Category Archives: First Nations

First Nations history and culture

Geese in Flight

Hosted by Carr Farms, 4833 Longwoods Rd., Appin, Southwest Middlesex, Ontario

My name is Susannah Reynolds and I am six years old. I  love to watch the geese fly over in the fall. They are so noisy I hear them long before I see them fly over the tree tops. I think they are playing Follow the Leader like I do with my sisters.

Father watches the geese too and we talk about the delicious roast goose we ate last fall. Sometimes I think Father is angry with the geese. He says that every year it’s a race. ‘Who will harvest the corn first? Father, the deer, the coons or the geese?’

Father explains that the geese know that winter is coming and so they fly to a warmer place. I remember all the work last fall getting ready for winter: taking the wheat and corn to Uncle Chris Arnold’s mill for grinding into flour. Chopping wood. Drying apples, berries, meat. Storing vegetables. So much food I didn’t think we could fit it into our small log home.

But by spring most of it was gone and many days we just ate cornmeal mush. We girls had fun playing in the snow but some days it was too cold to go outside and even our food froze inside the cabin. Many people get sick in the winter. It is so hard to get our outdoor chores done let alone go for help, medicine or supplies.

At the beginning of the war it was exciting to watch all the people pass by on the river, especially the Indian warriors. But each day more and more passed. Father said there were thousands. They looked so sad. Families with children, soldiers, prisoners and wounded. Some stopped for food and shelter.

Many tried to pay with whatever they had but most had nothing left to give. Mother cautioned us girls to stay close because some of the people were not nice. We watched our possessions carefully so that none would go missing.

Some time after Uncle Christopher’s Indian friend Tecumseh died in October at the big battle, things slowed down and I hoped we could go back to our old way of life. But I knew that was impossible.

“Winter will be different this year,” Father says and although he does not explain, at night I hear my parents’ anxious whispers, Mother crying. We once had fields of corn, gardens, chickens, geese, pigs, a cow, a pair of oxen — all are  gone. We cannot even find a cob of corn. It makes me think of that story in the Bible about the locusts that ate everything.

All the people have destroyed our farm. They even burned the fence rails that Father worked so hard to make. We have nothing left. Yes, winter will be different this year.  I wish I was a goose. I would fly to a better place.

Written by Chris Crawford, February 2012

Source: When Chatham Was Woods, Reminiscences of the Pioneers by John Rhodes

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Indian Paintbrush

1759 Longwoods Rd., Wardvsille ON.  Video.  Hosted by Llse Buhn and Ken Fitt and sponsored by Wardsville Tire Sales.

The Anishnawbe often taught early settlers survival skills. Settlers learned techniques for fishing, hunting and living on the lands to the settlers. In addition, they were responsible for showing the people proper vegetation and herbs for medicines. The native communities of the area are honoured for sharing their vast knowledge of survival to the new settlers such as George and Margaret Ward.

Many tribes of the First Nations were allies during the War of 1812. The Iroquois Confederacy, Delaware nations and Shawnee were key defenders of the Thames River region and instrumental in stemming off American encroachment.

Click on this link to Indian Paint Brush video

Turkey Tracks

 Hosted by John and Michelle Cameron, 1213 Longwoods Road, Wardsville.

Turkey Tracks‟ represents the abundance of wildlife and vegetation in the area. There were wild turkeys, rabbits, squirrels, ducks and geese. One of the most widely hunted animals in the area was the deer. Deer were not only used for meat but its hide and sinews were used as well. The Longwood’s forest was abundant in vegetation and fruits. There were numerous types of berries to be gathered: strawberries, pin and choke cherries, sugar plums, blueberries, wild grapes and richly flavoured wintergreens.

The native people familiarized settlers with proper herbs and vegetation for consumption and medicinal purposes. Settlers such as George and Margaret Ward were able to treat small-scale ailments with the knowledge conveyed to them by their Anishnawbe neighbours.

Reclaiming history, ritual, and ceremonies through story quilts and food

Curiosity about how the War of 1812 affected this area is opening up a world of drama, conflict, and struggle for survival.   Tales of refugees, traitors, heros, victims and betrayal are emerging from the archives.  

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Quilts are the medium for learning and sharing.  Women of  Chippewas of the Thames, Moravian of the Thames , Munsee-Delaware, and Oneida are exploring themes for a War of 1812 quilt.  Each block tells a story.

Fifty people recently attended a story telling session in Muncey at the Antler River complex on November 8th to share stories and old traditions. Maxine Hendrick chuckled about how she was initially puzzled by the idea of a quilt telling a story.  Then she realized that she owned one. She showed the crowd a beautiful story quilt that was lovingly stitched as a 40th wedding anniversary gift from her daughter.

Leslee Whiteye told about the importance of the ancient spirit name typically given to young children by an elder. Many receive them later in life too.  This name helps people know who they are, know where they belong, where they are going and where they came from.

Shirley Baker, an accomplished artisan, and Lenape descendant, spoke about the Baby Scoop Era which came after the residential school period.  Unfamiliar with extended family child-rearing practices and communal values, government social service workers attempted to ‘rescue’ children from their Aboriginal families and communities and placed them for adoption in white homes.  Many were exported to the U.S.

Penny French, whose father is a Veteran and mother was a truant officer, described the process of reclaiming lost ceremonies and rituals that were banned during the residential school period.  “Young people want to know and learn.”

The stories were heart felt, honest,  the energy was positive,  and the food was a pleasure. Traditional corn soup, squash soup, fried bread, blueberry biscuits, and venison were savoured.  Drumming, singing, and inspiration flowed through the evening.

George E. Henry spoke about the ambitious redevelopment of Tecumseh’s monument and the effort to establish a fitting memorial worthy of Tecumseh.  After his death, Tecumseh became an instant legend.  John Sugden, a historian, is working with the descendants of Tecumseh, to write the definitive history.

If not for the  support by the First Nations, Upper Canada might have fallen into American hands.  During negotiations for the TREATY OF GHENT, the British tried to bargain for the establishment of an Indian Territory but the Americans resolutely refused to agree. The most that they would accept was the status quo before the war. The Canadian Encyclopedia explains that that this was a profound disappointment and loss for the First Nations, since, despite all their efforts, they were unable to recover lost territory. Three years after the death of Tecumseh, Indiana became a state and began to remove all First Nations from their traditional lands.  In Canada, the War of 1812 was the end of an era in which the First Nations had been able to keep their positions in return for service in war. Soon, with the growth of Upper Canada, the First Nations were outnumbered in their own lands.

Barn quilts provide a medium for interpreting local history and culture.  Wardsville has done a trail.  Ailsa Craig and South Caradoc are in the planning phase.  An “arts corridor” on Longwoods Road Barn Quilt Trail is planned between Thamesville and Delaware.  For more information call Freda Henry (519) 264-2989 or Mary Simpson (519) 287-3566.

Maxine Hendrick’s Story Quilt

Story quilt celebrating 40 years of marriage

Fifty people attended a story telling session in Muncey at the Antler River complex tonight to share history and old traditions.  Maxine Hendrick chuckled about how she was initially puzzled by the idea of a quilt telling a story.  Then she realized that she owned one. She showed the crowd at the Antler River Seniors complex a beautiful story quilt that was lovingly stitched as a 40th wedding anniversary gift from her family.

Quilts are the medium for learning and sharing.  Women of  Chippewas of the Thames, Moravian of the Thames, Munsee-Delaware, and Oneida are exploring themes for a War of 1812 quilt.

What an amazing evening.  Thank  you to all the women who cooked, baked, served, told stories and shared their history and culture.

Mary Simpson