Introduction

In the part of the world the Museum of Ontario Archaeology sits, London, Ontario, it is a complex story to unravel the First Peoples who have been and are of this place. Archaeologists can only speculate about the identity of the people that lived at sites such as the nearby Lawson site. We do know that historic records from over a century after the village was inhabited indicate that northern Iroquoian-speaking peoples lived across much of southern Ontario, though by that time the region around London, and much of southwestern Ontario west of the Grand River, lacked permanent villages. Archaeological data certainly suggest the descendants of the Lawson site inhabitants would have been among the peoples Europeans came to know as Iroquoian speakers. However, we don’t know specifically how the people at the Lawson site thought of themselves as a people, or as related to other communities across the region during the time that they lived here.

Lawson site

Lawson site – Museum of Archaeology

Archaeologically, we know that the people who lived west of the Grand River towards modern day London, Ontario in the 1500s appear to have moved to the area between the Grand River and Lake Ontario by the end of that century, joining up with other, similar communities of multiple villages in the region. Europeans subsequently recorded these westerly Iroquoian-speaking people as being the Attawandaron, a word other Iroquoian speaking people used the describe ‘those who speak a slightly different language than ours.’

Later in the 1600s, French explorers visited with and referred to these westerly Iroquoian peoples as the “Neutral Nation” due to their ability to keep peace with a wide range of other, more easterly Iroquoian groups such as the Haudenosaunee living south of Lake Ontario, and the Wendat, who lived between Lake Ontario and Georgian Bay at that time.