheless, Toronto has hidden most of what is recognized as Aboriginal artefacts. There are pieces of history in Toronto recognizable to Native peoples. However, these are ignored and unseen by many new immigrants and settler descendants alike. Europeans followed passages through Toronto designed by Native pathways. Spadina was a path at the bottom of the hill and Davenport followed the shoreline of Lake Iroquois. These paths and were chosen because of their ease of use. This is a simple example of how attribution is not fully accredited to the Aboriginal tribes of Toronto. In many cases, there are significant European landmarks around the city. Conversely, there are not many Native landmarks. The Europeans obstructed any kind of Indigenous symbol and replaced it with their own. In the few instances in which Aboriginal tribes are represented, it is typically with European colonization recognition as well (Johnson, 2011). Another example of European overshadowing is the Iconic Casa Loma, which is built on Mississauga council tribe ground. This is a widely unknown fact. There is no record predating the purchase of the land by Sir Henry Pellatt in 1903. Even the official website does not contain this information (“The History of Casa Loma”, n.d.). Did history simply want to ignore pre-European events? The sacred ground is visited like a museum, but there is no implication of pre-history being recognized. When looking at the archaeological history of North America, in general, there is a consensus that evidence in South America predates the Clovis period (Paleo-Indian settlements of Ontario) of roughly 11,000 years ago (Heidenreich and Burgar, 1999, p. 63). The Palaeo-Indian settlements have but a small appearance in the archaeological record. This is due “…to the present high level of Lake Ontario, much of the evidence for Palaeo-Indians in the Toronto area lies on the lakebed, up to 90 m under water” (Heidenreich and Burgar, 1999, p. 63). There is definitely more evidence of Aboriginal activity in the Archaic period of 8000-1000 BC. This is because of the advancement of technology including pottery (Heidenreich and Burgar, 1999, p. 64). The Woodland periods are broken up into early, middle and late because of the introduction of maize (Heidenreich and Burgar, 1999, p. 65). “By AD 900 the first clusters of villages with a heavier reliance on maize cultivation appeared” (Heidenreich and Burgar, 1999, p. 65). By the late Woodland period, (ending in 1650) European settlers had already arrived and complicated matters for the Natives (Heidenreich and Burgar, 1999, p. 67).
Evidence of the fur trade with Europeans began and it has been considered that Toronto was a hub for fur trade during this time. The first building erected in Toronto was a fort. Known as Fort Toronto, it was frequented by Aboriginals for the fur trade industry. It was important for Natives to maintain a presence because it was necessary to obtain the best pricings for fur (Johnson, 2011). Language and Aboriginals are the only aspects in which Natives are truly represented in today’s Ontario. The word Ontario is actually an Iroquois word meaning “big beautiful lake”. Other streets, cities and regions are named with Indigenous languages. However, the lack of knowledge regarding these names makes that correlation to Natives arbitrary. It is not well known that Mississauga is named after an Aboriginal tribe. The street Spadina actually stood for “path at the bottom of the hill”. It comes from the Ojibwa language. Today’s GTA would not recognize the presence of Aboriginal communities even with such distinct names and titles of places (Johnson, 2011).
The confusion of Aboriginal tribe languages is complex to dissect. Essentially, like Latin, the languages of neighbouring tribes have similar lineage. Nonetheless, the French do not understand the Italians or Spanish but may be able to communicate on some level. Regional dialects of Algonquian languages, such as Cree Ojibwa, and Micmac, are close to each other but not necessarily the same (Heidenreich and Burgar, 1999, p. 67). The distinction between the tribes and groups was their functionality. They operated differently, culturally, politically and even territorially (Heidenreich and Burgar, 1999, p. 67). At points, they interacted for trade purposes and other reasons, hence the ability to communicate with each other.
A major feature in the Toronto landscape is High Park. It is the only aspect of the city that has remained unchanged for some time. There have been a few modifications, including some roads for ease of accessibility. Natives used the area as a trade route. The reason why it has remained as natural landscape is because it is one of the clauses of the land dictated by the original owner. Named after its actual height overlooking the lake, it is also a significant region for Natives. It is said that burial mounds for Aboriginals in the area are located in High Park where BMX riders use the space. This controversy has enabled doubt to play a role in the Indigenous narrative. Because if its uncertainty, there are hesitations amongst locals and government officials to proceed with any form of protection for this area (Johnson, 2011).
High Park officials also started doing controlled burns for the savannah ecosystem it contains. This was an adapted process done by Aboriginals in the area to rejuvenate the sandy soils of the region. The black oak species became present after such burns (Johnson, 2011).
The absence of Indigenous narratives on Toronto’s surface is a sad truth. It leads one to believe that the past is simply ignored for racial and egotistical reasons. This is a prime case of the untold and hidden stories of a region. Even with the names and titles of popular areas being after Native words, the lack of education and knowledge brings these words to nonsense. Also, because of new settlers and residents, the names take on a new meaning and even pronunciation. The lack of representation of Aboriginal culture is outstandingly absurd and tours like the “Great Indian Bus Tour” should be mandatory for all students in history courses in high school.

Works Cited
Bobiwash, Rodney. (1997). The History of Native People in the Toronto Area. In Sanderson, F., & Bobiwash, H. The meeting place: aboriginal life in Toronto (pp. 5-24). Toronto: Native Canadian Centre of Toronto.
Heidenreich, Conrad E., & Burgar, Robert W. C., (1999). Native Settlement to 1847. In Chant, D. A., Heidenreich, C. E., & Roots, B. I. Special places: the changing ecosystems of the Toronto region (pp. 63-75). Vancouver: UBC Press.
The History of Casa Loma. (n.d.). Casa Loma. Retrieved October 3, 2011, from
Jon Johnson, Tour Guide, September 2011.…...

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