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Land Acknowledgment

The High Park Nature Centre is on a journey to understand the history of the Land and our place on it. We will continuously update our Land Acknowledgement as we learn.

We are grateful for the opportunity to work in High Park every day. We hear Nuthatches chirp as they store seeds in the craggy Black Oak bark for winter. We watch the wake of an undulating Muskrat tail spread across Grenadier Pond. We smell thousands of native flowers bloom in the spring and summer. We feel the sands deposited by the ancient Lake Iroquois shifting beneath our feet. And we experience the tranquility of the forest and the awe of the first flush of fungi.

Each time we step into any of the three ecosystems in High Park, we witness a myriad of interactions between the animals, fungi, and plants that call them home.

One of those ecosystems is the Black Oak Savannah: a living legacy of Indigenous Stewardship. The Savannah is a community of many rare wildflowers, grasses, and hundreds of pollinators. Big Bluestem is a perennial prairie grass whose stems rise tall every summer and whose roots extend deep into the Earth. The roots of Big Bluestem and many native savannah plants have adapted over time to the sandy Soil and the Fire used to sculpt these Lands by Indigenous Peoples since time immemorial. High Park is the ancestral Land of many nations including the Wendat, the Haudenosaunee, the Anishinaabe, and the Mississaugas of the Credit. We acknowledge that the abundance of High Park today is a result of continuous Indigenous Caretaking and Stewardship for thousands of years.

The Dish with One Spoon Wampum Belt Covenant between the Wendat, the Haudenosaunee, the Anishinaabe, and the Mississaugas of the Credit enshrines the necessity of sharing and protecting this Land together by using only one spoon to eat from the Dish and ensuring the Dish is clean and never empty. When we are in High Park, we are all a part of this agreement and are all responsible for caring for and sharing this Land with all living things. We recognize the generosity and sovereignty of the Land; it cannot be exploited or owned.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada defines relationship-building as a central tenet of reconciliation. We recognize the importance of building relationships with Indigenous Organizations, Elders, and Cultural Carriers to amplify Indigenous voices and presence in the park.

As we work towards building meaningful relationships with our Indigenous partners, we acknowledge that this is a continuous process. We commit to decolonizing and re-Indigenizing to become a better organization, partner, and accomplice.

Words cannot express our gratitude for the many Elders, Knowledge Keepers, Land Defenders, Water Walkers, Earthworkers, Indigenous Youth, and all who have graciously shared their wisdom with the High Park Nature Centre. Without their support and guidance, we could not achieve our mission of connecting people to nature.

Indigenous-led Partner Organizations

A Brief History of Indigenous Stewardship in High Park

Millennia before European settlement, Indigenous Peoples lived on the Land we now call High Park. Its proximity to the Humber River meant High Park was near a major Indigenous trade route known as the Toronto Carrying Place, which linked Lake Simcoe and Lake Ontario. To the park’s northwest, an Indigenous Village, Taiaiako’n, flourished.

The Indigenous Peoples judiciously harvested the resources of this Land and maintained the ecosystem through the reciprocity of their Stewardship practices. Notably, their practice of carefully controlled fires ensured the proliferation of High Park’s Black Oak Savannah which today is a globally rare ecosystem. The continued existence of the Black Oak Savannah makes it a living symbol of the history, culture, and legacy of Indigenous Caretaking and Stewardship in the park.

Along with European settlement came the suppression of wildfires and controlled burns. Increasing development in the area led to the depletion of the natural ecosystems, the burial of naturally occurring rivers and waterways, and the extirpation of several species from the park.

Following a century of fire suppression, prescribed burns were reintroduced to High Park as a forest management tool by the City of Toronto in the late 1990s. This practice has become a regular and ongoing process which promotes the growth and proliferation of native species, restores wildlife habitats, and returns nutrients to the soil.

The return of controlled burns is one example of Indigenous Stewardship practices tackling global environmental issues. Sustainability, conservation, and concepts that exemplify the coexistence of humans and nature are values long-held and practiced by the Indigenous Peoples of this Land.

As the High Park Nature Centre engages in stewardship work through our programs, we look to the long legacy of Indigenous Stewardship and seek guidance from our Indigenous partners. We encourage our program participants and all park visitors to learn more about the history of Indigenous Peoples and their Stewardship practices in High Park.

Resources on the Indigenous History of High Park

Indigenous History of Toronto and Reconciliation Resources