ANTHROPOCENE IMMERSION, UNEARTHING LOST TADDLE CREEK HELEN MILLS Welcome to this journey to discover Taddle Creek, one of Toronto’s most iconic lost rivers. I’m Helen Mills, founder and co-director of Lost Rivers, a project of the Toronto Green Community. We are a small group of citizen geographers, researching and mapping the creeks that still define Toronto in so many ways. We have been walking on the Lost Rivers since 1994, with more than 33,000 people. RHONDA LUCY And I’m Rhonda Lucy, Tsiktsenenawe Yakonkwe, a 2-spirited member of the Wolf Clan and the founder and Creative Director of Sun Raven arts. I’m of mixed Mohawk and European ancestry and based in Toronto.
HELEN MILLS We’ll be your guides on this journey to find lost Taddle Creek. In the second part of the walk you will also be hearing from John Lorinc, Rita Wong, Zachary Grant, and Setayesh Babaei. Before we say anything else, we’d like you to walk with us to the first stop. Once you’re there, we’ll have a few things to share with you so for this one time, you might want to find a comfortable spot to sit. STOP #1: BIRCH TREES OUTSIDE PITMAN HALL HELEN MILLS You should be starting at the little parkette on Church Street north of Gould Street. From there, head into the parkette towards the east side. You will see a small group of birch trees – the trees with white bark. We’ll start our walk there. Again, please find a seat as we’ll spend a few minutes talking about what’s to come…and we also have a story about the birch trees We'll begin with a land acknowledgement. We show gratitude today to the Mississauga's of the Credit, the Anishinaabe, the Chippewa, the Petun, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat nations. This walk is taking place on lands covered by the Mississauga Treaty with the Mississauga's of the Credit. Chi Miigwetch Onah As we walk through X (Ryerson) University, the old Ward neighbourhood (now the Discovery District) to City Hall, we will be travelling in time from the end of the Ice Age to the present Anthropocene. You will encounter tributary creeks that once flowed into the Taddle, lost forests, lost ecosystems, and the urban ecosystems that are here now.
1 ANTHROPOCENE IMMERSION, UNEARTHING LOST TADDLE CREEK The walk is about two kilometres long and at a leisurely pace should take about an hour. There are many places to rest. Please pause the audio as you cross streets. If you find yourself at the next stop ahead of the audio, just have a look around as you wait for us to catch up. As we go you'll also be hearing from a few other people. At the birch tree please take a seat if you like as this first stop will take a few minutes. RHONDA LUCY The story on this walk begins 11,000 years ago. Imagine mastodons and caribou grazing in shoreline willow thickets. Musk ox and bison, a giant elk-moose, extinct deer in the woods. Bears, wolves alongside grazing animals. The lost creek across the road was flowing through the sand plain left behind when ancient Lake Iroquois drained. And never too far away, original peoples watched, hunted and lived. Their legacy has been passed down through generations via oral tradition and practices. Traces of ancestors are mostly hidden under the waters of Lake Ontario. In 1908, 11,000 year old foot-steps were discovered in Toronto Bay while a pipe was being repaired. They were immediately reburied. HELEN MILLS These birch trees are a portal to the forests that were here 10,000 years ago. By the time they arrived, the mastodons, moose-elk and Toronto deer were extinct. Mixed tundra and spruce forests had evolved into a more diverse forest of white pine, hemlock, beech, oak, and birch. Birchbark canoes were the means for travel and trade across North America for thousands of years both pre and post contact. Tools and baskets were made from the bark and the tree gifted medicine Rhonda will now tell the story, “Why the Birch has its Eyes.” RHONDA LUCY Once there sat a medicine keeper at their camp and beside them was a Birch tree. The medicine keeper needed to go check their traps and asked the Birch tree to watch over their camp while they were gone. The Birch tree gladly agreed but after a while the tree became board and fell asleep. In crept the coyotes and tore apart the camp, eating all the food and destroying everything in the process all while the Birch tree slept. The medicine keeper after a long journey, exhausted and ready to rest sees their camp tattered and tore with everything gone. Infuriated to see the Birch tree asleep! The medicine keeper shook the tree awake “Birch tree! You promised to watch over my camp look what’s happened!” then grabbed a pine branch and thrashed (thrashing sounds) the pure white bark scaring it with thin black lines. The Birch tree filled with remorse replied “I am so sorry you were gone so long and I got bored and sleepy! Oh, I am so so sorry” Suddenly a burst of laughter comes down from the branches (laughter mixed with raven sounds) https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/American_Crow/sounds if needed 2 ANTHROPOCENE IMMERSION, UNEARTHING LOST TADDLE CREEK as Nannabush and his friends the ravens had sat and watched everything happen and could no longer hold themselves back. One by one the medicine keeper reached up grabbing the ravens and began to spank the tree with their tail feathers in attempts to teach both a lesson. The Ravens flew off still laughing away but shamed. The Birch tree cried out “From this day forward I will never be lazy and fall asleep again and to restore your supplies you may use my entire body for medicines.” The scars on the Birch tree promised to never forget and the eyes on all its sides that always open, watching, protecting to this day.
