Mississauga Indians ask protection from drunk, wicked white men

Pen sketch of some of the houses in the Credit Indian Village on the banks of the Credit River in what is now the City of Mississauga. Established in 1826, the village thrived for more than a dozen years, despite encroachment and harassment by white settlers, which eventually drove them out. Image from Egerton Ryerson, The Story of my Life. Toronto: W. Briggs, 1884.

 

In 1826, a group of Christian Mississauga First Nation people settled on a Methodist Church mission on the banks of the Credit River, in what is now Canada’s sixth largest city. Their Credit Indian Village thrived for a dozen years, with as many as 50 homes, a school, hospital, church, board sidewalks, “two public stores, two saw mills, one blacksmith shop, [and] one carpenter shop.” The villagers owned two-thirds of the company that developed the port at the mouth of the river, and were instrumental in laying out the town plot for Port Credit.[i] But they were eventually driven out by the harassment and encroachment of white settlers.

An early indication of their troubles is described in a petition to Upper Canada Lieutenant Governor John Colborne to protect their fishing grounds from the depredations of wicked, drunken white men. Colborne recommended to the House of Assembly “that an act may be made to protect the fishery at that place.” Here is the petition, as published in the Colonial Advocate, York (Toronto), November 12, 1829.

FATHER!

Your children who now petition to you are a remnant of the great nations who owned and inhabited the country in which you now live and make laws. The ground on which you and your children stand covers the bones of our fathers, of many generations.

When your fathers came over the great waters we received them as friends, and gave them land to live upon. We have always been friends to our great father the King and his white children.

When the white men came they made us sick and drunken, and as they increased we grew less and less, till we are now very small. We sold a great deal of land to our great father the King for very little, and we became poorer and poorer.

We reserved all the hunting and fishing, but the white men soon grew so many that they took all. When all the rest was gone we kept the 16 mile creek, the 12 mile creek, and the river Credit. The first two are gone from us, but we are wishing to keep the Credit. We reserved one mile on each side of the Credit where we now live.

About four years ago the Great Spirit sent to us good men with the great word of the gospel of our Saviour Jesus Christ, and we became a new people; we have thrown away our sins; we live in houses in a village where we worship the Great Spirit and learn his word and keep his Sabbaths; our children and young men learn to read, and many of our people from a distance have joined us.

We now want the fish in our river that we may keep our children at home to go to school, and not go many miles back to hunt for provisions. We also catch salmon and sell them very cheap to industrious white men who bring us flour and other provisions and cattle; and they say it is much better than to fish themselves.

But now father, we will tell you how wicked white men will not work. They come in the fall and spring and encamp for many weeks close by our village. They burn and destroy our fences and boards in the night. They watch the salmon and take them as fast as they come up. They swear and get drunk and give a very bad example to our young people, and try to persuade them to be wicked like themselves, and particularly on the Sabbath, their wicked ways give us much trouble and make our hearts sorry. Others go to the mouth of the river and catch all the salmon. They put the offals of salmon in the mouth of the river to keep the fish from passing up, that they may take them with a seine near the mouth of the river in the lake; and often in the dark they set gill nets in the river and stop all the fish. By those means we are much injured and our children are deprived of bread.

Now father, once all the fish in these rivers and lakes, and all the deer in the woods were ours, but your red children only ask you to cause laws to be made to keep these bad men away from our fishery at the river Credit, and from Mr. Racey’s shore one mile on each side of the river as far as our lands extend, and to punish those who attempt to fish on Saturday night, Sunday night, and Sunday, but will let the fish pass up to our white brothers up the river.

The villagers received little, if any, help from the Family Compact-dominated Upper Canada government, which pressured the Mississauga, unsuccessfully, to drop their Methodist and adopt the establishment’s Anglican faith.

In the early 1840s, the Mississauga decided to leave. The salmon run in the Credit River had been almost completely depleted. Some of the trees on the land they occupied had been felled by encroaching settlers. The land they occupied and the homes and other properties they had built did not hold them back, because they had been unable to obtain title.

They had nowhere to go until 1847 when 266 left for the Grand River, where the Iroquois Six Nations Confederacy offered the Mississauga 4,800 acres of their reserve. The land they had held on the Credit River was surveyed into plots by federal government surveyor John S. Dennis the year before they left, and sold at auction was soon as they were gone. In 1906, the site of the Credit Indian Village became the Mississauga Golf and Country Club. No sign of the village remains, other than a small historic plaque.

Unfamiliar Canadian history stories 027

[i] Meaghan FitzGibbon, Journey to the Past: The Lost Villages of Mississauga. Mississauga: Heritage Mississauga, 2010.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *