Day 67 – August 12 – Owen Sound, ON to Bracebridge, ON

Penetanguishene (Pen-e-tang-WISH-ene) is a bi-lingual community located on the southeasterly tip of Georgian Bay. We drove up here to see the Garrison Church, otherwise known as St. James Anglican. It is one of Canada’s oldest churches, built in 1836 and still in use today, so it was not open. I was hoping to see inside because the church was built with a center aisle wide enough for four soldiers to walk abreast. We had to negotiate detours because they were re-paving the street in front of the church, but eventually drove down a ‘local traffic’ only road and parked in the adjoining cemetery. There was a geocache hidden in the cemetery so we were able to find it while we were there.

There are two suggested origins for its full name – St. James-on-the-Lines. The first comes from its location on the lines of communication, or road, from the former military establishment at Penetanguishene to the south. The second may be from the old Victorian military usage of Lines for the rows of tents or buildings in a military camp.

The steeple bell was taken from an American schooner sunk during the War of 1812. There is some debate over which of two schooers it is from.

We next drove to Midland a few kilometers away to see the Huron-Ouendat (Wendat) Village at the museum. It is a pre-European reconstruction showing what Wendat life was like between 1500-1600. There may be 40-50 families in a large village while only eight or ten may live in a small hamlet. The populations would be made up of extended families who lived together for varying lengths of time.

Agricultural fields surround the village. Corn, beans and squash are planted together to maximize water and nutrients. They also planted sunflowers for oil. These crops provided an abundance of food for the villagers.

The village entrance is narrow and winding and controls access to its inhabitants from wolves, bears and unwelcome people. A surrounding fence also provides protection against strong winds and blowing snow.

The most important crop is tobacco and it is grown inside the village to protect it from frost and wind damage. The leaves are hung to dry in the longhouse in the fall. Tobacco is smoked in order to communicate with the spirit during village ceremonies, council meetings, curing rites and private prayer.

Large quantities of poles are stacked upright to preserve space and keep them dry. The poles provided an emergency building supply to repair or replace damaged structures. Bark containers filled with dried corn or meat were sometimes buried in the center of pole stacks to protect the food supply from animals.

Temporary shelters were fashioned after the wigwam made by the Algonkians, northern trading partners of the Wendat. The wigwams were used inside the village for housing guests and were built as summer shelters for the women of the village to use while they were working the fields as farming fields expanded away from the village. Hunting and fishing parties would also build them at their camps where they might stay for weeks at a time.

Corn comprised over 60% of the Wendat diet. It is harvested in the fall and dried in the longhouse. It would be ground into a coarse meal or flour for use in soups and breads. The kernals were placed in one of the specially hollowed out tree trunks and pounded with a pestle and were further crushed using a heavy wooden pole. The fine flour was done using grinding stones.

This tiny hut is a sweat lodge. They were not always a permanent structure in the camp, but were often purpose built for curing illnes or other rituals. Sometimes they were built inside and sometimes outside the village. Everyone would sit hip to hip, knees drawn up under the chin. The lodge would be covered with bark and skins and hot stones rolled into the center. Then the doorway would be closed. The men would sing and pray to the spirits, drink water and pour water onto the rocks to create more steam.

The shaman were called Arendiwane. They lived within the village but separate from the others. There were four types of Arendiwane: those who commanded the wind and rain, those who predicted the future, those who found lost objects, and those who healed. The healers were further broken down into two groups – the Ocata, who diagnosed the illness or source of the illness, and Aretsans, who prescribed the remedy. All received their powers through dreams, visions and contact with the spirit world.

Lookout towers were used to keep watch over the surrounding countryside. In times of war with other groups, the towers could be used to defend the village.

The Longhouse was a multi-family dwelling that was the center of Wendat life. Platforms lined the sides and were used for storage and sleeping. Cooking fires ran down the center. Rush mats were spread on the floor for sitting and sleeping in winter. Longhouses were where feasts were held, the dish game was played, clan decisions were made, the dead were mourned and babies were born. The upper rafters were used to dry corn, store beans, squash, tobacco, and animal hides.

There were two sizes of canoes. Large ones used to go on long distance trading expeditions could be up to 8 meters long and were used to transport goods throughout the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River system. Smaller ones like in this shed were used for fishing, recreation, and personal short trips.

Games were very important to the people. Adults and children alike played them. Even ill people were encouraged to play to assist with healing. Lacrosse was played by all the men, even sick ones. The above photo is a Duck on a Rock pit. It is similar to bowling where you have to knock a small rock off a big one. The game was used to develop skills such as coordination, endurance and cooperation. Games brought clans (family groups) together in a social event which was often part of religious ceremonies.

We did a quick tour of the museum beside the village before leaving Midland and driving to Bracebridge for the night.

I always see a few really nice or unique pieces in museums.

This is an Everlasting Match. I looks like a pocket watch but contains a flammable liquid and flint that would ignite when scraped on the outside of the carrying case.

A shotgun shell loader. It was used to load and reload spent shotgun cartridges. The powder, shot, and wad compressed into the cartridge and new primer was added.

There was no sign to say how old the camera was, but it was really big.

What an amazing amount of detailed woodwork on this gorgeous clock!

Midland is a harbour town and all of these four sided stands have photos of boats and ships that would come into port for one thing or another over the decades.

This is the simplest hobby horse I have ever seen. A curved log, some sticks for legs, a bit of hair for the tail, a notch for the mouth and a carved circle for the eye. But I bet the child had many adventure on this little guy.

We had been hoping to spend a few days in the Muskoka Lakes area. John’s grandfather grew up here and told many stories of his youth. We saw several of the places he mentioned when we drove across Canada in 2014 but were hoping to do a bit more touring around. Unfortunately our accomodation issue has raised its head again and we could find no places to stay. So tomorrow it is off to Sudbury and the beginning of the long trek along the tops of Lake Huron and Superior. Sigh.

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