September 30 marked the second annual Day for Truth and Reconciliation. The day “honours the children who never returned home and Survivors of residential schools, as well as their families and communities.”
To mark this solemn day, the Oshawa Museum opened our doors to our exhibit, A Carrying Place: Oshawa’s Indigenous Story. This exhibit, which opened in 2017, connects our community with their past, embraces the present Indigenous community, and builds towards a spirit of reconciliation and partnership.
We welcomed guests throughout the day, the majority of whom made a point to visit the exhibit because of the day and what it represents. We engaged with visitors with meaningful, and oftentimes the hard and heartbreaking, conversations about reconciliation and about stories told through the exhibition, such as the lives of the ancestral Wendat, the history of the Scugog Carrying Place Trail, and the present Indigenous community.
We were also proud to support a city partnership initiative with the Orange Ribbon Memorials. Bawaajigewan Aboriginal Community Circle and the City installed five locations around Oshawa “where residents are encouraged to bring and tie orange ribbons as a sign of respect to the lost Indigenous children and their families, and to support healing in Indigenous Communities across Canada.” The south location is in Lakeview Park, and we had orange ribbons available in the exhibit as well as in Guy House where guests could take a ribbon and place it at the Lakeview Park memorial, or any memorial they chose. Again, it was wonderful to see many in the community stop by, take a ribbon, and place it at the memorial.
The history of Residential Schools is long and shameful, and sadly, many Canadians were unaware of this system of cultural genocide as it wasn’t talked about. The last school closed in the 1990s – this is not a ‘long ago past.’ Conversations about Residential Schools and about Canada’s treatment of Indigenous people are hard, and they should be. Hard conversations need to happen, and we hope our museum spaces can be safe places to engage in these hard truths.
Thank you to everyone who made the Oshawa Museum part of the Day of Truth and Reconciliation, their day for recognizing our painful past and seeking knowledge so to work towards a better future of true and authentic reconciliation.
While on tour, our Visitor Hosts are often asked questions that they may not be able to answer in that moment. However, we take note of the questions and try to find the answers afterwards. Here are a few questions we’ve been asked this summer and their answers.
What is the roof of Henry House made of?
The roof at Henry House is made from cedar shingles. It was last replaced in 2013, and the lifespan of these shingles is at least 25 years (according to my Google skills). Here is a side by side comparison from 2011 and then November 2013, not long after it was replaced.
Beams of drive shed – where are they from?
The Drive Shed! The Drive Shed was a 50th anniversary project for the Oshawa Historical Society. The idea for an additional exhibition area was launched in 2007 during the 50th anniversary celebrations of the Oshawa Historical Society. The Board of Directors wished to commemorate this milestone with a permanent, tangible addition to the museum complex and the City’s lakefront property. The Drive Shed is a timber frame structure, built by students from Fleming College, Haliburton Campus. The opening for the Drive Shed was celebrated in September 2009.
What was style of the sash in the community room?
In A Carrying Place: Oshawa’s Indigenous Story, there is a sash, on loan from the Oshawa-Durham Métis Council.
The origins of the sash reflect the diversity of the Métis experience. The finger-weaving technique used to make the sash was firmly established in Eastern Woodland Indigenous Peoples Traditions. The technique created tumplines, garters and other useful household articles and items of clothing. Plant fibers were used prior to the introduction of wool. Wool and the sash, as an article of clothing, were introduced to the Eastern Woodland peoples by Europeans. The Six Nations Confederacy, Potowatami and other First Nations of the area blended the two traditions into the finger-woven sash.
The French settlers of Québec created the Assomption variation of the woven sash. The sash was a popular trade item manufactured in a cottage industry in the village of L’Assomption, Québec. The Québécois and the Métis of Western Canada were their biggest customers. Sashes were also made by local Métis artisans. Sashes of Indigenous or Métis manufacture tended to be of a softer and loose weave, frequently incorporating beads in the design.
The sash was used by the Métis as a practical item of clothing. It was decorative, warm and could be used to replace a rope to tumpline if none were available. The sash has been the most persistent element of traditional Métis dress, worn long after the capote and the Red River coat were replaced by European styles. The Métis share the sash with two other groups who also claim it as a symbol of nationhood and cultural distinction. It was worn by Eastern Woodland Indigenous Peoples as a sign of office in the 19th century. It was worn by French Canadians during the Lower Canada Rebellion in 1837. It is still considered to be an important part of traditional dress for both of these groups.
Are the three families still around today?
Yes! Every year, we get people coming into the museum and saying that they are descended from either the Henry, Robinson, or Guy families. Because Guy House was a triplex for many years before becoming the Museum’s admin building, we will also have visitors tell us that they, or someone they know, lived in Guy House in the past.
Happy New Year! Throughout 2018, we shared 72 posts articles on the Oshawa Museum Blog, showcasing so many different stories from our city’s past. It was a highlight to partner with Durham College Journalism Students in the spring who shared 8 articles about ‘The Land Where We Stand.’ This series uncovered hidden stories about the land upon which our community is built and was a feature series for the Durham College Newspaper, The Chronicle.
We’re planning our new and dynamic posts for 2019, but to start the year, let’s look back at our top 5 posts of 2018
One of the common questions asked (besides if the Oshawa Museum is haunted!) is what does the word ‘Oshawa’ mean? We used our popular ‘Street Name Stories’ series to help answer this question. The current alignment of Oshawa Boulevard is a result of consolidating three consecutive streets, and we also highlighted how this road evolved through the years and what happened to Oshawa’s Yonge Street and St. Julien Street.
It was dubbed Oshawa’s most heavily photographed event; on April 22, 1918, a plane crashed into the northwest corner of King and Simcoe. To mark the 100th anniversary of this event, we looked at how this was covered in the media and shared a few amazing photographs from our collection!
