Living into Right Relations

We acknowledge the history, spirituality, culture, and stewardship of the land of the Indigenous people of this region, most recently the Mississaugas of the New Credit who are Anishinaabe and Ojibwe people. We seek to live in respect, peace, and right relations as we live, work, and worship on traditional territory.We are mindful of broken covenants and the need to strive to make right with all our relations. This section of our website is a reflection of our commitment to this pledge.

Etobicoke’s Indigenous History

12,000 Years Ago

As people of faith we are called to reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18-19). 
Learning more about the history of the First Peoples in this region is a way to begin.

These lands that Europeans thought they had “discovered” 500 years ago...
...were actually home to Indigenous peoples for over 12,000 years before the first European contact. Current archeological evidence indicates that the area we now know as Toronto was inhabited by Indigenous peoples at least 12,000 years ago.  Nomadic hunters moved into this area as the glaciers retreated and they tracked caribou and mammoths and other game.  Archeological sites and construction excavations have revealed artifacts and skeletal remains along Davenport Road, on Weston Road, near the former stockyards on St. Clair Avenue, and other locales.  Closer to our church home, artifacts have been found along the Humber River, Mimico Creek (adjacent to the church), and the Etobicoke Creek.

Source:  Toronto: A Short Illustrated History of Its First 12,000 Years
Ronald F. Williamson, ed.  2008.

Etobicoke’s Indigenous History

Mimico Creek

Northern Turtle Island (what we know as Canada) has been the home to Indigenous people for at least 12,000 years. The first humans to stand on the banks of Mimico Creek lived a nomadic lifestyle of hunting, fishing, and foraging. Then about 1,300 years ago corn was introduced here from further south, followed by beans, squash, sunflowers, and tobacco. 

First Nations people started to practise horticulture, i.e. growing food on a small scale for local consumption.  This sustainable method ensured long-term soil fertility while they continued to hunt, fish and forage in traditional ways. 

A succession of First Nations in Southern Ontario practised horticulture: the Wendat-Hurons and Pétuns until the 1640s; then the Senecas of the Iroquois Five Nations Confederacy who moved here from New York state.  The Iroquois had a village, Teiaiagon, on Baby Point on the Humber River and were well known for planting the “three sisters” of corn, beans and squash.

After 1700 C.E., this area fell under the control of the Mississauga First Nation, an Anishinaabe Ojibwe group from the Mississagi River area on the north shore of Lake Huron.  They continued their mobile lifestyle of fishing, hunting and gathering, but also became maize horticulturalists. 

Source:  Getting to Know Mimico Creek.  Denise Harris, Etobicoke Historical Society. 2015.

Etobicoke’s Indigenous History

The Introduction of Horticulture

The introduction of horticulture, i.e., the cultivation of food, led to significant changes in the Indigenous society. Horticulture required established communities which strengthened family ties.  It also led to a major change in the kinship system of the people in this area:  families began to trace their descent through the mother not the father.  This change influenced the entire social structure.

As villages grew, social and political organization developed.  Over time strong networks of clans developed and confederacies of related clans and nations with their dependence on negotiation and diplomacy emerged. Sophisticated economic and legal structures evolved. Rituals such as feasting, spiritual practices, and burial rites gained greater importance. Local archeological sites have unearthed artifacts made of copper from northern Ontario and articles created from shells only found around the Gulf of Mexico indicating a very widespread trade network. The first European explorers and traders of the 1600s encountered a well-developed society.

Source:  Toronto: A Short Illustrated History of Its First 12,000 Years
Ronald F. Williamson, ed.  2008.

Etobicoke’s Indigenous History

The Seneca Nation

Throughout the 1600s the area we know as Toronto was inhabited by the Seneca nation, part of the Five Nations Iroquois Confederacy. This alliance established a series of settlements in southern Ontario at important locations along trade routes connecting Lake Ontario with resources further north. A key Seneca settlement was Teiaiagon (now Baby Point) on the east shore of the Humber River. Early French missionaries, explorers, and traders developed important social and trade relationships with the Seneca. 

