Street Name Stories: Building a Nation Pt. I, The Indigenous People

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

With the plethora of 150 commemorations taking place this year, I thought I could use my usual Street Name Stories blog series to throw another hat in the ring.  Looking at a map of Oshawa, there are a number of streets whose names are commonplace in the history of Canada.  Over the next five Street Name Stories Post, I will look at street(s) whose namesakes helped contribute to the growth of Canada.

In telling this story, we’ll start at the beginning, before European contact.

The place we know as Canada has been inhabited by people for thousands of years. There is not one narrative to tell the story, as different regions were settled by different diverse and distinct groups, each with their own names, languages, traditions and cultures.  In the 16th and 17th century, Europeans began their exploration and settlement of the ‘New World;’ the fishing banks off the coast of Newfoundland were of great interest to these explorers, and relations were established with the First Nations of the Atlantic.  The British and French not long after established settlements such as New France and the 13 Colonies; alliances and partnerships with the First Nations were critical for survival.  As the years continued, settlements grew, and tensions between the French and English came to a head in the mid 1750s, resulting in the fall of New France, the Treaty of Paris and the Royal Proclamation of 1763.

The Royal Proclamation of 1763 is seen as an important landmark moment for relations between First Nations and Europeans.  As described by Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada in First Nations in Canada:

The original intent of the Royal Proclamation was to slow the uncontrolled western expansion of the colonies and tightly control the relationship between First Nations and colonists. But crucially, the Proclamation also became the first public recognition of First Nations rights to lands and title.

The Royal Proclamation can also be seen as one of the first of many pieces of legislation that would dictate Indigenous rights, as many treaties and Acts would be passed as the years went on.  What also would follow was a systematic attempt to decimate Aboriginal cultures, languages, and traditions with the creation of Residential Schools, a horribly ugly chapter in our nation’s history; treaties were ignored and rights overlooked.  In the last few decades, an importance has been placed on trying to make amends for what took place; the recent release of the Truth and Reconciliation Report has brought new attention and importance to these issues.

The 2011 census reported that Aboriginal peoples in Canada (First Nations, Inuit, and Métis) totaled 1,400,685 people, or 4.3% of the national population.

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Archaeological artefacts recovered from the Grandview excavation, 1992.

Looking locally, we have artefacts in our collection which tells us that ancestral Wendat lived in Oshawa from 1400-1470CE.  Currently undergoing an expansion, we will open our new First Nations Gallery in the summer of 2017, entitled A Carrying Place: Oshawa’s Indigenous Story.

Around Taunton and Simcoe, you can find streets named after Indigenous groups or famous individuals, such as Iroquois (Haudenosaunee), Seneca, Brant (after Joseph Brant) and Sarcee (Tsuut’ina [Tsuu T’ina]).

The name Oshawa is also an Aboriginal word, which translates to: “that point at the crossing of the stream where the canoe was exchanged for the trail.”

 


I do not claim to be an expert in Canada’s Indigenous History, but I would highly recommend reading further about this topic.  Here are a few resources I consulted when preparing this post

Canadian Museum of History’s First Peoples of Canada virtual exhibit
http://www.historymuseum.ca/cmc/exhibitions/aborig/fp/fpint01e.shtml

Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, First Nations in Canada e-book
https://www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/eng/1307460755710/1307460872523

Truth and Reconsiliation Report
http://www.trc.ca/websites/trcinstitution/index.php?p=890 

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Where The Streets Get Their Name – Ontario Street

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

In case you haven’t heard, 2017 is a big milestone year for Canada, as this year marks the 150th anniversary of the signing of the British North America Act, or to put it very simply, it’s Canada’s 150th birthday. The BNA Act (today known as the Constitution Act) created the Dominion of Canada which today has grown to ten provinces and three territories.  In 1867, our modest country was comprised of only four provinces: Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia.

Our province is also celebrating its 150th anniversary this year. Before officially becoming named the Province of Ontario in 1867, Quebec and Ontario were united as the Province of Canada, comprised of Canada West (today Ontario) and Canada East (Quebec).

Why am I rehashing a Canadian History 101 course in this post? Today, we’re looking at the story behind Ontario Street, a street found in the heart of our downtown core.

