I Am a Pedestrian: Part 10
Walking around a city
I Am a Pedestrian is the result of a 159-kilometre walk around Toronto. The book consists of 159 observations gleaned from a 42-hour adventure at the perimeter. I Am a Pedestrian is a record of underexplored places, stories of people encountered and lost histories rediscovered at Toronto’s current city limits.
Before the onset of the novel coronavirus, I promoted I Am a Pedestrian in public libraries and other venues with a talk titled, The Time Travelling Pedestrian. With the aid of historical photographs, maps, and group discussion, the presentation revealed how Toronto has grown from a lonely French outpost in 1750 to today's bustling metropolis. Below is an excerpt from the book.
2—Place Where the Cliff Splits
I am in a former Iroquois village.
Ganatsekwyagon, or The Place Where the Cliff Splits, was ideally positioned on the east bank overlooking the lake. The plateau provided natural fortification.
Five thousand inhabitants occupied the village. Conditions varied between hospitable and harsh. Villagers grew crops. The Rouge teemed with salmon. Game was abundant. Iroquois exchanged beaver pelts for goods with French, English and Dutch traders. Winters could be at times brutal. Records indicate some years the earth remained frozen until June.
Ganatsekwyagon was strategically located at the opening of the east branch of Toronto Carrying-Place, a trade route north to Lake Simcoe, Georgian Bay and beyond. The west branch of the overland route began at Teiaiagon, a village on the bank of the Humber River at present-day Bloor Street.
In 1669 French explorers and fur traders passed through Ganatsekwyagon in search of copper mines. French missionaries from Montreal arrived a few months later. Following the shoreline, they appeared at the mouth of the Katabokonk, the River of Easy Entrance, in October.
Villagers gathered on the pebbly beach to greet Sulpician priests François de Salignac and Abbé d’Urfé. It being too late in the season to continue their travels, the pair wintered here, making the priests the first Europeans to reside for any length of time in what was to become Toronto.
In an effort to put an end to trade between First Nations and the English, inside of twenty years of the priests’ arrival, French forces systematically destroyed every First Nations village on the north shore of Lake Ontario, including Ganatsekwyagon and Teiaiagon.
Ganatsekwyagon’s longhouses were torched. Inhabitants were driven from the land and murdered. Relics unearthed today include:
• Tobacco pipes
• A cannonball
In 2010 Toronto and the City of Pickering recognized the significance of Ganatsekwyagon with a plaque and the installation of the First Nations Trail Western Gateway footpath.
I Am a Pedestrian is available through this website