Lambton Heritage Museum
Grand Bend, Ontario

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Grand Bend - Our Stories, Our Voice
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NATIVE HISTORY

At the Lambton Heritage Museum you can learn about the region before the European settlers made their way into the area. The Lambton Gallery displays explain the early occupation of this area by the Attawandan Indians who lived in the region between Lakes Huron and Erie more than 400 years ago. Because they refused to get drawn into ongoing wars between the Huron aboriginal tribes around Georgian Bay and the Iroquois south of Lake Erie, they were known as the Neutral Indians. They were able to enforce their neutrality because they kept secret the location of their valuable flint beds. Flint was used and traded for weapons and tools.

After the English settlers in the United States armed the Iroquois with muskets, and the French in Quebec armed the Hurons, the value of flint was diminished and the Attawandan's neutrality couldn't last. The Iroquois wiped out the Hurons, then turned on the peaceful Attawandans, destroying them. So when the European settlers entered southwestern Ontario, the area was generally occupied only fitfully by the nomadic Chippewa peoples who, because a particular piece of land didn't mean much, were agreeable to sell their land to the British government. The area now occupied by Brooke, Enniskillen and Warwick Townships was sold for the promise of 2 pounds, 10 shillings a year for every man, woman and child in perpetuity, so long as the population never got higher than the 240 people who lived in the area at the time.

A Rev. J. Carruthers came to the Ausable River in 1833, while travelling to Detroit from York. In a newspaper report of his travels, it stated: "He gave up his horse and saddle for a while and went down the river in a sailing canoe to the grand bend. Near this abrupt turn of the river he met a band of Indians and wrote out his notes in the log house of Chief Omeok.

"The Indians," he said, "have a burial spot by the banks of the Sable which I visited. They bury the staff of the aged chief with him; and the tin cup which he ate out of, with the spoon, is placed at the head of the grave which is built round and covered over with wood or boards. A hole is cut at the head of the grave, where a supply of food is handed in, for a few days, to the spirit before it takes its departure to the far west, where no storms blow, no enemy annoys, and where there is plenty of game."

In a 1956 newspaper article the writer noted that "At both the Brenner and the Bossenberry Hotels there are many old Indian relics and guns on display and the history of them is being lost with the passing of the older generation."

 

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