The Gathering Places 2

II) Gathering Area 2 – TH 4 – Greenhill Avenue

Setting: Circle of Earth – Recalling the Moundbuilders

“Through the fifteenth century, certain [Native] village households appear to have been consistently larger and more variable in membership than others in the same community. This trend peaks around the turn of the sixteenth century with some longhouses reaching lengths of over 120 metres with three or more extensions evident. Some villages attain the size of over four hectares. . .  Euro-Canadian settlement, premised on the exploitation and domestication of the wilderness, resulted in a dramatic re-ordering of the environment. Colonial concepts of settlement, based upon buildings located within blocks of land bounded by roads (typically a military grid system), somewhat mitigated against the need to work closely within the constraints of the existing environment,” Archaeological Services Inc., 2003.

Rosedale Park Flats

Agricultural uses were prevalent in the Valley until the late 1950’s which eliminated much of the forest cover in the floodplain, leaving oak forest cover concentrated along the Valley slopes. However, some remnants of natural floodplain forests remained between Queenston Road and upstream of the TH&B rail line, which contained a variety of Carolinian species (i.e. plant species which are more common further south) such as Black Walnut, Sycamore, Jumpseed, Wild Yam etc.

The fragmented floodplain forests, combined with slopes and edge habitats, are considered important for migrating birds. Floodplain forest habitat received the greatest amount of impact from the Parkway construction and creek relocation works. Floodplain replanting is occurring all along the valley, with a major focus in the vicinity of the former Rosedale baseball diamonds where more than 4 ha of new floodplain forest has been created. Beginning in 2000, seed collection of floodplain trees, shrubs and groundcovers was undertaken to produce plant materials for this restoration work.

Neutral Culture

The Indigenous people who settled here were the Neutrals and the Haudenosaunee, meaning “People of the Longhouse.” Their villages were similar to those of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) and their cultural patterns were much the same. Both came to this location to fish, as did Anishnabec (Ojibwa) cultures to the north.

French explorer Samuel Champlain reported in 1615 that there were an Indigenous nation situated between the feuding Haudenosaunee and Huron, that he called “la nation neuter.” Historians have since referred to them as Neutrals. They lived in this area and along the Escarpment, from Niagara Falls to Toronto. French priest, Etienne Brule, found an Attiwandaronk (or Neutral) Nation of 35,000 people when he ventured into the Hamilton area in 1615.

The Neutrals cleared the land “with great pains, though they had no proper instruments to do this. They trimmed all the limbs from the trees, which they burned at the foot of the trees to cause them to die. Then they thoroughly prepared the ground between the trees and planted their grain from step to step, putting in each hill about 10 grains, and so continued planting until they had enough for 3 or 4 years’ provisions, lest a bad year, sterile and fruitless, befall them,” French explorer Samuel Champlain, 1616.

“There were also many elk, beaver, wild-cats, black squirrels, bustards, turkeys, cranes, bitterns, and other birds and animals, most of which were there all winter; the rivers and lakes were abundantly supplied with fish, and the land produced good maize, much more than the people required; there were also squashes, beans, and other vegetables in season,” Rev. Father Joseph de la Roche Daillon, a Récollet, 1626.

The Forest

You are standing within a Deciduous Forest, which is a combination of naturally-occurring trees which produces leaves that fall in autumn. It has softwood and hardwood trees such as oak, hickory, chestnut, cucumber, sassafras, papaw, dogwood, ash, sycamore and walnut trees. There are also evergreen trees, ones with needles that stay green all year. This forest is a combination of naturally-occurring trees and trees that resulted from a tree farm in the Valley.  In 1977, there were 198 million acres of forest, with 90 different species of trees, in Ontario, seven times the amount of forest in all of France.

During the whole of our excursion we passed through woods copiously adorned with flowers of the most exquisite hues and fragrance, the names of which we could not learn, The numbers of fragrant trees, of a size unknown in Europe, was equally great. . . 

A tour along the banks of the lake is extremely pleasant; the prospect of this vast sheet of water is majestic, and the traces of culture, which upon the whole has been commenced on the best principles, offer a picture, on which both the eye and the mind dwell with equal pleasure. (François Alexandre Frédéric la Rochefoucault-Liancourt, TRAVELS IN CANADA, 1795)

The Haudenosaunee saw the landscape as divided into two main zones: the Forest and the Clearing. Each had metaphorical significance: forest as a place of adventure and the clearing as place of peace. Each zone had a gender designation: men roamed the forests, while the women tended the meadows, fields of crops and villages of longhouses. 

The Clearing

“Through the fifteenth century, certain [Native] village households appear to have been consistently larger and more variable in membership than others in the same community. This trend peaks around the turn of the sixteenth century with some longhouses reaching lengths of over 120 metres with three or more extensions evident. Some villages attain the size of over four hectares.” Archeological Services, Inc., 2003.

The Forest and Clearing zones have significance environmentally. The Carolinian forest of the Valley is comprised of both natural and man-made clearings and meadows. Some shrubs and trees will make their way into meadows, eventually expanding the range of the forest. There is an environmental interplay between these two zones: as forests slowly take over some meadows, new meadows are created as the result of forest fires or clearing for agriculture.