Quebec History Marianopolis College

Date Published:
September 2004

L’Encyclopédie de l’histoire du Québec / The Quebec History Encyclopedia


Missisauga Indians



[This text was originally published in 1907 by the Bureau of American Ethnology as part of its Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico. It was later reproduced, in 1913, by the Geographic Board of Canada. The work done by the American Bureau was monumental, well informed and incorporated the most advanced scholarship available at the time. In many respects, the information is still useful today, although prudence should be exercised and the reader should consult some of the contemporary texts on the history and the anthropology of the North American Indians suggested in the bibliographic introduction to this section. The articles were not completely devoid of the paternalism and the prejudices prevalent at the time. While some of the terminology used would not pass the test of our "politically correct" era, most terms have been left unchanged by the editor. If a change in the original text has been effected it will be found between brackets [.] The original work contained long bibliographies that have not been reproduced for this web edition. For the full citation, see the end of the text.]



Misissauga (Chippewa: misi, 'large,' sâg or sauk, 'outlet (of a river or bay)' = large outlet,' referring to the mouth of Mississagi r. - Hewitt.) Although this Algonquian tribe is a division or subtribe of the Chippewa, having originally formed an integral part of the latter, it has long been generally treated as distinct. When first encountered by the French in 1634, the Missisauga, lived about the mouth of the Mississagi r., along the N. shore of the North channel of lake Huron , and on the adjacent Manitoulin id. Although so closely allied to the Chippewa, they do not appear to have been disposed to follow that tribe in its progress westward, as there is no evidence that they were ever found in early times so far W. as Sault Ste. Marie, but appear to have clung to their old haunts about lake Huron and Georgian bay. Early in the 18 th   century, influenced by a desire to trade with the whites, they began to drift toward the S. E. into the region formerly occupied by the Hurons, between lakes Huron and Erie. Although they had destroyed a village of the Iroquois near Ft. Frontenac about 1705, they tried in 1708 to gain a passage through the country of the latter, to trade their peltries with the English. At this time a part or band was settled on lake St. Clair. About 1720 the French established a station at the W. end of lake Ontario for the purpose of stimulating trade with the Missisauga. Near the close of the first half of the century (1746-50), having joined the Iroquois in the war against the French, the Missisauga were compelled by the latter, who were aided by the Ottawa, to abandon their country, a portion at least settling near the Seneca E. of lake Erie. Others, however, appear to have remained in the vicinity of their early home, as a delegate from a Missisauga town "on the north side of lake Ontario" came to the conference at Mt. Johnson, N. Y., in June, 1755. As it is also stated that they "belong to the Chippewyse confederacy, which chiefly dwell about the lake Missilianac ," it is probable that "north side of lake Ontario " refers to the shores of lake Huron. Being friendly with the Iroquois at this time, they were allowed to occupy a number of places in the country from which the Hurons had been driven. This is inferred in part from Chauvignerie's report of 1736, which places portions of the tribe at different points on Mississagi r., Maniskoulin (Manitoulin?) id., lake St. Clair, Kente, Toronto r., Matchitaen, and the W. end of lake Ontario. The land on which the Iroquois are now settled at Grand r., Ontario, was bought from them. For the purpose of sealing their alliance with the Iroquois they were admitted as the seventh tribe of the Iroquois league in 1746, at which date they were described as living in five villages near Detroit . It is therefore probable that those who went to live with the Seneca first came to the vicinity of Detroit and moved thence to W. New York . The alliance with the Iroquois lasted only until the outbreak of the French and Indian war a few years later.


According to Jones (Hist. Ojebways ), as soon as a Missisauga died he was laid out on the ground, arrayed in his best clothes, and wrapped in skins or blankets. A grave about 3 ft. deep was dug and the corpse interred with the head toward the W. By his side were placed his hunting and war implements. The grave was then covered, and above it poles or sticks were placed lengthwise to the height of about 2 ft., over which birch-bark or mats were thrown to keep out the rain. Immediately after the decease of an Indian, the near relatives went into mourning by blackening their faces with charcoal and putting on the most ragged and filthy clothing they possessed. A year was the usual time of mourning for a husband, wife, father, or mother.


As the Missisauga are so frequently confounded with the Chippewa and other neighbouring tribes who are closely connected, it is difficult to make a separate estimate of their numbers. In 1736 they were reported to number 1,300, about 250 being on Manitoulin id. and Mississagi r., and the rest in the peninsula of Ontario; in 1778 they were estimated at 1,250, living chiefly on the N. side of lake Erie, and in 1884 the number was given as 744. The population was officially reported in 1911 as 856, of whom 195 were at Mud Lake , 97 at Rice lake, 33 at Scugog, 263 at Alnwick, and 266 at New Credit, Ontario . The New Credit settlement forms a township by itself and the Indian inhabitants have often won prizes against white competitors at the agricultural fairs. The New Credit Indians (who left the Old Credit settlement in 1847) are the most advanced of the Missisauga and represent one of the most successful attempts of any American Indian group to assimilate the culture of the whites. The Alnwick res. dates from 1830, Mud Lake from 1829, Scugog from 1842. Beldom, Chibaouinani, and Grape Island were former settlements.


Source: James WHITE, ed., Handbook of Indians of Canada, Published as an Appendix to the Tenth Report of the Geographic Board of Canada, Ottawa, 1913, 632p., pp. 304-305.





© 2004 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College