Burial sites unearthed at this early settlement in the last decade have revealed artifacts etched with significant Aboriginal religious symbols, pots and bowls, jewelry and furs – all objects buried with the bodies to accompany them to the next world.  Municipal and provincial laws now protect these sites that are so significant to our Indigenous sisters and brothers and that are beginning to be recognized as an important part of the history of all of us who live on this land.

Source:  Toronto: A Short Illustrated History of Its First 12,000 Years
Ronald F. Williamson, ed.  2008.

Etobicoke’s Indigenous History

The Mississaugas

In the early 1700s, the Iroquois settlements in what we know as southern Ontario ended as these people moved into the Ohio area. The land was soon taken up by Anishinaabe Ojibwe people. These Algonkian-speaking people came to be known to Europeans as the Mississaugas. One of their first settlements was near the former Seneca community at Baby Point on the Humber River.

“These newcomers … told the Iroquois in the winter of 1699-1700 that they intended to ‘plant a tree of peace and open a path for all people.’”1 Among their goals the Mississaugas hoped to form an alliance with the Iroquois to share hunting territories as well as to link with British trading posts in what is now upper New York.

Early relationships with Europeans were seen to be on a nation-to-nation basis by the Mississaugas and other First Nations. This view underpinned The Royal Proclamation of 1763.  “In the Royal Proclamation, ownership over North America is issued to King George [III]. However, the Royal Proclamation explicitly states that
Aboriginal title has existed and continues to exist, and that all land would be considered Aboriginal land until ceded by treaty. The Proclamation forbade settlers from claiming land from the Aboriginal occupants, unless it has been first bought by the Crown and then sold to the settlers. The Royal Proclamation further sets out that only the Crown can buy land from First Nations.”2 This fundamental issue of Indigenous title to unceded lands was recently confirmed by the Supreme Court of Canada.

Sources: 1. Toronto: A Short Illustrated History of Its First 12,000 Years
Ronald F. Williamson, ed.  2008.
2. UBC website:

Etobicoke’s Indigenous History

The Toronto Purchase

The Mississaugas hoped to establish peaceful trading links with Europeans. After 1763, European “control” of North America transferred from France to Britain and settlement by the British became a higher priority. Relations between the British and the Mississaugas were fraught with trouble largely because of exploitation by both traders and British officials. 

However, during the American Revolution many First Nations’ warriors, including the Mississaugas, shored up the loyalist cause. The influx of loyalist settlement after the war encouraged the British Crown to purchase this area from the Mississaugas.  For their part, the Mississaugas were willing to sell because settlement had already destroyed game and fishing sources. They also hoped to maintain their friendship with the British, trusting that their interests would be respected in the changing landscape. 

The Toronto Purchase was signed on September 23, 1787, giving the Mississaugas £1,700 in cash and goods.  However, the boundaries were ill-defined and were not confirmed till 1805 (Crown Treaty 13). Dispute continued until a settlement was reached in 2010 with the Canadian government. During the intervening period, European settlement continued to push the Mississaugas to the Credit River and then beyond.  Today the Mississaugas of the New Credit retain a small territory adjacent to the Six Nations territory south of Brantford, Ontario.

Source:  Toronto: A Short Illustrated History of Its First 12,000 Years
Ronald F. Williamson, ed.  2008.

Native Leaders of Canada

Many Indigenous leaders have distinguished themselves in the history of Canada since first European contact.  Meet some of the current leaders.

Rosemarie Kuptana, Inuk

Rosemarie Kuptana is a former president of the Inuit Tapirisat of Canada.  She became involved in Inuit organizations around 1975 in discussions between Inuit and the Government of Canada regarding Inuit land rights.  In 1979, she joined the Northern Service Branch of the CBC, and subsequently joined the Inuit Broadcasting Corporation as a Production Co-ordinator and as President from 1983-1988.  

From 1986 to 1989, she was the Canadian Vice-president for the Inuit Circumpolar Conference. From 1991 to 1996, Kuptana served as President of the Inuit Tapirisat of Canada where she led negotiations seeking recognition of the inherent right of self-government of indigenous peoples.  In 1995-1996, she was President of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference and helped establish the Arctic Council.  

