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Wilfrid Laurier University Leaf
December 7, 2016
Canadian Excellence

Week 5

Notes following the mid-term test

The first section of the course up to the early mid-term, was used to highlight the basic directions and aspirations of the course, with some attention to how concepts like region, landscape, and connection are used to frame the course. This is something we delve into in more depth via your presentations and reports for the tutorial part of the course.

The special lecture by Dr. Gary Warrick served to bring out some of the ‘story’ around early human presence and context for the Grand River watershed region.


Dr. Warrick helped to start bringing ‘people into this regional landscape. And his notes help set the kind of historical and spatial context within which the contemporary native populations on the Six Nations and New Credit Reserves represent a significant regional cultural character in the landscape of the watershed. Keep in mind, that the historic presence of the Neutrals or Attawandaron (an Iroquoian peoples) and then the 6-Nations, prior to European arrival in this area, has an important bearing on the contemporary conflicts that we see in places like Caledonia [Kanonhstaton is the name given to this ‘disputed’ land area by the Six Nations] which is located in the lower portion of the GR region. It also begins to tie together some sense of the changes over time of various peoples in this region, and to see that different cultures perceive the landscape in diverse ways.

NOTE: see Dr. Warrick’s chapter in the Reader – use that reading to build on the ideas he shared in class

The notes below are a composite of the lecture by Dr. Warrick and some related ideas I inserted to fill it out.

He began with some thoughts on how the oral traditions and creation-stories of the First Peoples (e.g. SkyWoman and Turtle Island) are part of this cultural past and presence, with some emphasis on the matrilineal and matri-local orientation of these cultures (women-oriented decision-making and authority)

à various groups of peoples inhabited this ‘region’ post-Wisconsin ice-age: paleo, archaic, and ‘woodland’ peoples [all hunting and gathering] during the last 9000 yrs in this area – maybe 200 people in all of watershed at any one time – more details in Reader paper

Advent of maize agriculture:
à signalled a fairly stable “Iroquoian way of life”: 500 a.d. to 1700 – continuity over long period of the flood plain of the lower basin – 100s of different locations of settlements over time: good soils from proximity to river and annual floods which deposit fertile materials

1500 b.p. – before present (500 a.d.) – Cayuga area: ‘Princess Point People’ and corn agriculture
“maize” [zea mays] – species adapted to northern regions as it moved up from southern U.S. region over time – evidence of its use, esp. w/ first location near what we call Cootes Paradise now in Hamilton (the original Princess Pt.)

à last 1000 yrs. some initial ‘swidden’, slash & burn agric., which then extended into ‘upland forested’ areas
à clusters of agricultural settlements/village sites moved every 25-40 years or so within the floodplain up & down the river – corn plots themselves were moved every 8-12 years or so) – mostly in lower stretch of the Grand [clusters at Cayuga] – a ‘Carolinian-based’ habitation -- nuts, good soils, animals for various needs, temperate climate

à showed map of S. Ontario & many small and larger areas where maize agricultural activities and different Iroquoian peoples settlement and hunting/gathering grounds were located historically: this agricultural shift and its presence in this GR region is internationally well-known and really important part of the history of aboriginal activities in N. America (Turtle Island) – the ‘three sisters’ – corn, beans, squash complementary agricultural system is important cultural contribution

à Iroquoian Longhouse and settlement design – his maps were useful for gaining sense of layout & proximity to forest, river, and cultivated plots:
- pallisade of vertical logs creating a wall around village
- fields often located off to one side of village
- other side of village kept in forest for foraging for berries, animals, nuts, etc. – Carolinian zone very diverse and rich ecosystem

* tobacco cultivated perhaps around 500 yrs ago: smoking, ceremonial/sacred needs (pretty strong stuff he noted)
Dr. Warrick has talked to me about Iroquoian culture being ‘in harmony’ or ‘sustainable’ with their environment – fairly stable population numbers, quite knowledgeable and care-taking of their natural world – not taking too much, and having minimal impact – only real evidence for archaeologists are bones, stone tools, some pottery

