Indigenous History of HSR

As part of The Alumni Association’s 75th anniversary Kiosk project, we have dedicated one of Kiosks to the original inhabitants and seek to describe the presence of indigenous peoples on the property. There has been some research published about the first peoples and their presence in this area. This article summarizes some of the highlights of these published works.

Long before the trappers, the loggers, the pioneers and settlers, there have been Indigenous Peoples who have been the stewards of this land. Haliburton Scout Reserve is situated on the traditional territories of the Anishinaabe Mississauga lands and the traditional territory covered by the Williams Treaties.

We are grateful for the opportunity to camp here and we thank all the generations of people who have taken care of this land – for thousands of years. We recognize and deeply appreciate their historic connection to this place. We also recognize the contributions of Métis, Inuit, and other Indigenous peoples, both in shaping and strengthening this community and country as a whole. By learning, understanding and acknowledging, we wish to pay respect to Turtle Island, Mother Earth and to the rich Indigenous history of Ontario.

Haliburton Scout Reserve sits near the top of a watershed which eventually flows into the Trent system and Lake Ontario. Further north, the watershed is divided between waters flowing from the eastern part of Algonquin Park to the Ottawa River and to the St. Lawrence and waters that flow west through Muskoka into Georgian Bay. According to David Beaucage Johnson, in his research paper “ The History of Indigenous Habitation in Haliburton County”, the first inhabitants of the area were ancestors of current day Mississauga peoples. They referred to this area as Gidaaki from the words Gidaa meaning upwards and Ki meaning earth.

Johnson also noted that local indigenous presence likely dated to after the retreat of the glaciers, 12,000 years ago. During that period, this area would have resembled a tundra, water levels would have been lower and indigenous people in this area would likely be hunting caribou and fish. There is archaeological evidence of this period in the areas around Gidaaki; specifically under Lake Huron and this includes hunting structures and flint flakes dating to 9,000 years ago.

As the land rebounded and changed in the millennia after the retreat of the glaciers, forests established themselves. Caribou migrated north and were replaced by woodland ungulates such as moose and deer. Although the indigenous peoples who traversed this area were most likely ancestors of modern day Mississauga’s, there is some archaeological evidence of Huron peoples also being in Haliburton County.

Johnson remarks that archaeological evidence of the indigenous peoples in this area is more difficult to find. As hunters and traders, they were most likely to be passing lightly across the land and as a consequence, the kinds of archaeological evidence is less likely to be present compared to the more southern indigenous peoples who were more likely to be living in more organized settlements and engaging in agriculture.

The second issue relates to water levels. Archeological evidence, where it exists, is more likely to be under water, or become exposed when water levels drop. Water levels throughout this area are controlled somewhat by damns in order to project downstream resources from flooding and to provide predictable water levels in the Trent Canal system.

Despite those factors, archaeological evidence exists and artefacts have been found. The pot pictured to the right contains a collection of flint and obsidian tools including arrow and axe heads, knives and scrapers.

All of these artefacts were found on the Curry property over the course of many decades, on beach and particularly where the current has eroded the river banks of the Drag River where it enters East Bay. The Drag River, of course draws it’s water from Kennabi , Holland and Hurst Lakes within HSR.

Peter Curry believes that the point where the Drag River enters Drag Lake must have been a favoured camping spot by the First Peoples.

Tim Ballantine at the Haliburton Museum recalls that a significant archaeological site was found on Drag Lake in the 1960’s by archaeologist William Fox, on the northern reaches of East Bay, consisting of chert flake and polished red slate bayonet.

Just to the east of the camp property, three sites of interest were identified on Farquhar Lake, including a significant cache of copper artefacts.

Within the camp, Scouts from the 40th Toronto troop found the remains of a birch bark canoe at the point at the entrance to Mud Bay in the first years of camp operation.

Selected Bibliography:A Brief Survey of Archeology in Haliburton County and Vicinity, Tom BallantineLaurentian Archaic in the Kawartha Lakes and Haliburton, Peter RamsdenThe History of Indigenous Habitation in Haliburton County, David Beaucage JohnsonThe Huron-Algonkian boundary, Peter Ramsden