Monthly Archives: October 2013

Teiaiagon: History of a 17th Century Haudenosaunee village

Teiaiagon overlooking the Humber River

Teiaiagon overlooking the Humber River

Written by: Haleigh Fox

Teiaiagon (translation: “crosses the stream”) is a 17th century village built by the Five Nations Haudenosaunee (Iroquois). Located on the north shore of Lake Ontario, the area was previously occupied by the Huron-Wendat who left their territories and relocated at Wendake near Quebec City. It remains unclear as to exactly how the Huron-Wendat lost control of their traditional territory, which spans from Georgian Bay to Lake Simcoe, however, it has been suggested that they dispersed due to a combination of warfare, disease, and starvation brought on by inter-Indigenous and European conflict.

After a period of warfare which spanned from the 1640s and 1650s, the Seneca tribe established Teiaiagon along the Humber River at some point in the 1660s. Teiaiagon is one of a string of villages, which include Ganatsekwyagon, that were strategically placed in order to control hunting territories and trade routes throughout Ontario. Specifically, the village is significant as it connects to Lake Simcoe via the Toronto Carrying Place portage and allowed villagers to oversee traffic along the river and port leading to Lake Ontario. By controlling this area, the Seneca could act as intermediaries and control the fur trade between the English, Dutch, and French who were active in what is now Southern Ontario, New York and Quebec.

The name Teiaiagon and its variations (Taiaiako’n, Taiaiagon, Teyeyagon, and Toioiugon) appear on early French maps of Lac de Frontenac (now Lake Ontario) and the earliest written accounts of Teiaiagon are from European travelers. French missionary Louis Hennepin, is said to have stayed in the village for some time and lists Teiaiagon as having 50 longhouses and 5000 inhabitants. The village was built in Haudenosaunee style which includes longhouses within a fenced off area. Other reports mention the village being surrounded by agricultural fields where villagers harvested corn, beans, pumpkins, and tobacco. 

Occupation of the village lasted until 1687 and its abandonment remains unclear. This may be due to natural movements as Haudenosaunee villages are not meant to be permanent and the Seneca relocated to their traditional territories in New York. It is also possible that the village was left due to French military threat. By the time the Marquis de Denonville, Governor General of New France, had reached Teiaiagon the village was empty. Another theory, as argued in the Ojibwe oral tradition is that at the same time their tribes descended upon the Haudenosaunee in battle and emerged victorious.Although we do not have a definitive answer as to why the site was abandoned, by 1696 the Teiaiagon area was occupied by the Mississaugas, the Anishinaabe, and French. Trade flourished during the Great Peace of Montreal in 1701, the Mississauga had a village located on the west bank of the river and eventually the French built a fort called Baby Point in 1750. Overall the site was left relatively undisturbed until the development of the Baby Point subdivision in 1912. 

French map of Lake Ontario depicting Teiaiagon

French map of Lake Ontario depicting Teiaiagon

In the early 2000s the undisturbed burial plot of a Seneca woman was discovered dating to the 1680’s. The site contained a moose antler comb, engraved with a bear and a rattlesnake-tailed panther, which may possibly represent Mishipizheu. The design of the comb is elaborate and depicts a human form connected to the animals.Bill Woodworth, a Mohawk member of the Six Nations living in Toronto has the following to say about Baby Point and the discovery of the burial:

“Four hundred years ago, present day Baby Point was occupied by the Seneca Iroquois longhouse village of Teiaiagon (“crosses the stream”). The spirits of our native ancestors, including their bodies and the remains of their longhouse lifestyle were “returned to the earth” here. This is the land on which Robert Home Smith developed a beautiful early twentieth-century Eurocentric enclave. Much of the native settlement is still held in the earth there undisturbed except for the house foundations. In the spring of 2007, the ancient burial of a native woman was uncovered. This recovery was a stark remembrance of the origins of this place. Among the items discovered with her remains was the bone comb pictured here. For me, this comb conveys to us here now the sublime spiritual nature of this woman’s gifts.

