In contemporary Canada it is increasingly common to begin a public presentation by acknowledging the land and First Peoples upon whose territory you are situated. Five hundred years ago this land was home to the Attawandaron people. Today, it is difficult to find an Attawandaron person in the Greater London Area. During the sixteenth and seventeenth century they moved eastward. Eventually, following decades of European introduced disease and warfare, the Attawandaron became part of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy (the Five Nations Iroquois, today known as the Six Nations).
Between then and now, The banks of the Thames River (the place we know as London) also became the homeland for diverse groups of Haudenosaunee, Anishinaabe, Lenni Lenape and European peoples and their descendants, as well as the many other peoples who have come from around the world and now make Ontario and London their home. Since the nineteenth century, Chippewa, Oneida and Munsee-Delaware peoples living along the Thames River west of the city are now the First Nations peoples most closely associated with this place.
Weaving Together the Northeast represents a class project for senior-seminar students in the history program at Huron University College. Between January and April 2015, the students in this class studied a diverse array of readings on sixteenth- and seventeenth-century northeastern North American history, explored and discussed museum practices, as well as worked with the Museum of Ontario Archaeology’s collection in order to put this exhibit together. Sharing their learning with a public audience instead of a single person (their professor) provides the students with an opportunity to explore the interplay between academic research and public engagement. transforming their research into material that will resonate with a broader audience.
Each section of the exhibit represents a student’s individual work, while together with Professor Thomas Peace, Nicole Aszalos (MOA Curator), Neal Ferris (Lawson Chair of Canadian Archaeology), Joan Kanigan (MOA Executive Director), and Ron Williamson (President of the museum’s Board of Directors), the overall exhibit structure and lay out was negotiated and developed.
Reflecting the books that we studied in class, Weaving Together the Northeast situates our local context within a regional and temporal context, extending from the Great Lakes to the shores of the Atlantic Ocean and covering the two centuries between 1500 and 1700. Taken together, students’ exhibits explore the complexity with which both Native peoples and European colonizers moved throughout this space.