Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Connecting to the land - part 1

A Toronto journalist asked me yesterday to say something about the importance of sharing Toronto's history: how does knowing the history change the present and the future? Interesting questions, and they made me clarify some of the ideas I've been considering over the last few years. Here's what I said:

When First Nations people speak of connecting to the land, they are talking not only of some personal, spiritual bond that is inaccessible to anyone else. Connecting to the land also means knowing the history of a place; hearing and telling its stories; and respecting the events and the people that have marked its landscapes.

In this sense, learning about the history of our community is a way in which we can all connect to the land. Local history allows us to understand why things are the way they are, and, at its best, it can guide our decisions for the future.

In the case of Toronto, for example, a growing public awareness of the ancient history, millenia-old function and continuing importance of the Oak Ridges Moraine led directly to legislation early this century to protect the Moraine. In a similar way, the flood of recent books and events relating to Toronto's early history may well change how we see the city and its place in Canada. Toronto's origins are Aboriginal and French rather than English. The city is a part of all of those worlds (and many more, of course). I believe that public attitudes and policy in Toronto will evolve as we learn more and more about its Aboriginal and French-Canadian heritage.

Will understanding how sacred the Toronto Islands were to the Mississauga First Nation change how Toronto deals with development on the Islands?

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