The present-day, urban Toronto is only one manifestation of Toronto’s cultural heritage. Toronto’s rivers, and the accompanying ravines, are very much a part of the city’s identity, and have been so for thousands of years. Today, for a city of its size, it is remarkable how intact Toronto’s natural heritage often is.
This past Saturday I attended the official unveiling of nine new historical panels along the Humber River which are part of Toronto’s newest Discovery Walk, The Shared Path. The Shared Path [pdf] runs along the lower part of the Humber River, between Dundas Street and Lake Ontario, and features thirteen clusters of plaques which tell the story of the Humber from the days of the ancient glaciers through the twentieth century. Or, to put it another way, the panels use the Humber to tell the stories of the many different cultures who have interacted with the Humber for hundreds of years. There is a strong sense of interconnectedness in The Shared Path which makes it a particularly interesting project. Many different stories are told through the plaques, including the experiences of the First Nations groups, the early French Settlers, and the modern Torontonians, who have it seen it be a site of commerce, transportation, industry, leisure, and in some instances, tragedy. The Shared Path is almost a microcosm of Toronto history.
These latest nine panels to be unveiled are ones which share First Nations stories of the Humber. There are three plaques each for the Huron-Wendat, the Six Nations of the Grand River, and the Mississaugas of the New Credit; the plaques indicate the connection these nations have and have had with the Humber River, and provide examples as to the associated archaeological artifacts which have been found nearby. I do not want to “give away” any of the actual content of these plaques, as they are best read at their actual locations, but I will say that all of these panels include colour images in addition to the usual informative text.
The Shared Path is, I think, the sort of project which is ideally suited to this city. Toronto has many different heritage groups whose stories and experiences frequently overlap and interconnect; many different elements of the city’s heritage are represented on this walk, and the project is the result of many different organizations and heritage groups working together. In both the history of the Humber and in the preparation of these displays, the name “Shared Path” is especially appropriate.
One word of warning should you go looking for these new panels: there is often a short interval between the unveiling of a plaque and its actual installation. As you may have noticed from the photo, the unveiling ceremony on Saturday actually featured replicas mounted on temporary stands, rather than the actual panels themselves. There may be a period of a few months before the actual plaques are installed in situ.