Generations of Resistance: Mississaugas Host Annual Three Fires Homecoming Pow

Archive image The Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation people have been fighting a battle for generations. Their fire still burns bright in 2017.

Lisa J. Ellwood

Generations of Resistance: Mississaugas Host Annual Three Fires Homecoming Pow Wow

2017 also marks 170 years of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation forced relocation - List of additional pow wows below

This weekend the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation (MNCFN) are celebrating 31 years of their Three Fires Annual Homecoming Pow Wow and Traditional Gathering. 2017 also marks 170 years of the tribe being forced to relocate to the New Credit Reserve near Hagersville, Ontario from their ancestral Greater Toronto Area homeland which was originally located on the Credit River in 1847.

The New Credit are one of six Mississaugas subtribes of the Ojibway Nation (Anishinaabe) belonging to the Algonquian linguistic group. “Mississauga” is said to come from the Anishinaabe word Misi-zaagiing, which translates to “[Those at the] Great River-mouth” and it is also closely related to the Ojibwe word Misswezahging, “a river with many outlets.”

By the mid- nineteenth century, the Mississaugas believed they had obtained their name from the mouths of the Trent, Moira, Shannon, Napanee, Kingston, and Gananoque rivers. The term ‘New Credit’ is in reference to the relocation of the Credit River Mississaugas in 1847.

The Mississaugas traded goods with English fur traders who would extend credit to the tribe. The Mississaugas earned a reputation as a trustworthy people who would always pay back the fur traders the following spring.

MNCFN history recalls that the Ojibway occupied almost all of Southern Ontario in the mid-eighteenth century. Their ancestors were the stewards of a vast area of land from Long Point on Lake Erie to the headwaters of the Thames, Grand, Humber and Rouge Rivers.

Along with fighting battles for the British who ultimately betrayed their trust after the Battle of York in the War of 1812, the tribe unwittingly signed away the land they fought to protect. The MNCFN lost land that covers the most of the GTA over the course of controversial agreements and treaties resulting in the relocation to their reserve on the edge of the Six Nations.

The Toronto Purchase, referred to as “one of the greatest swindles in Canadian history” by historians, was a trauma that has reverberated through subsequent generations.

“It’s been a struggle,” former MNCFN Chief Carolyn King told the Toronto Star last September. “We thought we had an agreement with the governments of the day. They thought they had an agreement with us. Both of us have lived a lie.”

Issues around the war and the contested Purchase were finally resolved somewhat between the tribe and federal government when a settlement was agreed in 2010 and the Governor-General.presented a War of 1812 medallion to the MNCFN as a thank you for their defense of Canada.

“It all starts from a basis of mutual incomprehension,” historian Donald Smith told the Globe and Mail in 2013. “The First Nations believed they were lending the use of their land. The newcomers felt it was an outright handover. The expectation was that these people would eventually disappear: They would either be brought into the larger society or perish.”

Two hundred years later the New Credit Mississaugas are still here and continue to thrive. They see their pow wow as integral to their survival for generations to come.

“The pow wow is a place of culture and tradition, but it’s also a place of medicine and healing, and our communities have a lot of healing left to do,” MNCFN Chief Stacey LaForme told the Star.

The first Three Fires Homecoming Pow Wow and Traditional Gathering took place in 1987 with the assistance of former Chief King. Three sacred fires representing the Three Fires Confederacy (an age-old Anishinaabe alliance between Ojibway, Potawatomi, and Odawa tribes) were lit at the mouth of the Credit River and embers from each were taken to the New Credit Reserve in metal barrels.

For the MNCFN, the spirit of the fire still burns strong. Chief LaForme told the Star that whether it’s the suicide crisis in remote communities or missing and murdered indigenous women, maintaining the annual pow wow is an important step along the path of healing.

For more information visit the Three Fires Homecoming Pow Wow and Traditional Gathering website or Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation Facebook page.

30th Annual Three Fires Homecoming Pow Wow, New Credit, Ontario, Canada, August 27, 2016

Pow Wow Mississaugas New Credit First Nation

Pow Wow: New Credit First Nation, Hagersville/Brantford, ON, Canada