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Kitchener-Waterloo Ontario History - First Nations & Early Explorers



The first humans, the Clovis people, arrived in Niagara Region almost 12,000 years ago, around the time of the birth of the Falls, when the land was tundra with spruce forests. These nomadic hunters camped along the old Lake Erie shoreline, in small dwellings, and left little behind except chipped stones, likely used to hunt caribou, mastodons, moose and elk.

By 9,500 years ago deciduous forest covered southernmost Ontario, supporting wildlife like deer, moose, fish and plants, enabling small groups to hunt in the winter, coming together into larger groups during the summer, to fish at shorelines and at the mouths of rivers.

About 2,000 years ago, the Woodland Period brought Iroquois culture in southern Ontario. These peoples began agriculture based on crops of corn, bean and squash, which supported a boom in population and a rich culture with small palisaded villages in which extended families occupied individual longhouses. They developed ceramics technology and forged strong inter-village alliances. Natives hunted, fished and lived along the beautiful Grand River.

By the time the European explorers and missionaries arrived in the early 1600s, the Iroquoian villages had elected chiefs and were allied within powerful tribal confederacies. The Neutral Indians were the leaders of a group of ten tribes of the Iroquois Nation. Other tribes included the Seneca, Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Huron, Petun, Erie and the Susquehannock. The French explorers , gave this Indian tribe the name "Neutrals", because of their position and status as peace keepers between the warring Hurons and Iroquois. Unfortunately, inter-tribal warfare was made worse by the intrusion of the Europeans.

Niagara Falls In May 1535, Jacques Cartier left France to explore the New World, and was told by the Indians he met along the St. Lawrence River about Niagara Falls. When Samuel de Champlain visited Canada in 1608, he too heard the stories, but it was Etienne Brule, who in 1615 was the first European to see Hamilton on his explorations of Lakes Ontario, Erie Huron and Superior. Lasalle also visited the area, a fact commemorated at a park in nearby Burlington. These were followed shortly by the Recollet missionary explorers, and a decade later by the Jesuits

In 1641 the Onguiaahra Indians (also called the "Neutral" Indians) were the predominant tribe along the Niagara River, and The Iroquois Confederacy or Five (later Six) Nations first occupied the land now covered by Hamilton. The French initiated a fur- trade rivalry between the Huron and Iroquois, which turned into a 6 year long Indian war which pushed the Huron Nation to the north and scattered them throughout Ontario. The Iroquois moved into the Niagara area, pushing the Neutral Indians eastward to the area of Albany, New York. The wars also managing to keep Europeans settlers away until after the American Revolution.

In 1784 a large tract of more than 240,000 hectares of land, including the future location of Kitchener, was set aside by the British Crown as a grant to the Six Nations Indians for their loyalty to the Crown during the American War of Independence. Between 1796 and 1798, the Six Nations Indians led by Chief Joseph Brant (who later distinguished himslef in the War of 1812) , sold 38,000 hectares of land to Colonel Richard Beasley, a United Empire Loyalist who attracted a group of Pennsylvania German Mennonite farmers to the area.

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