Kuptana has received many awards for her service in the protection of Inuit culture and Inuit rights: the Order of Canada, the Governor General’s Confederation Medal, the 1994 National Aboriginal Achievement Award, and honourary doctorates from Trent and York Universities. (Source:  Native Leaders of Canada.

John Kim Bell, Mohawk

John Kim Bell is a Mohawk artist and promoter of Native culture and achievement.  He was born on the Kahnawake Mohawk Reserve in Quebec and began studying music at age eight.  Bell was conducting Broadway musicals in New York City at the young age of 18 and was appointed Apprentice Conductor of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, making him the first Aboriginal person to ever conduct a symphony orchestra. Bell then graduated from the Accademia Musicale Chigiana in Sienna, Italy and went on to serve as Apprentice Conductor to Zubin Mehta at the New York Philharmonic where he studied with Leonard Bernstein.  

A CBC documentary on Bell’s life in 1984 brought him to the attention of the Aboriginal community. Impassioned by the deplorable living conditions in reserves across Canada, Bell established the Canadian Native Arts Foundation (now the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation) to provide educational opportunities to Aboriginal youth pursuing training in business, science, medicine, health, and the performing and visual arts. In 1993, Bell established the National Aboriginal Achievement Awards, an awards system celebrating career achievement in the Aboriginal community. The National Aboriginal Achievement Awards have become the largest Aboriginal cultural event in Canada and a national institution. (Source:  Native Leaders of Canada.

James Bartleman, Chippewa

James Bartleman had a distinguished career of more than 35 years in the Canadian Foreign Service prior to taking on the role of Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario in 2002. He began his diplomatic career in 1967 and in 1972 he opened Canada’s first diplomatic mission to Bangladesh. He was Canada's Ambassador to Cuba and was then appointed as director of security and intelligence for the Department of External Affairs. He served as High Commissioner to Cyprus and Ambassador to Israel simultaneously from 1986 to 1990. He was Canadian Ambassador to the North Atlantic Council of NATO from 1990 to 1994. From 1994 to 1998, Bartleman was Foreign Policy Advisor to the Prime Minister and Assistant Secretary to the Cabinet for Foreign and Defence Policy of the Privy Council Office. He served as Ambassador to the European Union in Brussels from 2000 to 2002.

As Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, he initiated the Lieutenant Governor's Book Program in 2004. He has collected over 1.2 million books, donated from all corners of the province from both institutions and individuals, to stock school libraries in First Nations communities, particularly in
Northern Ontario. In 2005, to further promote literacy and bridge building, Bartleman initiated a program to pair up Native and non-Native schools in Ontario and Nunavut, and set-up summer camps for literacy development in five northern First Nations communities. (Source:  Native Leaders of Canada.

Very Reverend Stan McKay, Cree

Without the work of Stanley John McKay and many others, Canada’s Aboriginal peoples might never have heard the two simple words they had waited hundreds of years to hear from a Christian Church: we’re sorry.  It happened in 1986 at the 31st General Council of The United Church of Canada in Sudbury.  

Six years later, McKay became Moderator, the spiritual leader of the United Church.  By becoming the first Aboriginal person to lead the United Church, serving from 1992-94, Stan McKay had again made history.  

First ordained in 1971, this Cree from the Fisher River Reserve in Manitoba, has been at the forefront in joining Aboriginal spirituality with the teachings of Christ.  He believes profoundly that the beliefs of the carpenter’s son and those his people traditionally held, are not altogether different.  If you believe we are all children of the creator, then there is more to unite than divide. For 25 years, he has supported training for the ministry which enables Aboriginal peoples to study the Gospel in their own language. This has enabled Aboriginal people to become ministers of the church in their own right, an important tool in repatriating power in their own religious lives.  

The Very Reverend Stanley John McKay received a 1997 National Aboriginal Achievement Award in the category of heritage and spirituality for his efforts in finding a balance that respects the best of Aboriginal and Christian teachings.
Source:  (Source: Indspire.

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