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  • Writer's pictureArt Duval

Awenda Provincial Park

So I'm bored so I am going to write. I hope if your bored you will read. Here's a stroll through Awenda's history.

Awenda Provincial Park sits on land that was occupied throughout time by native peoples. The Algonquin people were here and so were the Wendat, at first seasonally but eventually full time, when the Haudenosaunee pushed them to this limit of their territory. Well kind of anyway. The Bear and cord nations were existing in this area before the other members of the confederacy came in the sixteen hundreds. Archeological evidence has the bear people inhabiting this area long before that. The ridges (part of the Niagara Escarpment) provided natural protection to the people. In one case, the Wendat fled down the escarpment to escape the avenging Iroquois. Some may tell you this area was abandoned after that, but I am not so certain. On the border of Awenda sits council rock, Council rock was familiar to the Algonquin who signed the Penetanguishene Purchase, so they would at least visit the area to visit old spirits.

There is extensive archaeology for Wendat and pre-Wendat sites throughout the Park, and that is just what is known. I am sure there were sites we don't know about. (In fact no resting places (bone pits, cemetaries) The archaeology extends to other homesteads, one at Kettles Lake and one at the Dunes Trail called the Robitaille Site. These were not so old homesteads of early settlers.

Along the Georgian Bay coast of Awenda Provincial Park are a string of beaches.

Beach one Awenda Provincial Park

These beaches are enjoyed by swimmers today, but were they the site of Champlain's landing in the area? Some think so, but further research is required. At first the beach is rocky, but as they get farther, they are more sandy.

Beach three Awenda Provincial Park

Whereas we like beaches for their easy access to the water, the native peoples who had soft bark canoes, like them to beach their boats. This would make for a primitive port, so Champlain landing here is not out of the question.

To the left of the photo is Methodist Point, I can assume that this was once an island that the sand joined to the mainland at one point in history. It's neighbour the Christian Islands are home to the Beausoleil First Nation reserve. In the center of the photo is Giants tomb island, this angle is not the best to discern the shape as tomb shaped, but that is why it is called so. This island was kept by my Grandfather back in the day.

So the upside to these beaches is that they are suitable for landing canoes. The downside is they are an obvious place to land canoes, so avenging tribes chasing the Wendat could target it for the attack. So did Champlain land here?

This section is sandy, but farther up you can see it is rocky around to the other side.

Some winters ice caves form close to Awenda Park. These caves are formed along the edges of the ice and can be quite spectacular. This year I don't believe they formed and the ice is almost gone.

Ariel view of Awenda Park

In this aerial view, you can see along the top left the Nippissing Escarpment, this was an area that the Wendat liked to build villages. This was the shore of the ancient glacial Lake called Lake Nippissing that covered most of the area. It is quite a hike, but you can take stairs up, or down the escarpment. At the time of the Wendat, they liked the shores of Lake Nippissing for two reasons. (I don't know if they recognized that it was a lake they were finding or just that these features occurred there....) one was obvious, it made one side of your village relatively easy to defend. The long climb was not conducive to attack, and the hill, although steep, was also a good means of escape. This was recorded by the Jesuit as happening, although we do not know if that location was Awenda. The second reason was that at the edges of a lake flows rivers. Although rivers no longer flow into Lake Nippissing they once did. Where there once were riverbeds, they are now gravelly areas that hold water. Much of the flowing water or lakes or bays became too dangerous with the marauding Iroquois the Wendat and their allies turned inland using rivers made known to them by their Lake Superior Algonquin allies.

There is also a lake on top of the escarpment. Kettle's Lake is a glacial lake and it has it's archaeology both ancient and pioneer. The people they call pre-Wendat or the people who became Wendat had villages around the lake. Before the Mohawks were so insistent on their oblivion, the people could set up villages in the area.

Of course Council Rock is in the boundary of the park. I cannot tell you where the spirits are clear on that. Council Rock was used in 1795 to establish some concessions to what would become the Penetang Purchase. In the years after the American Revolution, the upstart American colonies continued to push west. The British, with Governor John Graves Simcoe at the helm wanted to improve their defenses of the western reaches of the Great Lakes. For this he would need bases, and Penetang Bay was the perfect location.

So in 1793, he came by and took a look. He seemed to be more interested in William Cowan and his shelter but he ordered his surveyor back in 1794 to sketch what he wanted. By 1795, he expected a war, he expected it because he was doing all he could to start one, with the Americans. He was so successful that the Queen's Rangers had to abandon the construction of Yonge Street to the German immigrants, (Berczy's) who took up the cause. So in May of 1795, when Simcoe needed to buy this land, he sent his surveyor Alexander Aitkin, and Lieutenant James Givins, (a trusted officer of the Queen's Rangers who was also an interpreter). Along with them was also Jacques Peltier

Council Rock

an experienced interpreter and Henry Harmon, a German immigrant who had come with Kniphausen as a soldier in the revolution and had stayed in North America. (He would later be granted land on Yonge Street.)

This group along with their entourage (up to twenty) travelled the primitive route from York (Toronto) to the area of Penetanguishene. There William Cowan would bring them to meet the Missisauga to negotiate a purchase. The English would need some sort of guarantee that the British would remember the purchase this time, as it had been mishandled before. So hammer and chisel in hand, one of the group was sent up to carve the names of the participants. The results, with some expected errors is shown above.

There are also other interesting tidbits.

This is a map of where Awenda Park now lies. Right in the middle of the map shows a land owner by the name of Samuel Lount. Was that Samuel Lount who was hanged for the 1837 Rebellion?

Of course you can also see Charles Beck, whose family sold most of the land for the park. My Grandfather talked of being employed to assess the timber on the land given. Which he did. This resulted in him having to be subpoenaed and forced to sit in court. This for the very active Art Duval the elder, was not to his liking.

Logging has aparently

changed the flora of the once a Pine forest, it is more of a hard wood forest now. Althought some pine still remains. Some pick morels there in the early spring. Although they are no good and should be left where they are where I will come get them.

way this is a stroll through the Awenda, hopefully I can go physically soon as there is still to much snow.

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Mar 25, 2020

My great grand parents lived on the north side of Kettle Lake also known as Brabant’s Lake or Second Lake. My aunts and father lived in the small cabin there until they sold and moved closer to Lafontaine.

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