According to provincial statute, Six Nations of the Grand River were contacted, and a re-burial location negotiated with the City of Toronto Culture Division. As a Mohawk member of the Six Nations community living here in Toronto, I was called on as a man, by some of the Clan Mothers, to deliver the speech in the ceremony of re-interment. In our ceremony, we apologized to the spirit of her bones for uncovering her peaceful remains held so long undisturbed amidst the many layers of subsequent occupation. We prayed not to disturb her bones again, and in return, we asked her not to hurt us in our unintentional carelessness today.”

Humber Bay Pedestrian Bridge



Written by: Kirsty Howie
Photos credit: Montgomery Sisam

The Humber River, one of the two major rivers in Ontario, is 100km long and flows into Lake Ontario. Atop this body of water lies a bridge in a place that connects what use to be considered Toronto and Etobicoke, where the Humber flows out into the vast waters of Lake Ontario. Completed in 1994 the Humber Bay Arch Bridge is 139 meters long, with a width of 6.50 meters and cost a total of $4,050,000 to build. This bridge is also known as the Gateway Bridge/ Humber Bay Pedestrian Bridge as this is the best way to cross the city if not in a car.

The project was a complied team of the clients, engineers, artists, and architects, and “it was a true collaboration of many different disciplines” (Brad Golden, one of the team members). One of the architects hired for the job was Montgomery and Sisam Architects Firm; and Delcan oversaw the structural engineering as well as the construction supervision of the project. Ahmoo (Allan) Angeconeb from Lac Seul First Nation was the First Nations art consultant for the project. Ahmoo is often a guest lecturer in First Nations art classes. He is also a consultant and has been a judge for the Ontario Arts Counsel regarding First Nations Art. His work is featured in the in collections at the McMicheal Canadian Collection, Museum Institute of Indian Art, Thunder Bay Art Gallery, University of Onsabruck, and the Woodland Indian Centre.
Although Ahmoo was consulted for the project, unfortunately there was not much First Nation input in the project and the architects on the project chose the designs ( Everyone had a voice in the project, and it was not done by one individual person or firm. This is a reflection of First Nations culture as many times in many circumstances the whole community will have a chance to speak and give input, and the matter at hand cannot be dissolved until everyone agrees.


The bridge is a beautiful piece of art that honors the First Nations influence in the area, as the bridge sits on top of a heavily travelled trading route used by First Nations for more than two hundred years (Mongomery and Sisam), and played a key role in Canada’s development and history. This route allowed First Nations people to gain access to Lake Simcoe and Georgian Bay (Montgomery and Sisam). The space was also shared with the French Settlers whom created a trading post near the mouth of the Humber River in 1720 (Museum of Archelogy). The top of the bridge displays the Thunderbird, an important symbol to First Nations people. The Thunderbird is the seer of all, being able to fly so high above all and it carries many significant traditional teachings. Under the bridge turtles, canoes, snakes and salmon are displayed, which act to commemorate the First Nations influence on the area, as well as the natural species that used to inhabit this space, but have since left due to pollution. It is a reminder that with the rise of the concrete world we need to remember and respect what used to be here, and treat it in a way that will enable these creatures to return and stay.


The Arch Bridge has won many awards including the Governor General’s Award of Merit 1997, City of Toronto’s Urban Design Award of Excellence 1997, Award of Excellence from the City of Etobicoke 1996, The Canadian Institute of Steel Design 1996, Canadian Architect 1995 ( The Bridge also won the Waterfront Centre Honor Design Award 1997, and lastly, City of Toronto Urban Design Award in 1997 (Ferris and Associates Firm).
On top of accomplishing all of these awards, the Arch Bridge is featured on the 15 most amazing and beautiful bridges list (international) coming in at number 14.

The photos below are of the fence that was around the construction site of the bridge. The team felt that since the fence would be up for at least seven years while the bridge was being completed it would make sense for the surrounding enclosure to relate to what would soon emerge. The design that was chosen for the fence embodies that of a Wampum Belt. In First Nations culture, specifically Haudenosaunee, the Wampum Belt symbolizes a contract between two groups, in most cases the Haudenosaunee and the European settlers. It is a treaty and bond that promises to respect one another and not interfere with each other’s ways.


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