Written by: Brenna Bartley, Educational Coordinator for Mountsberg and Crawford Lake
In 1984 a remarkable building was constructed at Crawford Lake Conservation Area. Almost 550 years after it first existed, an Iroquoian longhouse rose again. The longhouse is one of five discovered as part of a village believed to have been inhabited by ancestors of the Wendat or Attawandaron people during the mid-1400s. Archaeologists were able to determine the longhouses’ original location based on features in the soil called post mold stains. Post mold stains are dark circular stains in the soil that indicate where a post once stood and then rotted away. The discovery of these post mold stains enabled Conservation Halton to rebuild the Turtle Clan longhouse on its original footprint. Standing in the longhouse truly enables one to stand where someone once stood over 500 years ago, to see what they might have seen and to smell the smoke and earth and cedar they may have smelled; an amazing and unique experience.
In the thirty years since it was first built, the Turtle Clan longhouse has been joined by another reconstructed longhouse (the Wolf Clan longhouse) and many other village features, including a palisade and Three Sisters garden. Incredibly, over 800 000 school children from across Southern Ontario have visited the longhouse to learn what life may have been like for people over 500 years ago. The Iroquoian village and rare meromictic lake at Crawford Lake have become an important part of the fabric of the community in Halton Region.
A visit to the park today reveals the toll that thirty years of rain, snow, wind, sun and visitation can take on structures originally designed to be home to an extended family of thirty to sixty people. The longhouses are in need of repair to ensure that they continue to exist for future generations to experience. In order to close the two existing longhouses for refurbishment (one at a time, to preserve the opportunity for visitors to enjoy the site) the decision was made to conduct archaeological investigations and reconstruct a third longhouse on its original site. The Deer Clan Longhouse has been under construction since September 2013 and is slated to have its grand opening in September 2014 (although park visitors will be treated to a preview beginning June 22, 2014 in honour of National Aboriginal Day).
It has been a whirlwind of a year filled with a great deal of learning, relationship building and an incredible amount of hard work; it is a year we are now excited to share with you! Over the coming months we are looking forward to sharing a series of blog posts with you about the construction of this project, the exciting exhibits that the longhouse will contain and the stories they will tell. Stay tuned to this space for more details about the Deer Clan Longhouse and please save the date of June 22 to join us for a sneak peek inside this amazing space.