Philip Cote, MFA (Artist, Activist, Traditional Wisdom Keeper & Historian), shares the inspiration behind his new mural at Dupont & Spadina
In keeping with our traditions I wish to acknowledge that the city of Toronto is located on the traditional territory of many Indigenous peoples who over time, have occupied and made this land their home from time immemorial.
Today I will share with you a brief timeline and history of the many peoples who have had the privilege of being the keepers and stewards of Southern Ontario.
There were ancient Ice-Runners known as the
“Oh-kwa-ming-i-nini-wug of Algonquin lineage, that pre-date the current Indigenous population by some 130,000 years. We now know that the Wendat Nation, also known as Huron, first settled into Southern Ontario along the Eramosa River, just north of the present city of Toronto circa 8,000 years ago.
Also the Ancestors of the present Eastern Woodlands people of Canada were evident in this region some 13,500 years ago, at the end of the last Ice Age until those first settlers from Europe arrived 500 hundred years ago. They unknowingly brought with them diseases that were unfamiliar to this part of the world and the Indigenous peoples lacked immunity that resulted in small pox epidemics that virtually wiped out the Huron Wendat peoples along with fur trade that influenced wars between the Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee specifically the Mohawk people in early 1690s.
The land once occupied by the Wendat, Neutral and Tobacco/petun Nations was now again part of the Three Fires Confederacy of the Anishinaabe Nations territory. The Three Fires Confedercy included the Mississaugas of the New Credit who settled in the early 1700s in what is now the present day city of Toronto.
The Mississauga’s extended hospitality to all who arrived in their territory. Some say that the name Toronto originated from the Wendat language which means “where sticks stand in the water” or “fishing weir”.
In any case, the territory was a gathering place where trade and social interaction occurred, much like what is happening here today. Even while many of the First Nation peoples found the area to be a natural meeting ground, so too did those early settlers, who saw the value of the area and the access that it has to the Great Lakes. It wasn’t long before the settlers asked the Mississaugas for some land, and after much deliberation the Elders and leaders considered the request by the newcomers for a parcel of land to create a permanent settlement.
The Mississaugas agreed to the sale of a tract of land called the Toronto Purchase to the settlers on August 1st. 1805 although payment for the land wasn’t concluded until the year 2010.
As a result of the Toronto treaty, the protection and management of the land has now been passed on to the present generation of inhabitants and citizens of Toronto, who now share a covenant with the Indigenous peoples to care for this territory and a responsibility to continue the tradition of compassionate stewardship of the land so that future generations will continue to enjoy the unblemished beauty of these lands. Remembering always that we never own the land but rather borrow its use from our children.
We acknowledge the gift of a portion of the traditional territory by the Mississauga’s people of New Credit, to the citizens of Canada.
Also, in accordance with our teachings, we acknowledge and honor the many diverse cultures and people who over time have made this territory their home. We begin with a group of travellers who left their moccasin-clad footprints in the blue clay beneath the buildings here in downtown Toronto.
The moccasin footprints were uncovered by a dredging crew while doing underwater work at the foot of Bay Street, back in 1908. That trek by first peoples took place over 12,500 years ago, and as we reach back to those first Torontonians we also remember our Mother the Earth, through the seven Grandfather teachings: Wisdom, Courage, Respect, Honesty, Truth, Humility and Love.
We also honor and acknowledge the four directions: North, South, East and West. We acknowledge and honor the four elements: water, air, fire and earth. And we acknowledge and honor the four seasons: Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter. These four seasons represent the circle of Life.
The spring is for children and observation, Summer is for adolescence and listening, Fall is for adulthood and remembering and the Winter is the time of the Elders and the time for sharing.