View From York Barracks

The watercolour image I am holding up was painted in 1796 by Elizabeth Simcoe, wife of the city's founder. Her watercolour images fascinate me due to the fact they are some of the very first and only images we have that give us an idea of what Toronto looked like in a purely natural state. 

When Elizabeth and her husband John Graves Simcoe sailed into Tkaranto's stunning harbour, it was all natural and home of the the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat peoples and is now home to many diverse First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. 

Fort York was the very first area that was cleared for the development of a town here. The Old Oak Savannah that sat untouched for centuries started to be clear cut. Did you know that Tkaranto is often thought to mean, "Carrying Place, or Meeting Place" but recently is was found that the closest translation of the word is actually, "Where Trees Stand in the Water?" 

In order for settlers to honour our agreements and promises, we need to reconcile our relationship with the landscape and cease structuring our society in ways that continue to exploit the water and land and the Indigenous people still working hard to protect it. 

I often wonder what Elizabeth Simcoe would think of what this city has become. She played a massive role in the clear cutting and environmental destruction that has happened here, but the wild of this place is what she clearly loved so much, based on her diary. Would she be disappointed in the outcome of their actions or proud? 

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