Indigenous History



The vast majority of human occupation in Ontario is pre-European. Physical evidence of life and peoples prior to this contact, however, is meagre; archaeological evidence of the period in neither as abundant nor as varied as one might assume to find given the length of human occupation in the area. At present most archaeological evidence suggests occupations occurred close to waterways, but there is little evidence of 10,000 years of activity as the hunter-gather lifestyle did not bring about the construction of lasting settlements. According to the archaeological record the Late Woodland Period (circa 1600 C.E.) was a time when domesticated plants (corn, beans, and squash) increased in significance as supplements to the more traditional foods such as deer, fish, and wild plants. Agriculture allowed the Late Woodland Peoples to live in permanent villages. At this point a few of these sedentary villages have been archaeologically corroborated, Kingston Outer Station, Belle Island and Brophy’s point on Wolfe Island.

Unlike many European settlements in North America, Kingston was not established on the site of a previously existing Indigenous settlement. Although not the site of a large sedentary village it was the need to interact with first nations peoples the focused European attention on this area as it was a lucrative trading position. Prior to the 1660’s, the Haudenosaunee were confined to their historic homeland south of Lake Ontario. A decade late however, there were at least 6 villages on the northern shore. In the Osborne and Swainson book, Kingston: Building on the Past, they state that by this point there was “Ganestiquiagona, located at the mouth of the Rouge River, a Seneca settlement; Ganaraské. At the mouth of the Ganaraska River, Quintio on Rice Lake, and Quintéat the neck of the Quinte peninsula were all Cayuga; while Ganneious, at the site of modern Napanee, was Oneida.” With the arrival of Fort Frontenac in the Kingston area there was increased indigenous settlement as it is beneficial to trade.

Perhaps most important to highlight however is the continuous presence of an indigenous culture in the Kingston area. Hence this tour highlights sites which traverse a very broad time period. From Belle Island to the City of Kingston’s proclamation in 2012. The history of indigenous peoples in Kingston is the longest available.