STOP #2: PINE TREES, RYERSON ARCHITECTURE BUILDING
HELEN MILLS Now take the path on the north side of the park, back towards Church Street. Just past the blue emergency pole, you will see a group of trees. Take a couple of steps onto the grass and you will see a pine tree right in front of you. It is right beside another big birch tree. At the very spot we’re standing, there was a pine-oak forest for thousands of years. And just 200 years ago it was still here. To the east, past Jarvis Street there was a large swamp with frogs, crayfish, snipe and other birds. Right across the road fishing was great in Moss Park Creek - abundant trout, salmon and more. Deer were plentiful, bears, wolves, foxes, birds and many other creatures hung out in the forests. Ancient trails and canoe routes connected the whole of North America into a big trading network. This pine tree is the portal into a story that happened about 879 years ago. RHONDA LUCY Before our settler cousins arrived, nations formed a confederacy Oneida, Onondoga, Seneca, Cayuga and Mohawk This was about 1142 then later came the sixth nation Tuscarora in 1722. They were lead by Hiawatha and guided by the will of the people to follow the great law of peace. This was a time when our nations warred with each other, fomented by Tadadoho. Everyone feared him except Hiawatha. After many years of war the people could stand no more they gathered to make peace all but not Tadadaho. War was the only way he knew. Hiawatha could not get him to agree and so he traveled to the Mohawk long house seeking a great peace maker he had heard of. He came with a gift of Wampum dark row beaded along side white to represent the ability to walk alongside each other in peace. Jigöhsahsë’ (Chi-gong-sa-say) who was a great woman a clan mother that had a lodge she opened to everyone and held many councils for warring nations and people. Women were the keepers of knowledge, war and controlled the food supply. Often 3 ANTHROPOCENE IMMERSION, UNEARTHING LOST TADDLE CREEK when enemies would meet in her long house, she would have them eat from the stew. Indigenous culture believes that those who eat together are instant kin. After many councils the nations gathered again in Jigöhsahsë’(Chi-gong-sa-say) long house and finally were able to agree to peace. The peace maker waited on the shores of Onondaga lake. Holding 1 arrow, he snapped in half. He then grabbed six arrows began to do the same. The arrows strength combined and could not be broken. They were instructed to later come to a feast nobody could bring a knife or weapon of any kind. The peace maker then chose a pine tree. Together they up rooted it and buried their weapons and an eagle sat a top of the pine tree watching over. All gathered in the long house they sat and only one bowl and one spoon for all of them, full of a delicious beaver tail stew this was a deliciously all fatty and succulent easy to tempt you. The instructions are to pass the bowl and spoon around the table to take only as much as you need and to make sure there is enough for the next person. Most important that there be some left over after the last person eats. - representing the natural law to provide for our futures and our descendants,. only taking what we need. After the feast they were all given white strings of wampum with two dark beads to show no matter who held a leadership positions the seat will always belong to the women. With the weapons of war buried under the great pine tree a hidden river washed them away.
STOP #3: MOSS PARK CREEK
HELEN MILLS Moss Park Creek across the road is also hidden―very, very hidden under Kerr Hall. It used to flow down Church Street from about Isabella Street, and then southeast through the Moss Park estate into Taddle Creek near Queen and Sherbourne. Right now, let’s follow along beside it to the corner of Gould and Church. Take the pathway back to Church Street and turn left (south). When you get to Gould Street, cross to the southwest corner. At that moment you will have crossed Moss Park Creek turning towards Moss Park to join with Taddle Creek. When you get there you will be going slightly west to Oakham House at 63 Gould St. I'll keep talking as you go.