- some notes he made re: the significant and unique matrilineal cultural and political character of the Iroquoian peoples – very women-focused in terms of living arrangements, and decision-making structures; and how healthy the native populations were prior to European presence

‘Neutrals’ (Attiwandaron) – named by French because these people were not hostile to the Huron to the north nor the Seneca to the south à comprised of about 9 nations at the time of Euro-contact – perhaps 20,000 or so people

Then there were the 5 Iroquoian nations south of St. Lawrence and distributed in linear pattern under Lake Ontario (something we have noted about in class recently)
Mohawks – ‘eastern gatekeepers’
Oneida – fire-keepers (in the ‘middle of the long-house’)
Seneca – ‘western gate-keepers’
[Tuscarora came later and joined the Confederacy to make the 6-Nations when ousted by the Brits from their native N. Carolina area – around 1722]

Also, Dr. Warrick made brief comments about how large numbers of native peoples died due to exposure to European diseases – often 65%-70% loss of native peoples from this contact [what is called an isolated gene pool for 12,000 years or so]

à example: 5 year period between 1635 and 1640 or so, Native population in Iroquoian territory went from 100,000 to 30,000 population – devastating, as whole villages were wiped out – and this decline often happened in advance of Europeans actually entering these territories in any significant way – simple initial contact at east-coast communities with newcomers (often children) by native people, meant that they brought the contagion with them back to their own villages – and it spread very quickly… mumps, measles, small-pox, diptheria, etc.

Made for quite a different landscape: depopulated and demoralized Iroquoian culture after this period
1650 – many Iroquoian settlements in N. Eastern America were gone – a “widowed landscape” – villages and no people is often what newly-arriving Europeans found as they moved inland

Grand River area? – basically devoid of people from 1651 through to 1784 – people moving through but no real permanent settlements until the 6 Nations moved in here on their move up from the U.S. to their new land grant
à Haldimand Grant/Tract or Proclamation – sort of a reconnection with Attawandaron (or ‘Neutrals’) who in many ways were their ancestral peoples: Six Nations in coming up to settle, sort of “mapped-onto” the original native settlement areas along the lower part of the GR region – it just made sense

U.S. Revolutionary War has big impact on the 6 Nations as the alliance of Mohawk, Seneca, Onondaga, Tuscarora and Cayuga with the Brits in the 1770s, means that they were on the wrong side when the U.S. wins the war in 1776… [Oneida largely stayed with the Americans]

1783-1784 – Joseph Brant [Leader of the 6 Nations and quite a controversial and enigmatic figure] is able to negotiate from Governor Haldimand a good chunk of land along the GR for his people – 6 mile swath all along both sides of the GR from mouth to source: approx. 675,000 acres [though because the land had only been surveyed to up around Fergus, there is some dispute about the extent of this land-grant]

à strong presence around Brantford, and settlements sort of ‘picked up’ where the corn-culture had left off a couple of hundred years ago… late 1700s – Mohawk village arises in ‘Brant’s Ford’ area at the river [where the Mohawk Chapel is located]

  • good for maize agric.
  • though settled in log-cabins, not longhouses like previously
  • similar subsistence economy based on what natural world provided like nuts, fish (lots of variety), geese, squirrels, turkeys, deer, wildcat, and then all of the vegetables that they grew like corn, beans, squash, etc.
  • river was critical to their livelihoods & way of life – farms/settlements located on the flood-plains (alluvial deposits) in the crooks and turns of the river in the lower portion of the Grand basin -- cabins on higher side of river, agric plots on flood-plain part of river

à time of kind of ‘hybridity’ of cultures, as Iroquoian (Haudenosaunee) people adopt new European ways of various sorts, but mixed with their own – homes, clothes, tools, foods, etc.

