For decades, archaeologists and historians have known about the remains of a vast, 17th-century Aboriginal village called "Ganestiquiagon" at the base of the Rouge River in East Toronto.
Its exact location was only determined recently. Early excavations at Ganestiquiagon (also known as Ganatsekwyagon or "Bead Hill") have yielded thousands of artifacts including glass trade beads, a 1655 Louis XIV coin and an antler comb carved with human figures. The items likely belonged to the Seneca, one of the original five nations of the Iroquois, whose homeland was in upper New York State.
In the 1600s, the Iroquois established Ganestiquiagon and other villages along the north shore of Lake Ontario. The site was strategically placed at the mouth of the Rouge to provide access to Lake Simcoe and Upper Great Lakes waterways for hunting and travel. The village was visited by many Europeans, starting with French missionaries in 1669. In fact, the first documented evidence for European residence amongst Aboriginal people in Toronto occurred at Ganestiquiagon with the missionary François de Salignac de la Mothe-Fénelon. Future European settlements followed the locations of these popular Aboriginal villages along Lake Ontario. As archaeologist Dr. Ron Williamson (2008) points out, "In their success, the visitors became so content that they decided to stay."
By Claire van Nierop