Moss Park Creek flowed into Taddle Creek for about 11,000 years until 1842. That is when it was probably buried from here to below Dundas – in a wooden sewer lined with lead. By 1878 the only part of the creek that was above ground was in Moss Park, the former Estate of William Allen, and the City Engineer was requesting to sewer it, due to the overloading of the Church Street Sewer. In those days, settlers viewed the land in terms of real estate and ownership; they promoted the filling-in of ravines as a virtuous act to create useful land. In 1873, Henry Scadding, a noted clergyman and author, praised the filling in of the Taddle Creek 4 ANTHROPOCENE IMMERSION, UNEARTHING LOST TADDLE CREEK ravine along Queen Street; it eliminated the need to detour via Richmond Street to get from Sherbourne Street to Queen and Yonge. This was a critical period in Anthropocene history: industry and railways were on the move. Immigrants from around the world were pouring into Toronto. Rivers began to disappear. Grid plans and real estate schemes took centre stage. The forests were being obliterated. The “Gentleman’s farms” on land handed out by lieutenant governor Simcoe at the founding of Toronto were being subdivided and filled with houses. Treaty rights had been violated from the start; the Crown did not follow up on numerous complaints from the Mississauga’s in Toronto and elsewhere. They had been systematically and illegally excluded from traditional hunting and fishing grounds in Toronto, and now those grounds were now being destroyed altogether. STOP #4: OAKHAM HOUSE, 63 GOULD STREET
HELEN MILLS When you get to Gould Street, you will cross to the southwest side and head slightly west to Oakham House at 63 Gould St. There is a plaque on a rock near the front door. Oakham House, built in 1848 was a part of the story in this period of intense growth in Toronto. From 1899 to 1958 Oakham House became the Home for Working Boys. An earlier Home for Working Boys was further south near Jarvis and Front. Most of the Working Boys were Newsies, kids who sold newspapers on the streets. In the early days, many were orphans or children of desperately poor Irish emigrants who had fled the Great Famine in their home country. There were news girls too, and it isn’t clear what happened to most of them. But let's start walking and I’ll continue the story of the Irish emigrants as we go. Head west on Gould Street to Bond Street. When you get to Bond Street, cross to the north side where you will see a site that is covered with graffiti or was at the time of writing. Otherwise look for the space between the historical sign about the Normal School and the sign about Ryerson and Reconciliation. I’ll continue talking for a minute. In 1847, 38,000 Irish emigrants who had fled the Great Famine arrived in Toronto. Typhus was epidemic aboard the ships, and they went straight to the fever sheds near John and King Streets to live or to die. Most of those who survived left Toronto, but 2,000 families stayed. By 1851 a quarter of the city’s population was Irish Catholic. They lived in desperate poverty and experienced discrimination. The British Protestant majority saw them as a religious and social menace. Indigenous people understood famine and discrimination only too well. In 1847, the Choctaw nation (Oklahoma) sent hunger relief funds to Ireland, though the Choctaw 5 ANTHROPOCENE IMMERSION, UNEARTHING LOST TADDLE CREEK were hard-pressed to feed themselves. Cork County in Ireland has erected a monument which pays tribute to the Choctaw’s kindness in Ireland’s time of need. In North America, many Irish intermarried with Indigenous people and helped form Métis culture. STOP #5: FORMER SITE OF EGERTON RYERSON STATUE HELEN MILLS So by now you are probably at the Egerton Ryerson statue site and I'm just going to say right off the top - Content warning: this stop mentions Indian residential schools, and the ongoing violence committed against Indigenous peoples. If you or anyone you know is Indigenous and needs support, the Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line is available 24/7 at 1-866-925-4419. At the time that this tour is being written, the bodies of 215 children have been found in unmarked graves at a former residential school in Kamloops. The statue that stood here was erected in in 1889, to honour Ryerson, now disgraced for his role in designing Canada’s residential school system. Over the years, demonstrations and petitions to remove it have taken place and finally, on June 6, 2021, one hour after a massive protest at this very spot, the statue was torn down, decapitated, hauled off to the lakeshore, and dumped in the water.
Funded by the Department of Indian Affairs, and administered by Christian churches, the residential schools forcibly separated children from their families, into environments of punishment, regimentation, abuse, daily labour, enforced religious observance and loss of language and culture. The residential schools and the sixties scoop are just one part of the dark story of the colonization, genocide and racism - a story of religious indoctrination, cultural restrictions, violation of treaties, loss of land and livelihood, and deep suffering.
I’ll talk about tuberculosis – TB. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission found that the government and residential schools did not record the names of 32 per cent of children who died in their care. Many of those children died of tuberculosis. And the government was well aware of it. In 1907, Dr Peter Bryce reported that TB had, in 15 years, killed 24 per cent of the children in the schools of Manitoba and the Northwest Territories. His report was suppressed, and he was demoted. Dr Bryce later selfpublished his report. In 1918, Duncan Campbell Scott, deputy superintendent of the Department of Indian Affairs, acknowledged that the death rates of children in residential schools were higher than in the children’s home environments, but said, “this alone does not justify a change in the policy of this Department, which is geared towards a final solution of our Indian Problem.”
If you need to take a break – Balzac’s is right across the road. 6 ANTHROPOCENE IMMERSION, UNEARTHING LOST TADDLE CREEK STOP #6: DEVONIAN POND: RESISTANCE RESILIENCE AND RESURGENCE HELEN MILLS When you are ready, continue west on Gould Street to Devo Pond or Devonian Square. This very Anthropocene park was created from 2 billion year old boulders ripped from the Canadian Shield and transported to Toronto by truck. It is a graphic example of the way that humans (fossil fueled machines) are moving more materials than the combined forces of water, wind and gravity. The water for the pond comes from the RC Harris filtration plant, pumped uphill after being filtered and chlorinated to drinking water standards. Toronto’s water system has a carbon footprint: it takes one third of the City’s total electricity budget to keep it running.
