As leaves tell us the story of the year in the changing seasons– from vivid greens at the beginning, to splashy reds and oranges at apex, and finally the bare branch depicting the quiet end; so too do our local stories tell us of our history. From stories, we learn about our beginnings. In this story, we learn about the beginning of the Niagara Escarpment. The story is from an Indigenous perspective and begins at the time of the glaciers receding. The Niagara Escarpment would’ve been the most prominent landmark. The story speaks to the Niagara Escarpment as the high grounds or the lands that reach up to the sky. It speaks to times when glacial lakes held back by ice dams gave way and “the waters came, sometimes rushing angrily, trying to escape the clutches of the great ice walls.
The Elders tell of a time when the Ancient Ones acknowledged the land that reaches up to the sky. For it was once the divide between the lands and the ice. It was said that at one time, the ice even covered the land that reached up to the sky, but not anymore. The land that reached up to the sky was a like a great wall that they were able to walk on. The Ancient Ones were able to see far and wide. On one side of the land remained the ice and the cold; on the other side were the gifts of trees, the plants they collected for food, and the mighty four-legged creatures they hunted. It was said that this land was the first place where the two-leggeds were able to walk free from the ice and so they saw this as sacred land.
It was said the Ancients spoke of a time when much of the land was covered in ice, with little good land as we know it now, to speak of, and while there were massive creatures that the ancestors hunted for food, it was a hard time. The Ancients also spoke of the land that reached up to the sky and how when they followed it into the ice, it reached out like the tip of a mighty spear, piercing that cold heart of the ice spirits. It was near the tip, near the end of the great land that reached up to the sky, that they would stop and acknowledge the spirits. It was said that the land that reached up to the sky carried on beyond the ice, but over time much too great to grasp, the ice slowly left and with this the waters came, sometimes rushing angrily, trying to escape the clutches of the great ice walls.
When the Ancients explored the land, they still hunted the many different creatures. Sometimes they would join with other bands of people for the purpose of bringing down these mighty creatures. And so, alliances were born. These different groups of people would often celebrate their successful hunts together and in doing so, they would often trade or barter different items or, even knowledge. Afterwards, they would go their different ways, but always in peace.
These people shared the stories with their children of the hard times their ancestors faced. They spoke of the great land that reached up to the sky and those children who heard those stories, in their curiosity would venture there, when they were old enough. For some of them, it was seen as a sign of their manhood or strength of spirit. They in turn would then share their stories, of their journeys to the land that reached up to the sky. They would speak of the mighty winged ones that they always saw there in great numbers. How majestically they soared and seemingly danced with the spirits.
For surely the lands that reached up to the sky must be a special place, this must be where the spirits come to meet each other, for in no other place can one see so far and see all that exists. It became a sacred place to the original peoples.
The people had a good life now, they learned from experience and shared knowledge with other groups, what plants were good to eat, when to pick them and when to leave them and let them grow. Some groups of people even learned how to save parts of the plants and rebirth their spirit. They did this through careful watching and always, always remembering. They noticed that certain plants gave birth at certain times, near when that sacred circle would come in through the darkness. They watched and noticed that that sacred circle would sometimes be full and beautiful as it lit up the dark nights and then, little by little, she would start to hide, until she was only peeking out. Then, slowly, she would start to show her face again, little by little, until her full beauty embraced all the land.
Over time so long and far as to almost be forgotten, the land so ever slowly changed. Great bodies of water so large and cold, over time, grew smaller. Some even disappeared, as if swallowed up by the very ground.
The groups of people became larger, more tightly knit. Some say this was because of the stories passed down. They remembered the sacred places of their ancestors, the land that reached up to the sky. Those sacred lands so high, so as to be able to see all the gifts provided to them, to see the feathered ones soar and dance with the spirits and to be so close to the great mystery that provided all.
One group of people, who came to call themselves the Wendat, lived in the shadow of the land that rose to the sky. They often journeyed northward to meet with other groups from the waters with many islands, whom spoke in a different tongue then they did, again they continued that practice of trading, sharing knowledge and maintaining alliances as did their ancestors. It was these people, the Wendat, who found a small and beautiful body of water nestled amongst the forest, a reminder of times past. They say the lake spoke to them; it reminded them of their ancestors and their connection to those sacred places atop of the land that rose up to the sky. It made them happy and they stayed and built a village they called home.
And while the great walls of ice and never ending bodies of water were long since gone, they remembered those sacred places where their ancestors spent time, atop the land that reaches up to the sky. There they did ceremonies and imparted to those that chose to walk in their footsteps, the sacred responsibility, of remembering those stories.
Last modified: September 5, 2017