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June 2013 - Nr. 6

Indians, German speaking Frontiersmen
and the Battle of York

Toronto - 200 years after the Americans burned Fort York thousands of Ontarians celebrated the war’s legacy and its heritage experiences. The First Nations and descendants of warriors who fought at the battle of York participated in the celebrations.

The Celebration began on April 27, 2013 early in the morning between the hours of 6 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. at Toronto’s Garry Sault is the Elder of the Mississaug's of the New Credit First Nation that conducted the Sunrise Ceremony at the Toronto Waterfront on Palais Royal. The artifact "Eagle Staff" is spirit calling and honours the traditions of the First Nations  [photo: Rolf A. Piro]waterfront at Palais Royal. Elder Garry Sault from the First Nation presented to the audience the “Eagle Staff” a cultural artifact. It is an artifact that is relevant to the history and culture of the First Nations to the Mississauga’s of the New Credit and Humber River. A highlight of the day’s celebrations included a march to Fort York, for a plaque presentation to honour the contributions of First Nations during the war. Followed by a concert at St. James George Ferguson a descendant of the Algonquin Indians also participated in the Sunrise Ceremnony. In the background is the Humber River and Ontario Lake in Toronto  [photo: Rolf A. Piro]Cathedral, a Service Remembrance, Parades, and Exhibitions at Fort York the events had been attended by more than 8,000 Ontarians.

Two soldiers parachuted from a plane, floated over Queen’s Park where the ceremony was held, and landed nearby on the grounds of the University of Toronto. Drummers from the marching band put their instruments together, which were then covered with a white cloth to resemble an altar. As the flag was draped over the alter Chaplain Brig. Gen. K.R. McLean said a blessing. Prince Philip, the Queen’s husband and colonel-in-chief of the Third Royal Regiment, made a few brief remarks before handing the new flag over to the regiment’s Third Battalion.

The Battle of York

Fort York is the location where urban Toronto was founded in 1793 and a traumatic battle had taken place by the British, Canadian and First Nations combatants against U.S. forces during the War of 1812. This 43 acre site was part of the York battlefield on April 27, 1813. The Town of York then was the capital of Upper Canada and according to the Berczy Settlers Gazette Infant Toronto was surrounded by a densely grown virgin forest. The population was made up of about 700 civilian’s at the time, exclusive the population of Markham. Infant York later to become Toronto was attacked and taken over by American forces numbering about 2,600 soldiers and sailors. The British land forces made up of professional soldiers, First Nations warriors and Upper Canada militia with volunteers from the population amounted to 1, 060 people.

Unresolved issues from the Paris Peace Treaty of 1783 plus British infringement on American free trade had been the prime reasons for the lingering conflict to conquer British North America (now Canada). The U.S. invasion into Canada had taken place eight times. After the hostilities ended the Americans burned the parliament buildings, and the home of the Lieutenant Governor Graves Simcoe; the British in return burned the White House. A peace treaty with the British has been ratified in February 1815.

Heritage Experiences relating to the First Nation People

The Elder Garry Sault from the New Credit First Nation pointed to the need to preserve the Indian culture that relates to folklore, traditions, language, and knowledge. When Indian culture started to disappear in North America as a result of the fatal encounter with the white man, the famous Swiss-German painter Karl Bodmer created more than 400 water colour paintings of finest quality and details of the indigenous Indian culture. This work of art was created during the years between 1832 and 1834 before photography was invented. His works to-day is strewn and can be seen in various museums in Canada and the United States. It represents an important inheritance of First Nation culture from past generations.

Canada’s frontier diplomats of German heritage have been William Claus (1765-1826), son of Christian Daniel Claus (1727-1787), the well-known Diplomat born in Breunigam, Germany, and son-in-law of Sir William Johnson (1715-1774), member of the Johnson Dynasty that served in the Indian Department. Four years after Johnson’s death (Christian) Daniel Claus was appointed in August 1778 as a deputy agent for the Six Nations in Canada, subordinate to Guy Johnson, another son-in-law of Sir William Johnson. Until his death in 1787 (Christian) Daniel Claus supervised, with Colonel John Butler, known as leader of the Butler’s Rangers, the establishment of various groups in the resettlement of the Six Nations Indians at the Bay of Quinte and the Grand River, Ontario Canada.


The exhibits and guided tours remind visitors to Fort York today of this important time period of Canada’s history.


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