Wonscotonach Parklands: What we’re hearing
Mar 20, 2019
Wonscotonach was documented as the Anishnaabemowin place name for the Lower Don River and likely translates to "burning bright point." There are several translations and many histories, and this name may refer to the practice of torchlight salmon spearing on the river, where the Mississaugas of the Credit had a seasonal settlement to fish and hunt in the marshlands for muskrat, duck and deer. The river, like all bodies of water, is essential to the culture, teachings and life of Indigenous people in Toronto, and the move to restore the name of this land is part of a commitment towards reconciliation.
Restoring the name has been, and continues to be, an ongoing conversation within the community. Beginning in November 2018, the name was brought forward in a series of community gatherings, events and focused conversations facilitated by Evergreen and the City of Toronto, and in consultation with Indigenous people and organizations.
In these conversations, topics have included:
- Indigenous Programming: What can happen in the Wonscotonach Parklands? What activities, ceremonies, education and art would we bring to this place to live out the new name?
- Indigenous Placemaking: What would the Wonscotonach Parklands look like? What needs to be changed or added to plans so that the vision of the park is realized over time?
To learn more about the renaming process, please read the previous blog post.
What we’re hearing
Below is a summary of some of the ideas that are coming from these gatherings. Thank you to everyone who have added ideas and energy to this process. These conversations will be ongoing and are helping to guide the process:
Land-based learning opportunities:
- Journey walks with youth and elders to explore ecology, medicines and land use
- Opportunities for land stewardship
- Areas for urban agriculture to grow and harvest medicinal crops (requires clean soil)
- Water-based learnings: the importance of physically reaching and connecting with the water
- Sports and space for skill-building activities, i.e. space for lacrosse
- Music and performance spaces
- Cultural celebration, Pow Wows
- Safe areas for overnight camping: specifically for youth
Restoration of the lands:
- Soil remediation to cleanse polluted lands using plant-based techniques and urban agriculture. A multiyear or multigenerational process, i.e. traditional 7 generations way of thinking
- Growing wild rice along river banks to help cleanse the water and land
- Transforming the former snow dump area into a program space for ceremony, overnight camp, youth program area, etc.
- Facilities to support gathering spaces (i.e. washrooms, sacred fires spaces, TTC access)
- Increased accessibility into the valley (i.e. TTC connections, pathways, elevators, etc.)
- Wigwam space
- Ensure all ages and voices are heard during the process
- Support program opportunities and reduce barriers from permitting
- Continue to engage in conversations within the community
- The need for a language gathering to explore spelling and pronunciation. (Waasayishkodenayosh can be translated as ‘burning bright point’ or ‘peninsula’. “Wonscotonach" is an Anglicized version of the original word as shared in writings by Dr. Basil Johnson, one of the most revered Anishinaabe scholars.)
- Place markers along the trail sharing Indigenous teachings
- Signs in multi languages
The City of Toronto will be bringing together a group of language speakers, Elders, Knowledge Keepers, academics and other leaders this spring to discuss the name, meaning and process.
This discussion parallels other similar discussions that are happening across the City regarding the naming of public spaces in the context of Truth and Reconciliation and decisions around which words, and which languages to present.
The upcoming event will help work through a series of questions and ideas for this place:
- What more can we learn about this place, the words Wonscotonach and Waasayishkodenayosh, and the teachings and traditions of this place, to inform the project?
- Are there other names for this place?
- How do we balance the diversity of Indigenous people and cultures when considering potential Indigenous names for places in the city?
- What do we need to be considering when we pursue Indigenous place names or other namings that celebrate Indigenous people, culture or language?
- How should the City move forward in pursuing Indigenous place names or other namings for new and existing parks and public spaces?
Following these conversations, City staff will be bringing forward a final report for the naming of the parklands to Toronto and East York Community Council, which has delegated authority for property naming.
Sign up for the Don River Valley Park newsletter to stay informed on the Wonscotonach Parklands proposal, receive meeting and feedback notices, and learn about events in the valley.
As we move through the process, we will share more here about our consultations and what we're hearing.
What would it take to make the Lower Don Parklands a focal point and living example of our commitment to reconciliation? Share your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org.