I walked along Ontario Street thinking about the other Indigenous road names in the city. The obvious one is Toronto, the English version of Tkaronto, the Mohawk name of what would become the metropolis.
There are about 100 Indigenous road names listed in the City of Toronto Street Index. Some of them refer to people, places, things or events. For example, Pawnee Avenue is named after an Indigenous band that originally lived in today’s Nebraska and Kansas, USA. In Canada the name was also spelled Panis. In the colonial days it was a byword for an Indigenous slave.
From the 1670s French and later English Canadians wrote about their Panis slaves in their letters, reports and journals. Slavery was legally abolished in Canada in 1833. It is well known (well mostly) that it freed Black people from the shackles. Less known is that it freed the Panis from the whip too.
Dr. O Lane is named after Oronhyatekha (1841-1907) or Peter Martin his English name. The lane is close to where he lived. Dr. Oronhyatekha was Mohawk. He became a doctor, businessman and the first Indigenous scholar at Oxford University. I wonder how he coped with the damp.
Not too far away is Oskenonton Lane. It was named after another famous Mohawk, this time a singer, performer and traditional healer. Oskenonton (c1888-1955) travelled throughout Canada, USA and Europe amazing crowds with his beautiful voice. For over a decade he played the Medicine Man in Hiawatha, on the stage in London, England.
Indian Road actually follows the millennia old Indigenous route from Lake Ontario, heading inland and north up to the waters of the Georgian Bay. It was an important trade and communication route linking the various Indigenous communities along the Great Lakes.
Wascana Avenue is derived from the Cree word for ‘piles of bones.’ These were the skeletons left over from the bison hunt. There are no bison in Toronto, but the street name is an echo of how important the animal was to some Indigenous cultures.
There is no road named after tobacco, but Calumet Avenue is named after the pipe used to smoke the once-precious herb. Calumet pipes were highly decorated and used only on special occasions. They are sometimes called the ‘peace pipes.’
Below is a list of 100 Indigenous street names in Toronto.
A: Abitibi Ave, Algonquin Ave, Algonquin Bridge Rd, Apache Trl, Assiniboine Rd, Athabaska Ave.
B: Brant St.
C: Calumet Cres, Canuck Ave, Cariboo Ave, Caribou Rd, Cayuga Ave, Cherokee Blvd, Chesapeake Ave, Cheyenne Dr, Chicoutimi Ave, Chippewa Ave/Cres, Cree Ave.
D: Dacotah Ave, Donnacona Cres, Doctor O Ln.
H: Hiawatha Rd, Hirons St, Huron St, Huronia Gt.
I: Indian Grv, Indian Lane, Indian Mound Cres, Indian Rd, Indian Road Cres, Indian Trl, Indian Valley Cres, Indianola Dr, Iroquois Ln.
K: Keewatin Ave, Kenora Cres, Klondike Dr.
M: Micmac Cres, Muskoka Ave, Madawaska Ave, Manhattan Dr, Manitoba Dr/St, Manitou Blvd, Mewata Gt.
N: Nahanni Ter, Nantucket Blvd, Napanee Crt, Navaho Dr, Neepawa Ave, Niagara St, Niantic Cres, Nipigon Ave, Nipissing Dr, Niska Rd, Nootka Cres, Nottawa Ave, Nottawasaga, Nunavut Rd.
O: Ojibway Ave, Omaha Ave, Ontario Dr/St/Place/Blvd, Ononabee Ave, Oskenonton Ln, Oswego Rd, Ottawa Rd/St.
P: Pawnee Ave.
Q: Quebec Ave/St.
R: Roanoke Rd.
S: Saskatchewan Rd, Saskatoon Dr, Skagway Ave, Shawnee Pk, Sonoma Way, Spadina Ave/Rd.
T: Tacoma Ave, Tahoe, Tecumseth Pl/St, Tepee Crt, Topeka Rd, Toronto St, Tuscarora Dr.
W: Wabash Ave, Wascana Ave, Winona Dr.
Y: Yukon Lane/Pl.