Mysteries of Huronia: Council Rock(Part1)
Updated: Nov 20, 2019
Sometimes developed skills cause you as much trouble, research is one of those skills....well it would have been trouble if it wasn't in fact entertaining. This blog is about solving a mystery, a puzzle, but it also solving if, in fact, we have a puzzle or just a bit of graffiti. Very early on it became clear this was not graffiti. Council Rock is a bit out of my usual scope, but I tackled it anyway.
There's a rock out in the middle of nowhere, a lichen collector reported it in 2004. It has writing on it. The writing seems to has a connection to Treaty 5. Treaty five was finalized in 1798 and it involved the purchase of Penetanguishene and environs for the sum of 100 Quebec dollars.
So what's written on it?
May 11th 1795
J. Givens Lt Qn R
A. Aiken Syr
and three dodems, representing the Mississauga(Chippewa, Anishinaabe) Chiefs who were present. (Chabondashcam, Keewaycamekeshcam and Wabeerewecam)
Some of these names are also on the 1795 portion of the Purchase of Penetang. They breakdown like this:
Gr 111 is the mark of King George. George was, in fact, the king and he did have this insignia put on all items owned by the Crown.
Counsil Rock is what the place would be called.
May 11th is the Date the counsel took place.
J. Givens is James Givins of the Queens Rangers, he was a Lieutenant in the Queens Rangers. He is a signatory of treaty 5.
A. Aikens was Alexander Aitken, who was a deputy surveyor of Upper Canada at the time. He had travelled to Penetanguishene in 1793 and sketched the future town in 1794. In 1795 he went to Montreal to investigate the failed purchase in 1787. He also signed treaty five.
J Peltier is Jacques Peltier of the Indian department. He was known to be a contractor who signed other contemporary treatises. Jacques was from the Detroit area, where he would have been known to James Givins, who was then a fur trader.
H. Harman is Heinrich Henry Harman, a veteran of the American revolution who would receive a land Grant North of York in Present Day Aurora.
Also, present that day were three Mississauga Chiefs. Chabondashcam, Keewaycamekeshcam and Wabeerewecam, who are represented by their dodems. These would be the names of the representatives, but more people would have been involved that day. These three dodems are also on treaty 5.
Council Rock, council places?
In truth, council Rocks, at least in name, are colonial in terms. Council places could have rocks, but really only as a signpost or backdrop. As John Steckley says:
•In Wendat: The noun root for a council is -hach- (with the -ch- like in Chicago). It means 'flame'. To say 'to hold a council' is adds the verb root -en- 'to put'. To say 'they (m) are holding a council' would be hatihachaen. 'they (m) are putting/placing the flame.' While I haven't seen a name for the place where people hold a council, it would probably be something like 'ehachaenstakwa' - 'It is a place where they or people hold a council. (John Steckley)
So what is more important is the fire and not the rock. However as is often the case, it became popular to call all of these sites council rocks, when they would each probably have their own names.
Features of these places are banks or rises where many people could be amassed and a single orator could be heard. Many times these are beside lakes, where the banks of the lakes can be used, and either a ridge or a rock could be stood in front of and speeches could be made.
So I can't tell you if council rock is such a place, but if it was, it was a good one. Council Rock has all the requirements I can see of such a site. The fact the rock looks like a turtles head and the ridge could be turtles back doesn't hurt either.
So why write on a rock?
Another part of the puzzle has to do with John Collins. John Collins made the following deal:
•… that the King shall have a right to make roads through the Mississaga country, that the navigation of the rivers and lakes shall be open and free for his vessels and those of his subjects, that the King’s subjects shall carry on a free trade unmolested, in and through the country, that the King shall erect forts, redoubts, batteries, & storehouses, etc. in all such places as shall be judged proper for that purpose;
•respecting payment for the above right, the chiefs observed they were poor and naked, they wanted to clothe and left it to their Good Father to be a judge of the quantity.
This deal was not paid for, at least not to the right people and was quite unsatisfactory to the British, so it was found to be null and void but a new deal would have to be made.
In 1793 John Graves Simcoe tours the area.
Penetang was long sought after as a military base. It's geology matched what they wanted, a small-mouthed bay that opened up farther in to accommodate an agrarian community. The small-mouth would be controlled by cannon mounted onshore and the community would supply the base with fresh produce and meat. It even had an island that the base could put it's the magazine on (powder and shot).
So when in 1793 Sir John Graves Simcoe came looking for places to put a base, he found the Harbor at Penetanguishene very suitable. But he realized there was a problem, he would have to convince the chiefs that they would honour the new Treaty. After all, they did not honour the previous deal, having paid the wrong people and walking away from it entirely.
I believe in preparing for the group of men to head North and gather the Chiefs, someone came up with the idea of sending an engraver North as well. If the Chiefs were leery of a new deal, they would ensure it by writing it in stone. So that is what I believe they did. The chiefs word at a council would be bound, but for the British who had turned their backs once, more was needed.
Once the actual Treaty was signed, the Rock was no longer needed and fell into oblivion. (I will follow up on this further in a later blog) Gatherings by the native peoples were also outlawed, so that the knowledge, at least publicly of these sites was lost as well.
In 2004 an unknown person went to the Park and made them aware of the Rock. We now have learned someone knew of the rock as far back as the Seventies. The knowledge of the rock is secretive, but someone knows, as there are offerings made to this day.
Engraver, stonemason artist?
So who made it? I think it was prearranged to have an engraver along on the trip, but who was writing on a stone in 1795. Well, gravestones. In that era, 1795, stonemasons would engrave gravestones and some examples of gravestones do indeed have similarities to the engraving on the stone. Due to the alignment and layout of the engraving, I believe someone familiar with gravestones was chosen to do the engraving. The Lower case E's, in Givens, Peltier and Aiken are identical. Indicating that there was only one engraver and this is not signing. Also, the fluting ends of the G's and C indicate a stylish manner and not one who is unfamiliar with the craft.
So I believe a piece of paper was given to the engraver who was boosted up on the rock and told to write it there. I presume he did this over the course of a day while the rest of the men feasted.
It is impressive that there are no false starts and no errors. The only possible error is in the bottom left, although there is a possibility that it is the mark of a bird clan and not a blatant error. That being said some of the names are inaccurately spelt, but letters may have been omitted out of jealousy for missing out on the feast.
I don't know if an archaeological dig will be done, but I believe it could reveal whether or not this site was used previously to the time it was used in 1795. When I am certain James Givins and Alexander Aitken and the men who came with them met Mississauga Chiefs to negotiate what would become Treaty 5.
So there is more to tell, where does it fit, what does it represent and why is it in the middle of nowhere, well for all that you will have to keep reading future blogs.
Art Duval Pipesmoke of the Past