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Waawayaataning: History of the Carolinian Zone

By Brandon Doxtator, Indigenous Leadership Coordinator, Carolinian Canada

Since 1984, Carolinian Canada identified the Carolinian Zone as Canada’s southernmost ecoregion and named it for the plants and animals that range from the Carolina’s into Canada from Windsor to Toronto. In 2019, Brandon shared this knowledge with our network on the history of this land.

Brandon Doxtator is a Bear Clan member from the Oneida Nation of the Thames. Brandon sits on the Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians (AIAI) Youth Council, as well as working for the Oneida Nation as the Environment and Consultation Coordinator.

Prior to European colonization many Indigenous peoples called southwestern Ontario home, including the Neutral, Erie, Tabbacco or “Tionontati”, Huron-Wyandot and the Haudenosaunee peoples. First Nations have lived, learned and thrived off this land for many generations and to some, the area between the great lakes was known as the Beaver Hunting Territory, as many people were able to sustain themselves from the fertile and abundant hunting found in this region. Significant features include Deshkan Ziibi (Thames River) and Waawayaataning which means Round Lake in reference to Lake St. Clair.

Many Indigenous Nations today recognize the concept of One Dish One Spoon. This is an agreement made between Haudenosaunee and Anishinabek nations that states that all the land is on one dish and our nations must share this resource. This has been used many times to establish friendly relationships with other Indigenous nations and is still used today to acknowledge our combined duty to the protection and sustainability of the land. 

The Two Row Wampum also known as the “Kuswenta” is one of the earliest treaties signed between Indigenous and European nations. The treaty, signed by the Haudenosaunee and the Dutch in 1613, symbolizes an understanding of peace, friendship and respect, which signifies the type of relationship that was envisioned. Each nation had its own canoe travelling down the river of life, and though they must travel it together, each of the nation’s people, were to stay in their own canoe with their own language, customs and laws “for as long as the grass grows green, for as long as the wind blows and for as long as the sun shines”. This is the first example of a Nation-Nation treaty of respect and non-interference. 
Today, many Indigenous Nations still call the Carolinian Zone home, and have long historic treaties and ties to this land. The First Nations that still call southwestern Ontario home include; Aamjiwnaang First Nation, Bkejwanong Walpole Island First Nation, Caldwell First Nation, Chippewas of the Thames First Nation, The Chippewas of Kettle and Stony Point First Nation, Munsee Delaware Nation, Eelünaapéewi Lahkéewiit (Delaware Nation at Moraviantown), the Mississauga of the Credit, Six Nations and Oneida Nation of the Thames.  

It is imperative this collaborative approach honors and respects the inherent and treaty rights that Indigenous peoples have held for generations.

Figure 1 Two Row Wampum
The Two Row Wampum also known as the “Kuswenta” is one of the earliest treaties signed between Indigenous and European nations.

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