Katie Daubs, Toronto Star Some 3,000 years ago, aboriginals came through High Park following the migration patterns of animals. That much is true. The exact details — those are a bit murky.
In April, David Redwolf, executive director of the Taiaiako’n Historical Preservation Society who also goes by the name Rastia’ta’non:ha, told a news conference that a section of High Park contained ancient Iroquoian burial mounds dating back 3,000 years.
“We followed where the food was, from the seasons,” said Laurie Waters, associate director of the same society. “Those that didn’t make those journeys didn’t have a place to rest. We laid them to rest in places in line with the constellations, so we knew where to find them.”
Although many groups had migrated through the area 3,000 years ago, Waters said she was speaking on behalf of hereditary chief Arnold General and the clan mothers of the Six Nations Confederacy, an Iroquois group.
David Donnelly, lawyer for the Huron-Wendat Nation, calls the notion of an Iroquoian burial site a “hoax.”
“This does real damage to the First Nations people trying to protect legitimate sites,” he said.
But Waters said stories of the pit burials were passed down orally, and now she is part of a group urging the city to protect what they call sacred mounds from BMX bikers.
Donnelly takes historical issue with that. “Firstly, Iroquoian people did not bury their dead in mounds.” he said.
“Second, Iroquoian people did not exist in southern Ontario 3,000 years ago, Thirdly, if you were to find a mass burial in the GTA, it could only be Huron-Wendat, and therefore only the Huron-Wendat nation is authorized to speak on its behalf about its position and what happens to it,” he said.
Waters said Donnelly, who has done research on behalf of the Huron-Wendat for more than a decade, “is a non-native individual getting his information from various sources.”
City spokeswoman Margaret Dougherty said a 2009 study determined the High Park bike site had no archeological significance or human remains. The Taiaiako’n Historical Preservation Society rejected that study.
Dougherty said other First Nations groups — the Huron-Wendat, the Six Nations of Grand River, Kawartha Nishnawbe, and the Mississauga of the New Credit — have written the city to say that Redwolf does not represent their interests or have the authority to speak or act on their behalf.
Ronald Williamson, an archeologist whose firm completed the 2009 study, said most archeologists believe that Iroquoian-speaking people first entered the Great Lakes region 2,000 years ago, likely with the arrival of corn.
Williamson said the Iroquois from New York state moved into the region in 1650, dispersing the Ontario Iroquoian-speaking groups. They were then forced out by the Ojibwe during the 1690s, and returned to inhabit the Grand River Valley in 1780 as a reward for their loyalty to the Crown during the American Revolution.
The time period Waters claims Iroquois burial mounds were created coincides with the time Algonquian-speaking bands were roaming through the Great Lakes region, Williamson said.
He said Algonquian-speaking groups did create burial mounds in the Peterborough area about 1,500 to 3,000 years ago, but “they’re quite different than natural hills that are formed when the glaciers retreated.”
Lonny Bomberry, director of the Six Nations lands and resources department, said history gets “pretty murky” when you go beyond 1,000 years.
Bomberry said First Nations people clearly inhabited the GTA 3,000 years ago, but “we can’t say definitely which linguistic group was in possession of what part of North America.”
Paul General, manager of the Eco Centre at Six Nations, didn’t feel comfortable weighing in.
“You have experts who have been looking at it for many years who say no, a lot of people who say yes, and unfortunately, definitive evidence one way or another is difficult to say,” he said.
Toronto Star: http://www.thestar.com/mobile/gta/article/992985