Middlesex County Ontario Earliest Indian Residents
The Indian, being without a literature, knows nothing of his origin. The Frenchman and Spaniard found him here, and learning from him all he did know, gave the story to civilization as an Indian legend, while treating the newfound race historically as they found it.
The Hurons, originally the Wyandots, were at Quebec in 1534, when Jagques Cartier arrived there. Later, they formed an alliance with the Adirondacks, but when the latter joined the Southern Iroquois Confederacy (about 1580), the prestige of the Wyandots began to fade, and the dispersion of the tribe overall Canada to Lake Huron followed. Early in the 16th century, they, with some Mississaugas and members of other tribes, formed a new confederacy with villages along the Thames and Lake and River St. Clair. In 1649, this new branch of the tribe was dispersed by the Southern Confederacy. The name originates in the phrase Quelles Hures (What Heads), applied by the French of Marquette’s time on first seeing them in their new western home. During the winter of 1615-16, Champlain visited among the tribes then inhabiting the Peninsula, formed by Lake Erie and St. Clair river. The country was then inhabited by a tribe, to whom Champlain gave the name Neutral Nation, or Nation de Truite; while the whole country west was called Conchradum, and after the Iroquois war, Saguinan. The Hurons were, undoubtedly, a branch of the great Algonquin race which, under several names, owned Ontario from the Ottawa to Lake Huron. To this Ontario division the general title of Iroquois du Nord was given by the French for military and political purposes. After the great war of 1649, the Otchipwas and Mississaugas moved from the South into Canada, and the victorious Iroquois of the South returned to their original homes.
The Mississaugas are first named by the French in 1620. Prior to the Revolution they moved from the Upper Lake region and Minnesota to the country east of the Georgian Bay, and in the Albany (N. Y.) Council of 1746 they were taken into the Iroquois Confederacy as the seventh nation. Charlevoix speaks of them as having villages at Niagara, on the La Tranchee and on Lake St. Clair subsequent to 1649. They were also known as Souters or Jumpers, and at the close of the eighteenth century seemed to be the sole aboriginal occupiers of what now constitutes the Province of Ontario.
Back in the beginning of the 15th century the Mohawks, Oneidas, Cayugas, Onondagas, and Senecas, inhabiting what is now the States of New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio, and roaming at will over adjacent territory, entered into a treaty of friendship, under the title “Five Nations;” and so, the Iroquois, with a few changes, such as ousting the Oneidas and taking the Aucguagas, continued to live under this treaty for nearly three hundred years, when, in 1712, the Tuscaroras came from North Carolina to join the confederacy, and were admitted as the sixth nation, since which time the name Six Nations has been applied, with the exception of the short period, the Mississaugas held a place in the Council. Their powerful opponents were the Delawares, Cherokees, Mohicans, Adirondacks and Hurons. The latter’s power was broken about 1647 by the terrible Iroquois, while in 1653 the Erie nation was almost wiped out of existence by the fierce warriors. The Iroquois on July 19, 1701, ceded to the British all the following described tract:
“That vast tract of land or colony called Canagaviavchio, beginning on the northwest side of Cadavachqui (Ontario) Lake, and includes all the land lying between the great lake of Ottawa (Huron), and the lake called by the natives Sahiquage, and by the Christians the Lake of Sweege (Oswego for Lake Erie), and runs till it butts upon the Twichtwichs, and is bounded westward by the Twichtwichs, on the eastward by a place called Quadoge, containing in length about 800 miles, and breadth 400 miles, including the country where beavers and all sorts of wild game keep, and the place called Tjeughsaghrondie, alias Fort De Tret, or Wawyachttenock (Detroit), and so runs round the Lake of Sweege till you come to a place called Oniardarundaquat.”
Early Indian Trails
In the days when Ontario was solely in possession of the native tribes, well defined routes of travel existed between their several noted summer camps, as well as between their winter towns. There were several practicable routes for the traders to reach the upper lake region. The original and best known one was by the Ottawa River, Nippissing and Georgian Bay, which, though long and hazardous, was the principal channel of intercourse between Western Canada and the Lower St. Lawrence; the second was by the Trent River to Lake Simcoe; the third was from the present site of Toronto to Lake Simcoe; the fourth was from the head of Lake Ontario, the Grand River to Lake Erie and (La Tranchee) Thames River to Lake St. Clair, and the fifth by Niagara. The latter route was seldom chosen, owing to the savage character of the New York Indians, as well as the rough character of the route. So soon as Upper Canada was organized for the purposes of Government, two great highways were established Yonge and Dundas streets; and from this beginning the modern system of roads spread out.