TORONTO, Sept. 14, 2013 /CNW/ - Today, through a partnership between the Huron-Wendat Nation, the Ontario Heritage Trust and the University of Toronto, the remains of 1,760 Huron-Wendat Ancestors were reburied in a serene resting place that will be protected in perpetuity, reconnecting the Huron-Wendat Nation with their forebears. This is the largest reburial of aboriginal ancestral remains ever undertaken in North America.
The reburied remains date back from the 13th to mid-17th centuries and were discovered during excavations conducted by archaeologists primarily from the University of Toronto in the mid- to late-20th century. The 1,760 Ancestors were discovered in a number of separate burial sites in various locations in southern Ontario.
The private reburial occurred at the location where the largest of the original burial sites was discovered. The significant natural heritage and archaeological preserve is situated within a conservation area owned by the Ontario Heritage Trust.
As a result of the partnership forged between the Huron-Wendat Nation, the Ontario Heritage Trust and the University of Toronto to conduct the reburial, the Huron-Wendat Ancestors have been reconnected with a place they once inhabited and united in a traditional burial site.
The Ontario Heritage Trust will ensure that the site, known as the Thonnakona Ossuary - the name given to the reburial ground by the Huron-Wendat Nation - is conserved as a serene natural landscape and sacred site in perpetuity.
"Decades later, we finally gave our ancestors a respectful burial. September 14th is great day in our history. The Huron-Wendat Nation, with their brothers and sisters from the Wyandot Nation and other First Nations, paid tribute to our ancestors in the highest regard. We also thank our partners for their ongoing support in making this journey a memorable one."
— Konrad Sioui, Grand Chief of the Huron-Wendat Nation
"By returning the Ancestors of the Huron-Wendat Nation to a peaceful resting place, this reburial honours their lives, their memory and their legacy. It also provides an opportunity for future generations of the descendants to connect with their history and heritage. I am truly moved and humbled to have witnessed this historic moment and am deeply grateful to the peoples of the Huron-Wendat First Nation, the Ontario Heritage Trust and the University of Toronto for their collective efforts and energies in facilitating this sacred and significant occasion."
— Michael Chan, Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport
"I'm pleased the Huron-Wendat Ancestors have been treated with care and respect and have been reconnected with a place that was their home. We commend all the parties involved for the years of hard work that has culminated in this historic event."
— David Zimmer, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs
"I'm very pleased that the Ontario Heritage Trust has had the opportunity to take a leadership role in facilitating this reburial and respectful reconnection of the Huron-Wendat Nation with their Ancestors. It represents a momentous event in the history of the province and an important step along the road to building stronger relationships with First Nations communities."
— Thomas H.B. Symons, Chairman of the Ontario Heritage Trust
"This return and reburial represents the closing of a circle for all involved. The University of Toronto community appreciates the spiritual significance of the resulting reconnection of the Huron-Wendat Nation and their Ancestors, and we are grateful to the Huron-Wendat Nation and to the Ontario Heritage Trust for their partnership in this historic event."
— David Naylor, President of the University of Toronto
- The Wendat peoples resided in the region of Ontario between the years 1200 and 1650.
- Today, the Huron-Wendat Nation is located in the community of Wendake near Quebec City. It is the only Wendat Nation in Canada.
- See the Huron-Wendat Ancestors Reburied in Ontario Backgrounder for more information.
- Find information about the Huron-Wendat Nation, Ontario Heritage Trust and University of Toronto
Huron-Wendat Nation Ancestors Reburied in Ontario
Through a partnership between the Huron-Wendat Nation, the Ontario Heritage Trust and the University of Toronto, the remains of 1,760 Huron-Wendat Ancestors have been reburied in a sacred burial ground to be known as the Thonnakona Ossuary.
The Huron-Wendat presence in Ontario
The Huron-Wendat are a confederacy of Iroquoian-speaking peoples that for centuries prior to European contact established a number of settlements in the area that is now central Ontario. Renowned for their agricultural production, the Huron-Wendat became increasingly involved in the fur trade after European contact. By the middle of the 17th century, following epidemic disease and intense warfare, the Huron-Wendat relocated their villages - settling in what is now Quebec, as well as parts of the United States.
Today, the Huron-Wendat community known as Wendake is located 10 km north of downtown Quebec City. It is the only Huron-Wendat community in Canada. There are approximately 3,900 members of the Huron-Wendat Nation in Canada. Nearly 1,500 reside on the Wendake reserve in Quebec. Other Huron-Wendat peoples reside in Michigan, Kansas and Oklahoma.
A reconnection with history and community
This reburial unites 1,760 Huron-Wendat Ancestors - representing a number of burial sites (or ossuaries) found in various locations in southern Ontario - in a shared resting place. Given the development that has occurred in the region over the last century, this was a unique opportunity to reconnect the Ancestors with a natural landscape that remains largely unchanged since the time it was inhabited by Ancestors of the Huron-Wendat.
The reburial was conducted by the Huron-Wendat Nation according to their traditional practices, with comingled burial areas for each of the original ossuaries. The private re-interment and associated ceremonies were carried out by the Huron-Wendat community and attended by members of First Nations communities from across Ontario, Canada and the United States.
The Thonnakona Ossuary
The Huron-Wendat have named the site of the reburial the Thonnakona Ossuary - Thonnakona being the name of a famous Huron-Wendat Grand Chief, meaning "King of Kanatha." "Kanatha" or "Kanata" refers to the Huron-Wendat word for "village" or "settlement," which is where the name "Canada" originates.
In the words of Huron-Wendat Grand Chief Konrad Sioui:
The name "Thonnakona" was chosen to honour our Grand Chief who welcomed Jacques Cartier at Stadakonnah, along the St. Lawrence River in our ancestral territory. Thonnakona was later kidnapped by Jacques Cartier, along with six others, and never returned to Stadakonnah.
Following the reburial, the Huron-Wendat Nation, the Ontario Heritage Trust and the University of Toronto will be working in partnership to identify educational opportunities to share information about the reburial and the history of the Huron-Wendat Nation.
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SOURCE: Ontario Heritage Trust
For further information:
For more information about the Huron-Wendat Nation, contact Mélanie Vincent at
418-580-4442 or [email protected].
For more information about the Ontario Heritage Trust, contact Catrina Colme at
416-325-5074 or [email protected].
For more information about the University of Toronto, contact the University of Toronto Media Hotline at 416-978-0100.