The vast numbers of Europeans emigrating to the Americas consumed Native land at an exponential rate. A domino effect began when displaced coastal Native groups had to relocate to land further inland - land that was usually already occupied. Additionally, rivalries sprang up between competing European powers over the control of North America, primarily to further their economic interests in the fur trade.
Following the abandonment of southcentral Ontario by the Ontario Iroquois, this area was briefly unoccupied except by occasional hunting and trapping parties. A few League Iroquois communities moved into this area late in the 17th century in order to gain a middleman position in the fur trade with the more northern and western groups, much like the position the Hurons had formerly occupied. Recent research has discovered some of these sites along the Humber and Rouge Rivers in the Toronto area and near Kingston. Others either await discovery or have been destroyed by urban development. A number of mission sites were established during this period, primarily among the Cayuga settlements, the most noteworthy being Kente, located somewhere in the vicinity of Carrying Place, possibly on Lake Consecon in Prince Edward County.
League Iroquois ambitions in this area were not welcomed by their northern traditional enemies, however, and between 1690 and 1710 various groups of southeastern Ojibwa, including the Ottawa and Mississauga, began to move south into southern Ontario and neighbouring Michigan from their original homelands in the Canadian Shield around Sault Ste. Marie. While some of these earlier groups, such as the Mississauga, had expressed interest in joining the Iroquois, by the end of the first decade of the 18th century, the Iroquois had been largely forced out of southern Ontario.
During the following decades, the Ojibwa expanded their occupation of southern Ontario. Over this period many of the original differences between the various Ojibwa groups disappeared and a more homogeneous culture developed. Increased contact with Europeans also resulted in adoption of many European items into the original lifestyle. Guns, for example, quickly replaced the bow and arrow for hunting and warfare.
The collapse of the Huron confederacy and the loss of the trade centered in Huronia had a serious economic impact on the economy in Quebec. In 1654, plans were made by the explorers Medard Chouart des Grosseilliers and his brother-in-law Pierre Radisson to travel to the interior and reestablish trade relations. The mission was a success and Radisson and Grosseilliers were feted. At this point, direct trade into the interior was established and traders, all of whom were under licence to the French government, entered the area to trade and conduct rituals of peace, trade and alliance with their new allies.
In an effort to safeguard the Great Lakes fur trade, the French constructed a fort at the present day site of Kingston. Initially built as a wooden palisade, the fort went through three stages of construction, assuming its final appearance as a limestone fortification. This was the first permanent European settlement in Eastern Ontario.
Archaeological investigations of portions of Fort Frontenac and a related cemetery have provided considerable data on the material culture and the structural evolution of the Fort.
During the eighteenth century other posts were established along the Ottawa River to facilitate trade in Quebec and movement along the Ottawa into James Bay.
In the late 1660s, Louis Jolliet, a French explorer, had been searching for copper mines in the Lake Superior country and a route to the Orient across the continent. During his return trip Jolliet had saved an Iroquois from captivity and in appreciation, or through haste to return home, the Iroquoian guided Jolliet through the southern water route to Lake Erie. Jolliet's voyage is the first record of an European to have travelled through the Detroit River corridor and Lake Erie. Meanwhile, Robert Cavelier de La Salle, a young, well educated immigrant to New France who soon tired of the settler lifestyle, gained permission from the French authorities to explore the Ohio country. La Salle set westward in 1669 and met Jolliet at an Iroquois village west of Lake Ontario, somewhere near the present City of Brantford. La Salle continued on his way and spent several months exploring the country south of Lake Erie.
Ten years later, La Salle began to assemble the first sailing vessel to enter the upper Great Lakes. The Griffon was a vessel of about forty-five tons burden and built just above Niagara Falls. La Salle planned to use the Griffon to expand his commercial operations by trading directly with the tribes of the Upper Great Lakes. This venture was likely not well liked by the Ottawa and other Indian tribes who traded European goods for furs in the north and then transported them to Montreal. La Salle was trying to collect the profits for himself by bypassing traditional Native trade routes.
The Griffon sailed in August of 1679, and on August 12 entered a wide shallow body of water on the Feast Day of St. Clair, thus naming a lake. The Griffon continued on to the west shore of Lake Michigan and took on a great supply of fur at an Indian town on an island in Green Bay. La Salle then moved on by canoe to further his explorations satisfied that he could pay his debts and cover the cost of building the ship. In September, before bad weather could set in, the Griffon set sail for the return voyage to Niagara but was never seen again. Many theories have been forwarded regarding the disappearance of the Griffon and include treachery by the crew, who scuttled the ship and took the fortune of furs to New England; that a combined force of Natives attacked and destroyed the ship; or that it was lost in a storm.
For twenty years after the voyage of the Griffon, the Five Nations Iroquois once again interrupted French exploration, but in 1701 a peace treaty was concluded at Quebec and once more, European exploration was possible along the southern Great Lakes water route. The French soon took advantage of the peace and built a fort at a place the Indians called Detroit. This fort was known as Fort Ponchartrain, and was little more than a trading post until the British took control of New France in 1760. One of the first goals of the new commander of the fort (Antoine Laumet de Lamothe Cadillac) was to encourage Native groups who were living in the north away from the threat of Five Nations attacks, to move near the Detroit area and strengthen the French presence. Native groups who moved south included the Wyandots, Ottawa, Potawatomi, and Ojibwa. Hunting territories were soon established throughout the region, but it was primarily the Ojibwa who occupied southwestern Ontario. For over a hundred years the Ojibwa practised a seasonal settlement and subsistence strategy almost identical to the Late Woodland Western Basin peoples.
In 1749, concerted efforts were begun to strengthen the French hold on the Ohio territory and develop Detroit as the economic and political centre of the region. Incentives such as grants of land and equipment, loans of seed, livestock, and rations were forwarded to attract more settlers from Quebec. The resulting population increase was slow, but by 1751, Detroit had a total French population of six hundred people. When farms on the Detroit side became too far from the protection of the fort, the southern or Canadian side, was eventually settled. This community became known as Petit Cote (Little Coast), and grew quickly and soon there were at least 150 farmsteads spread out along the river. Petite Cote is known as the oldest continually inhabited European settlement in the Province of Ontario.
When open warfare broke out between the French and British in North America, most of the western Native groups allied themselves with the French. The French maintained this alliance partly by increasing the availability of supplies and gifts to Native groups. Gifts included utilitary items such as axes, kettle, blankets and food, but status items such as elaborate firearms and medallions were also given to leaders to ensure their loyalty.
This summary of Ontario Archaeology was taken from the Discovering Ontario Archaeology - Speakers Kit. The original texts were written by Jeff Bursey, Hugh Daechsel, Andrew Hinshelwood and Carl Murphy.
INTRODUCTION¦ POST ICE-AGE GEOGRAPHY AND ENVIRONMENT¦ FIRST PEOPLE OF NORTH AMERICA¦ FIRST PEOPLE OF ONTARIO: THE PALEO-INDIANS¦ THE ARCHAIC PERIOD¦ EARLY WOODLAND PERIOD¦ MIDDLE WOODLAND PERIOD¦ LATE WOODLAND PERIOD¦ THE CONTACT PERIOD¦ THE FRENCH PERIOD (A.D.1650 TO 1763) ¦ THE ENGLISH PERIOD (A.D. 1760 TO 1867)
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