History of the Mississaugas
Curve Lake First Nation people are Anishnaabeg (uhnish-nahbe) from the great Mississauga Nation. The word Anishnaabeg is derived from an-ish-aw, meaning “without cause” or “spontaneous”, and the word in-au-a-we-se, meaning “human-body”. This translates to mean “spontaneous man”. It is commonly believed that the Anishnaabeg had neither a form of written language nor a recorded history. This belief is incorrect. Although the Anishnaabeg did not have a written alphabet, they did have a set of picture symbols or pictographs which were used to educate through stories. Traditional teachings have taught us that before contact we shared the land with other tribes such as the Potawatomi, Odawa Huron and Haudonoshonee. We are the traditional people of Lake Ontario and its tributaries; this has been Mississauga territory since time immemorial.
When Europeans first arrived, their primary concern was survival in an environment much different. With the help of First Nations peoples they encountered, they were able to find food sources, learn of medicines, navigate waterways and travel dense woodlands. First Nations and European settlers enjoyed a peaceful coexistence, until growing populations of British and French newcomers began to settle in what is now present day Ontario.
In the mid 1600’s, due to the fur trade and competition between the British and French over control of land, there came a time that our people had to temporarily leave our traditional territory to avoid disease and conflict. It was at this time that Jesuits contacted our people likely near the mouth of a river where we traditionally resided. Assuming this was our territory; they referred to our people as the Mississauga. Spelling and grammar misinterpretations have led to confusion of what we have been called over the years. To avoid argument, we speak the Anishnaabeg language; we are Ojibwe by description and of the Mississauga Nation because we tended to reside in the general area near the mouths of rivers.
Our people migrated back to the Lake Ontario territory around the early 1700’s; at this time we began signing treaties with the Crown on a Nation to Nation basis to allow for settlement to occur within Southern Ontario. With the encroachment of the settlers, the Mississaugas slowly moved to live in small family groups around our present day reservation.
Over the course of the next century the Mississauga Nation would participate in eighteen treaties from 1781 to 1923 to allow the growing number of European settlers establish in Ontario. These treaties would be an exchange of an area of land for goods and currency for which the Mississaugas would use for benefit of their people and villages.
In 1829, the Crown worked with the New England Company to encourage farming and settlement for First Nations people on a peninsula along Mud Lake. The surrounding area was abundant in wild rice, various fish, birds, animals and plants for harvesting; there was everything our people needed to survive. The Mud Lake settlement officially became a reserve in 1889, there were approximately 200 members who settled in Mud Lake Reserve #35 in the late 1800’s. It has currently grown to over 2000 members with 900+ living on reserve and the remaining majority of members living off reserve. The community officially changed its name to Curve Lake First Nation #35 in 1964.
Over the years, with a push for integration of First Nations people into western society, some of our spiritual traditions were almost lost. Luckily, some families continued to practice ceremonies and the traditional way of life, and there has been a big movement to revitalize the spiritual traditions within our community. Today, hunting, fishing and gathering are still an integral part of who we are as a people and we continue to deeply value our culture, language and traditions.