The name Ontario and its usage is much older than the province itself.  Let’s go back to pre-historical times, pre-history meaning the period of time before written records. Before European arrival, the Indigenous people called this land home for thousands of years.  Prior to 1700, the area was inhabited by the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) First Nations, and their name for the lake they lived by was skanadario, meaning ‘beautiful water.’  Another possible root for the word may be from the Wendat (Huron) word Ontarí:io, meaning ‘great lake.’  When the Province of Ontario was created in 1867, it was named after Lake Ontario.

Usage of the name Ontario in this area pre-dates Confederation.  The County of Ontario was created in 1852 and it was the ‘upper-tier municipality’ in which Oshawa was located.  It was in existence until the mid-1970s when county lines were redrawn and the Regional Municipality of Durham was created.  The County of Ontario was comprised of the following townships:

  • Brock, with communities including Cannington, Vroomanton, Pinedale, Sunderland, Wick.
  • Mara, community centres were: Gamebridge, Brechin, Atherley, Udney and Rathburn.
  • Pickering; Community centres: Pickering, Dunbarton, Green River, Balsam, Claremont, Brougham, Altona.
  • Rama; Community centres: Floral Park, Longford Mills, Cooper’s Falls, Washago.
  • Reach; Community centres: Port Perry, Manchester, Saintfield, Utica.
  • Scott, whose communities included Zephyr, Sandford, Leaskdale, Udora.
  • Thorah, community centers: Beaverton.
  • Uxbridge; Community Centres: Uxbridge, Goodwood.
  • Whitby and East Whitby; Community centres: Oshawa, Whitby, Brooklin, Ashburn and Myrtle.
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Detail of Tackabury Map showing Ontario County, on display in Henry House.

On display in Henry House is a map from 1862.  I’ll often encourage visitors to find Oshawa on this map, and instinctively, they start looking within the limits marked as Durham, because that’s where we are today.  Instead, we can be found on the eastern edge of the County of Ontario. For several reasons, that map may be one of my favourite artifacts in the Museum, but I digress.

To discover the history of Oshawa’s Ontario Street, we turn to documents in our archival holdings, like maps and directories.  The earliest such document in the archival holdings is the 1869-70 County of Ontario Directory, and it lists a number of people who made their home on Ontario Street.  It is safe to say that this street is older than 1869, but how much older is hard to say without the historical evidence.

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Corner of King and Ontario Streets in 1920 (left) and 1995 (right)

Digging Up The Past – Archaeology Day 2016

This post was originally shared last year, but we thought it was worth sharing again for Archaeology Day 2016!

Archaeology is an important part of the interpretation at the Oshawa Museum.  Our Grandview Gallery in Robinson House helps tell the story of the Lake Ontario Iroquois, a group of First Nations who called this area home over 500 years ago. For far too long, the history of Oshawa began with Benjamin Wilson, an American who settled here in 1790 with his family, and so on and so forth.  By saying our history begins with Wilson, we are completely omitting the Lake Ontario Iroquois, who were settled with 10-15 longhouses, who hunted, who fished, and who farmed for a period of over 70 years.  Archaeology and the evidence it has given us helps us challenge the ‘traditional story,’ and we do so on every tour, through our interpretation and through the artifacts we have on display that were discovered during the excavation of the Grandview site in 1992.

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Inside the Grandview Discovery Gallery

Fun fact: there were over 11,000 artifacts unearthed during that salvage dig excavation, and all 11,000 are part of our collection at the Oshawa Museum.  Not all 11,000 are on display of course, but you can view exceptional examples when you visit!

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Tools on display from the Grandview Archaeological excavation

There were two Aboriginal villages discovered through archaeological excavations; theMacLeod Site at Rossland and Thornton was discovered in the late 1960s, and the Grandview Site, around Grandview and Taunton, was discovered in 1992.  Both sites provide valuable information about the lives of the Lake Ontario Iroquois and have helped us at the Oshawa Museum shift how we tell the history of our City.

When people think about archaeology, ancient ruins, Egypt, Greece, Maya, or early First Nation settlements is what frequently comes to mind.  At the Oshawa Museum, we are fortunate to have two collections from late-historic archaeological sites: the Farewell Cemetery Collection and the Henry House Collection.  These two sites date to the mid to late 1800s and they provide information about Victorian lives and culture. Artifacts from the Henry House excavation will be on display in Henry House.

