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Diagram showing the location and depth of ancient footprints found between Toronto Island and the mainland, 1908.

Sketch of ancient footprints found below the Toronto Harbour, 1908.

Workers inside a waterworks tunnel, Toronto, circa 1890.

  • Ancient Footprints in Toronto

    Unfortunately, the prints were not preserved. The workers continued building the tunnel and destroyed the footprints in the process. Because the prints were lost, it is impossible to say if they were genuine, but experts believe them to have been authentic.

    However, these footprints were more than just imprints: they are a testament to the early Indigenous inhabitants’ daily lives, offering insights into their routines, from hunting and fishing to traveling. What makes this find even more intriguing is the presence of child-sized footprints. These suggest the existence of close-knit family groups, painting a vivid picture of families journeying together, perhaps for shared activities like communal hunts or fishing expeditions.

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  • Ancient Footprints in Toronto

    The discovery of the footprints serve as physical evidence of the longstanding presence of Indigenous peoples in the region. For modern Indigenous communities, this reaffirms their ancestral connections to these lands. European colonial settlers often sustained the idea that they were “discovering” or “settling” untouched lands. Findings like these ancient footprints challenge those narratives, reinforcing that the land of modern Toronto has been taken care of by Indigenous communities for thousands of years. The footprints contribute to the broader understanding of Indigenous history in the area. Although the footprints no longer exist, their discovery reflects the region’s deep-rooted Indigenous heritage, reminding us of the traditions, values, and stories that have shaped this area.

    Educational tools like this align with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action that involve referencing and studying the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) on the topic of justice and equity (50-52). While the document may not be authored by Indigenous groups, it emphasizes the importance of understanding and respecting Indigenous perspectives. While serving as a reference to modern treaties, land claim agreements, and the ongoing challenges faced by Indigenous communities in asserting their rights. This aligns with the TRC’s call to include Indigenous voices in discussions and decisions that impact their communities.

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  • Ancient Footprints in Toronto

    Learn more about the ancient footprints at two Heritage Toronto plaques, located at HTO Park on Queens Quay West and on Hanlan’s Point Ferry Dock.

    Additional Resources:

    Learn more about Indigenous youth group called Anishinàbe Odjìbikan reclaiming colonial preconceptions within archaeology.

    Information about Indigenous Sovereignty from the Chiefs of Ontario. An organization dedicated to supporting all First Nations in Ontario as they assert their sovereignty, jurisdiction, and their chosen expression of nationhood.

    Future Cities is an organization that aims strengthen collaboration within urban spaces between various organizations and communities. They do this through programming and resources through their website.  They have created an educational tool that can be used to understand Indigenous Sovereignty and Rights. 

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