Two of our top five posts were looking at the stories behind Oshawa street names. In 2017, we profiled streets that contributed to building our nation; this year, we used a number of posts to examine the history of Oshawa’s many villages and hamlets, including the former Harmony Village, through which Harmony Road traverses.
In honour of Indigenous Month, which takes place in June, Melissa Cole, OM Curator, highlighted at an interactive map that is found in our exhibition: A Carrying Place: Oshawa’s Indigenous Story. This map depicts the approximate location of the Scugog Carrying Place trail, and Melissa explains how this map was carefully created.
In advance of the opening of our 2018 feature exhibit Community Health in the 20th Century: An Oshawa Perspective, Melissa looked at the history of Llewellyn Hall, its inhabitants through the years, and its brief history as a Maternity Home!
These were our top 5 posts written in 2018; the top viewed post for the year was actually written a few years ago, Keeping Warm: The Ways The Victorians Did! Perhaps our readers have an interest in vintage bedwarmers, or perhaps some are looking for inspiration for keeping warm during the cold Canadian winter months!
Thank you all for reading, and we’ll see you all in 2019!
“Worn smooth like a Buffalo run, caused by the action of countless feet for many generations, many years before white men entered this part of Canada.”
– Samuel Pedlar Manuscript, Frame # 326
In honour of Indigenous Month we are taking a look at an interactive map that is found in our exhibition: A Carrying Place: Oshawa’s Indigenous Story.
From the earliest days the First Nations used pathways and “carrying places,” or portages for hunting and trading. Scugog Carrying Place is one of several routes and carrying places that connected the interior of the Province to Lake Ontario.
This area of Oshawa was an important carrying route for First Nations. The Oshawa Creek was much larger than it is today and groups would congregate here every spring and fall to fish.
Let’s take a look at the map featured in our exhibit. Numerous maps were used to create this map. We wanted to ensure that we were placing the carrying place trail fairly accurately; it is difficult to be exact since there are very few maps which note its location. We used the latest Google map of the area, a topographic map, and a map from 1795 called ‘C31 Whitby Township Plan’ created by Augustus Jones and William Chewett, who were early surveyors of the township. Using these three maps for reference and overlaying them against each other, while noting the changing shoreline along Lake Ontario over the years, we were able to place this early portage route that originally ran through the forest and connected Lake Ontario with Lakes Scugog and Simcoe and Kawartha Lakes. Many have suggested that is basically follows today’s Simcoe Street.
In an interview with Dave Mowat, Consultant, Membership and Land Supervisor at Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation, he stated, “there is the Old Scugog Carrying Place Route that came down from the lakeshore at Oshawa made its way up to Lake Scugog here and eventually to Georgian Bay. If you can think of how the land was utilized before we had the 401 before we had all the highways and byways when you think about how the land was utilized some of our original roads are on old portage trails and carrying places, Simcoe Street relatively follows the original Scugog Carrying Place.”
The trail can best be described as an inverted “Y”. From Lake Ontario, one branch went northward by Harmony Creek and the other by the Oshawa Creek. Canoes would have been used as far up the creek as they could go before portaging. The two footpaths converged near the present Columbus and then united to cross to the location of present day Port Perry.
There are numerous archaeological sites found along the carrying place. Many of these sites are located along the eastern branch of the Scugog Carrying Place. Two of these sites are located in Oshawa. Grandview Site, a fifteenth century ancestral Wendat (Huron) village, was located within several hundred yards of the eastern branch of Scugog Carrying Place along Harmony Creek. MacLeod Site was also a fifteenth century ancestral Wendat (Huron) village that was located further west from Grandview Site. These villages relocated and migrated north. There were numerous other sites found along the trail outside of Oshawa. The oldest sites dating between 1380 and 1450 CE are found at the Grandview and MacLeod Sites. The ancestral Wendat vacated the area around the Scugog Carrying Place by the end of the sixteenth century and migrated north into Huron-Wendat territory. This trail most likely fell into disuse until the Mississauga came to Lake Scugog and Lake Ontario. The Mississaugas used the trail at some point after 1700 and it was in use in 1795 when the first survey was carried out by Augustus Jones.
Let’s take a look at the specific areas noted on this map. There is the actual Scugog Carrying Place route which generally followed what is now Simcoe Street in Oshawa and Port Perry and connected Lake Scugog and Simcoe, with the Kawartha Lakes and Lake Ontario.
MacLead and Grandview Sites are highlighted on this map to give our visitors an indication of how close these sites were to this trail. Also noted on this map is the possible location of Benjamin Wilson’s homestead that as can be seen from this map is now located somewhere in the lake away from the current Lake Ontario shoreline – this is due to the fact that the shoreline has receded over the years. The last item highlighted on this map is an Ossuary in Uxbridge, that dates to 1490 C.E. consisted of secondary burials. (Every so many years the first burials were dug up and reburied in a communal burial plot, a ceremony and feast would have been held. The Wendat believe there are two souls with a person, one goes with the person in the ground and the other goes to the Creator. So every one of the bodies that is laid to rest in this burial have a soul.) This ossuary was most likely related to the Grandview Population.
If you wish to see this map in person and discover more about our local Indigenous story here in Oshawa, be sure to visit us at the Oshawa Museum.
The Archaeological History of the Wendat to A.D. 1651: An Overview. Ronald F. Williamson, 2014
Scugog Carrying Place: A Frontier Pathway. Grant Karcich, 2013
Forgotten Pathways of the Trent. Lesley Frost, 1973
Interview, Dave Mowat, Consultant, Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation. May 24, 2017