Barrie-Muskoka History - First Nations & Early Explorers

The earliest recorded Indian habitation of the area is 6,000 to 7,000 BC, based on an excavation on Manitoulin Island where quartzite tools and weapons were found. More recently, early Woodland Indians inhabited the area around 225 BC.

By the time the first explorers arrived, the Algonquin, Chippewa and Ojibway tribes had settled into the area along the French River between Lake Huron and the Ottawa River. Studies of native customs and language indicate that the Algonquins had lived with the Crees and then migrated eastwards until they met the Iroquois.

Georgian Bay Country's potential as a summer destination was recognized very early. In fact, in the 1600's it was used as summer hunting and fishing grounds by the Huron natives. The Ojibway First Nations reflected the beauty of the region when they named the first village in the Parry Sound area - located at the mouth of the Seguin River - Wasauksing, or "shining shore."

Long before Europeans came to the area, the native people had established small communities near today's Barrie, at the eastern end of a portage route between Lake Simcoe and the Nottawasaga River, which empties into Georgian Bay. This route became known as the Nine Mile Portage by trappers and fur traders.

The first European to visit the area was Samuel de Champlain, who arrived in Huronia in 1615 via the Ottawa, Mattawa and French River systems, and began trading with the Huron, Algonkin and Montagnais natives and aided them in their wars against the Iroquois, who lived south of Lake Ontario. Champlain travelled over the Trent-Severn system to Lake Ontario (then called Lac St Louis) and helped the Indians attack a village of Onodagas (one of the Iroquois Five Nations) near what is now Oneida, New York. Champlain was injured and the attack was unsuccessful and the invaders retreated. In 1649, the Iroquois got their revenge, and attacked the Hurons, wiping out the villages south of Georgian Bay. The Iroquois kept the territory as their own until forced south by the Mississaugas (an Ojibway tribe) who came south from the north shore of Lake Huron. The Mississaugas pushed the Iroquois back south of Lake Ontario.


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