Land and Housing
Given its central location to various rivers and lakes, for thousands of years the land we now call Toronto was both a permanent Indigenous settlement and a trade route for Indigenous travellers throughout North America. Oral histories, passed from one generation to the next, expanded knowledge and provided a sense of community, ensuring future generations were familiar with the trade routes and seasonal riches of the area; however, these traditions were interrupted by colonization and concepts such as the Doctrine of Discovery.
The Dish with One Spoon treaty, which includes Toronto, was signed in 1701. In 1787, the Toronto Purchase was made from the Mississaugas of the Credit, although full agreement on this settlement wasn’t complete until 2010. York was established in 1793, and incorporated as The City of Toronto in 1834 (Freeman, 2010).
Land acknowledgements: uncovering an oral history of Tkaronto – YouTube (3min41sec)
According to the Government of Canada census data, the Indigenous population of the Toronto area had been in decline since the late 1700s (Freeman, 2010). By the mid-to-late 1800s, the implementation of reservations was added to treaty discussions, and Indigenous populations were often forcibly relocated to remote parcels of land, well outside urban areas (Canadian Encyclopedia 2022).
As land was seized, and reservations established, traditional knowledge was lost and traditional lands became inaccessible. See quote from TRC. The relocation of Indigenous peoples from their traditional lands negatively impacted their ability to gather traditional foods and medicines. According to archival Census research, the Indigenous population of Toronto by the early 1900s measured only in the hundreds; however, the veracity of this data is questionable.
According to the Toronto Aboriginal Research Project Report (2011), while 2006 Statistics Canada results indicated the current Indigenous population of the GTA was 31,910, the city’s Aboriginal agencies suggested their population was over 70,000 (p. 78). It must be recognized that Statistics Canada is a Government agency, and as such, it is not trusted by many Indigenous people.