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Coffin handle found during the removal and excavation of the Farewell Cemetery

Curator Melissa Cole gives information on the Farewell Cemetery excavation in her June 2015 Podcast.

Archaeology is a fascinating field, and Archaeology Day is an event where we get to celebrate and showcase the amazing history that has been unearthed here in Oshawa!


Archaeology Day 2016 is happening on October 15 from 12-3pm.  Proud partners for this year’s event are Trent University Durham and Scugog Shores Museum who will be joining us with interactive displays, engaging activities, lectures, and sharing in their knowledge of and passion for the field of Archaeology.

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We ‘Dig’ History! Archaeology Day at the OCM

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

For a third year, the Oshawa Museum is proud to host International Archaeology Day on October 17!  With fun for the whole family planned, visit us and see for yourself why this event has quickly become a favourite amongst Oshawa Museum staff!

Archaeology is an important part of the interpretation at the Oshawa Community Museum.  Our Grandview Gallery in Robinson House helps tell the story of the Lake Ontario Iroquois, a group of First Nations who called this area home over 500 years ago. For far too long, the history of Oshawa began with Benjamin Wilson, an American who settled here in 1790 with his family, and so on and so forth.  By saying our history begins with Wilson, we are completely omitting the Lake Ontario Iroquois, who were settled with 10-15 longhouses, who hunted, who fished, and who farmed for a period of over 70 years.  Archaeology and the evidence it has given us helps us challenge the ‘traditional story,’ and we do so on every tour, through our interpretation and through the artifacts we have on display that were discovered during the excavation of the Grandview site in 1992.

Inside the Grandview Discovery Gallery

Inside the Grandview Discovery Gallery

Fun fact: there were over 11,000 artifacts unearthed during that salvage dig excavation, and all 11,000 are part of our collection at the Oshawa Museum.  Not all 11,000 are on display of course, but you can view exceptional examples when you visit!

Tools on display from the Grandview Archaeological excavation

Tools on display from the Grandview Archaeological excavation

There were two Aboriginal villages discovered through archaeological excavations; the MacLeod Site at Rossland and Thornton was discovered in the late 1960s, and the Grandview Site, around Grandview and Taunton, was discovered in 1992.  Both sites provide valuable information about the lives of the Lake Ontario Iroquois and have helped us at the Oshawa Museum shift how we tell the history of our City.

When people think about archaeology, ancient ruins, Egypt, Greece, Maya, or early First Nation settlements is what frequently comes to mind.  At the Oshawa Museum, we are fortunate to have two collections from late-historic archaeological sites: the Farewell Cemetery Collection and the Henry House Collection.  These two sites date to the mid to late 1800s and they provide information about Victorian lives and culture.

Coffin handle found during the removal and excavation of the Farewell Cemetery

Coffin handle found during the removal and excavation of the Farewell Cemetery

The Farewell Cemetery Collection is on display in conjunction with our latest exhibit, Mourning After: The Victorian Celebration of Death, and included in the display are a selection of coffin jewelry, coffin hardware (like handles), as well as nameplates and viewing glasses.  Curator Melissa Cole gives information on why the excavation took place and about the artifacts in her June 2015 Podcast.

The Farewell Cemetery excavation was performed by the Toronto based firm, Archaeological Services Inc., and they will be joining us for Archaeology Day, bringing along artifacts discovered locally, as well as delivering a talk on the Don Jail excavation.

Dr. Helen Haines (centre) and students from Trent Durham from the latest Henry House excavation

Dr. Helen Haines (centre) and students from Trent Durham from the latest Henry House excavation

Another proud Archaeology Day partner is Trent University Durham, who have partnered with us on this event from its inception.  This year, Dr. Helen Haines and Trent students will discuss the two archaeological digs that have happened here at the Museum.  In 2011 and again this past summer, the heritage gardens of Henry House have been investigated, and the findings have helped us re-evaluate what we know about the Henry family, strengthening our understanding on how they lived.  Artifacts that were discovered in 2011 will be on display, and Dr. Haines will deliver a talk on the two excavations.

Archaeology is a fascinating field, and Archaeology Day is an event where we get to celebrate and showcase the amazing history that has been unearthed here in Oshawa!  Please join us on October 17 for International Archaeology Day!

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