à Davisville Mississaugua settlements were important archaeological work in demonstrating presence of aboriginal settlement close to the GR, and less than 200 years ago [I have a DVD of this work that I will try and show segments of in class in the next month or so]

Early 1800s, perhaps 2000 native pop of Six Nations had moved up from ancestral territories in US

Original Haldimand land grant (1784) in the basin ceded to the Six-Nations, and Joseph Brant’s role in this. ‘6 miles on either side of Grand to the source’ beginning at Lake Erie, and extending in that proportion to the head of said river, which them and posterity are to enjoy forever”

Film on Mennonite movement up to Grand River basin area:


Questions which were useful to consider during your note-taking and watching of the video:

1. get sense of early Mennonite presence here, relative to now

2. imagine this journey given the transportation of the time

3. note land-allocation issues & role of land-speculators

4. note cultural tolerance of Mennonites – how tied to their own story

5. note methods used by researchers to tell these stories

à the movements of a cultural (linguistic and religious group called Mennonites up into the watershed area in the early 1800s from their colonies in Lancaster County Pennsylvania (and who moved there under repressive circumstances from their earlier European home regions of Switzerland, Germany, etc.)

This video (heart-wrenching harmonica background not-with-standing) depicted the unique journey and settlement issues faced by the Mennonites as new settlers in the watershed, while also providing a look at some of the common issues faced by most new settlers in the Grand River Basin. Coming from a culture with a strong commitment to its group helped make the Mennonite saga and settlement a successful one, and in some ways different than the solitary family of Scots or Germans who might have had to do this on their own. But it is still a story which has some essential features shared by others who made the same pioneer venture. It is also telling of the contemporary landscapes especially in the Waterloo-Paris or Conestogo areas where this cultural group’s impacts are still very visible, and their heritage contributions to the region are well-known and recognized.

[for a short piece on Mennonite heritage, check this website: -- Published in SPARETIME magazine, Vol. 6, Issues 8, 9, 10, 1986

Basic narration of this story, told of many things:

· Early persecution and marginalization in Europe in 1600s – by Catholic and Reformer authorities for instance (images of cells in Swiss tower): Note: fellow named Menno Simons in 1500s was the original leader in the creation of the Mennonite religion

· Development of Lancaster Pennsylvania Mennonite settlements (and in many other places/colonies in the world at the same time), and their growth and eventual need to expand and find more farms for their people

· Story of seeking land in ‘Upper Canada’, and of the dealings with various land-speculators (Richard Beasley as example), the cash involved or needed to make this happen ) and how uncommon it was to have this kind of real money raised or available to make this kind of transaction) – this migration occurrence seen as both a material and a spiritual move

· Early 1800s journey up to this new land was an epic event (did these Pacifist Mennonites actually carry guns in their Conestogo wagons…!?), bringing with them their seed, tools, etc.

· Purchase of Beasley Tract (90,000 acres or so) by the newly formed ‘German Company’ (Mennonite shareholders I think they could be called) had lots of problems around real and legitimate title (a serious one to this day is the contention that Captain (not Chief) Joseph Brant did not have the authority to sell Block # 2 to Beasley in the first place) – various issues with Mortgage title legitimacy of ‘deeds’, the ‘all-or-none’ theme of the land purchase, etc.

· Names like Sam Bricker, Benjamin Eby, Joseph Snider, Webers, Brubacher, and Erb families

· Narrator often positioned himself on some current busy street in Kitchener, telling us of how this was the original rough trail to the Snider house for example

· Notes on various historians who helped to patch this story together (Elizabeth Bloomfield; Lorna Bergey; John Ruth; etc.)

· Some notes on the splitting (peacefully) into separate Mennonite ‘meeting-house’ factions (17 in total I think was mentioned) who interpreted the bible differently, as part of the ‘democratic’ development of the Mennonite cultural presence in the K-W area

· Some notes on key figures in Mennonite culture who were teachers and educators, and those who were more entrepreneurial in spirit – like the Erb family

· A woman took us through some version of the regular weekly chores associated with the domestic side of a Mennonite family

· Also some thought given to how Mennonites were careful to welcome and respect difference regarding newer migrants to this area in the coming years, as a means to ensure that they too were respected and welcomed

· DVD took us through some examples of current heritage designations of original and early homesteads (barns and houses for instance) into historic sites and museums, etc.; and of some of the original Mennonite family homes, and the development of connection to the universities in Waterloo – Conrad Grebel College for instance and its Mennonite archives, and the presence of the original Brubacher house on the grounds of the University of Waterloo