Loyalist and Mohawk Exchanges

6 June to 6 July, 2009

loyalist flag

Meeting on the River of Life: The opening of the exibition

From June 6 to July 6, 2009, we held Meeting on the River of Life, an exhibition that commemorated the 225th anniversary of the Mohawk and Loyalist landings on the Bay of Quinte and celebrated the shared history and longstanding relationship between these two communities. The exhibition was previewed in part at the Tyendinaga Economic Development Centre with portions travelling to Ottawa and Kingston. Initiated by the Naval marine Archive (NMA, then named Archives and Collections Society) in Picton and greatly aided by James Heffernan, whose large collection of stone artifacts from the Quinte area provides a major focus to the exhibit, the project was headed by Bryan Bowers, director at both the NMA and the First Nations Technical Institute (FNTI) in Tyendinaga, and Paul Adamthwaite, NMA executive director, with Rick Hill and Ken Swayze as cultural and archaeological consultants.

covenant chain and dignitaries

From left to right: Ms Betty Ann Anderson, Mayor Leo Finnegan, Chief Donald Maracle, and Dr Paul Adamthwaite
around the Silver Covenant Chain representing frienship, peace, and respect.

Both County Mayor Leo Finnegan and Tyendinaga Chief Donald Maracle were in attendance at the opening reception, along with council members from Tyendinaga, Prince Edward County, and Deseronto. Speeches by Adamthwaite, Finnegan, and Maracle preceded a cake-cutting ceremony with refreshments. As Chief Maracle said in his speech, “Our people are no strangers to this area." Indeed, the First Nations connection to the Quinte region did not begin with the Mohawk landing in 1784; human habitation in Prince Edward County dates back thousands of years, as the stone, pottery, and bone artifacts found in Consecon, Milford, South Bay, and Waupoos reveal. First Nations history enthusiast Janice Brant of Tyendinaga felt “honoured that the artifacts are on display in a public, interactive form,” and enjoyed the stimulating experience comparing notes with others interested in local history and archaeology at the opening.

While some locals found familiar elements in the exhibit, having discovered similar artifacts buried in their own farm fields and backyards, many were in awe of the enormous time span that the artifacts cover and amazed that human habitation in the County began so early. As Waupoos resident Doug McMain remarked, “the exhibit places the First Nations presence into perspective around here.” Among the earliest pieces on display is a fluted chert arrowhead dating back 14,000 years to the Paleo-Indian period. Other notable artifacts include a 9,000 year-old axe, 5,000 year-old copper beads, and a 700 year-old bear tooth pendant, along with a dugout canoe from the Mariners’ Park Museum, various prehistoric stone tools and weapons, and a substantial collection of early Iroquoian pottery. Betty Ann Anderson of Picton was fascinated with the copper artifacts, astounded that the introduction of copper to North America occurred so long ago, and also that First Nations peoples used it before Europeans. Deseronto resident and former municipal archivist Kenneth Brown was particularly impressed with the artistry of the pottery pieces, saying, “To think they were able to produce these things under such primitive conditions is a marvel!” Judy Cole, a County artist who loaned much of the pottery on display, pointed out to visitors the fascinating geometric connections between patterns in the pottery and designs engraved on a Late Woodland period bone awl.

Along with tracing the early habitation of the Quinte region through artifact displays and timeline presentations, modern indigenous paintings and loyalist artwork decorated the walls. Loyalist memorabilia, including a British army uniform from the Royal Military College, woven wool coverlet, clay pipe, communion set, land allotment map, flintlock musket, and various guns, swords, and tools were also showcased. Randy Pitt of FNTI felt the combined exhibition of Loyalist and Mohawk artifacts to be very significant, stressing that it is “important to be reminded of our history.” Forming the focal point of the exhibition was the three-link Silver Covenant Chain that symbolically links the First Nations canoe to the colonial ship in a relationship embodying friendship, peace, and respect. Sun Worshippers, a vibrant nineteenth-century oil by Canadian artist Ira. A. Barton depicting First Nations peoples and European missionaries coexisting peacefully in the Canadian wilderness, exemplifies the themes of cultural tolerance and cooperation that underscore the entire exhibition.

Sincere thanks go out to our generous sponsors: Canadian Tire Corporation, Elizabeth Crombie, Andrew and Pronika Janikowski, Ontario Provincial Police, Picton Gazette, Scotiabank, Donna Silver-Smith, TD Canada Trust, and Waring House. We would like to thank our friends, Anderson Farms, Cooper Plating, Picton Fabric World, and Richard Bird for their kind support. We are grateful to our talented volunteers Henry Adriaanse and Doug McMain for doing much of the woodwork required for the exhibit. We also thank the following individuals and organizations for loaning us collections for display: Bryan Bowers, Canadian Museum of Civilization, Robert Clapp, Judy Cole, William Cowan, First Nations Technical Institute, James Heffernan, Mariners’ Park Museum, Prince Edward County, Royal Military College, and Joan Still.

We are thrilled that the exhibition received coverage from a wide range of publications including the Belleville Intelligencer, County Weekly News, Ontario Sailor, Picton Gazette, and the Quinte Arts Council newsletter, Umbrella.

Nia:wen / Thank you to the supporters of Meeting on the River of Life.

Thanks to our Sponsors:

  • Andrew and Pronika Janikowski
  • Canadian Tire Corporation
  • Donna Silver-Smith
  • Elizabeth Crombie
  • Ontario Provincial Police
  • Rotary Club of Picton
  • Scotiabank
  • The Picton Gazette
  • TD Canada Trust