RHONDA LUCY Lori Blondeax is a Cree/Saulteaux/Métis artist whose work was installed on these boulders in the 2017 Contact Photography Festival. In the 2017 Contact Photography Festival, the work of artist Lori Blondeau was installed on the boulders. The rocks in this constructed urban meeting place held powerful images of the artist, strong and solemn, draped in blood-red velvet, “as if summoning the spirits”. In re-occupying the site”, she created a “potent statement of resilience” …resonating with complex connections… between this Anthropocene site and the ancient sites she has researched.
HELEN MILLS Now, just take a few steps west onto Victoria Street and look for the sewer grate marked “Danger Sanitary”. You are standing on top of an Anthropocene “sewer river” that heads south down Victoria to an interceptor sewer and Ashbridge’s Bay Sewage Treatment Plant. Also on Gould Street you’ve been walking above a big combined sewer that overflows into the Don River in big storms. STOP #7: ATRIUM ON BAY HELEN MILLS Then continue to Yonge Street past a row of street food stands. As you pass them imagine a small creek rising just to the south in the woods and flowing away towards Dundas and Church Streets. This was the headwaters of yet another tributary to the Taddle. Mutual Creek flowed from near the corner of Yonge and Gould south east to join up with Moss Park Creek south of Dundas Street.
For many years this part of town was impassable because of all the creeks and swamps. Yonge Street and Dundas Street were both supposed to be straight Roman 7 ANTHROPOCENE IMMERSION, UNEARTHING LOST TADDLE CREEK style military roads. It turned out to be a bit complicated to actually do that and for years there was a road to Yonge street to avoid this part where there were so many ravines, creeks and wetlands.
At Yonge Street cross at the lights and turn left (south). Pause the audio briefly while you walk past Edward Street to the Atrium on Bay. It’s just too noisy here. Head inside and take the escalator to the basement level. Keep going straight ahead to the waterfall feature. The inspiration for this walk was an 1845 map that showed the property of James Macaulay with Taddle Creek flowing through the grounds. Just above Anne Street (now Dundas) was a feature marked “Marsh with Rivulet”. Henry Scadding wrote about people being “lost and bewildered for long hours in the woods and marshes”, while trying to reach Mr Macaulay’s house. I thought we could replicate a journey through the forest of buildings that is here now, tripping over small lost tributaries, finding the marsh, and finally finding Taddle and following it to Mr Macaulay’s site. We often think of rivers as a blue line on a map, and this way of walking is about seeing the identity of the river and the rain, recognizing the whole landscape where the rain falls and is drawn into the blue lines to be part of the river. And perhaps we have also done a good job of replicating the important experience of being lost and disoriented.
As we arrive at this Waterfall space I’m thinking of passenger pigeons, lost ecosystems wetlands and food webs. The pine oak forests were perfect habitat for passenger pigeons as their diet was mostly acorns and other tree nuts. And a flock of passenger pigeons could drain an entire pond in one go. The landscape that was here such a short time ago was a complex web of life that supported – spring peepers, dragonflies, snipe, ducks, tiny warblers, night herons perched on a branch over the water, bears (one was killed on Yonge Street in 1809), wolves, deer microorganisms and mycelium in the soil food web, pine oak forests merging into more dense mixed deciduous forests, because the soils changed. And of course people were always there. But let's take a step away from this story for a moment as we reach the waterfall and take a moment to be in the presence of the water. A step back into the tangled woods. RHONDA LUCY This song was written by Doreen Day for her grandson Mashkoonce. They have given permission for everyone to share this song…to sing it to the water every day.
The Nibi (water) Song http://www.motherearthwaterwalk.com/?attachment_id=2244 STOP #8: THE WARD
HELEN MILLS So from the waterfall when you ready just keep heading in the same direction and take 8 ANTHROPOCENE IMMERSION, UNEARTHING LOST TADDLE CREEK the West escalator up to the main floor and you'll exit of the Bay Street doors I'll keep talking for a minute more about food webs and the anthropocene as we go. The Last Passenger Pigeon died about 109 years ago billions of birds were extinguished in a very very short time the human food web now is a strange industrial phenomenon for example at any given moment over 27 billion Broiler chickens are alive on Earth the total biomass are humans and our domestic animals is 96% of the biomass of all mammals on Earth just 4% is wild animals and the biodiversity of the domestic animals is at an all-time low most Heritage species are preserved on a small scale by devoted farmers. The advent of epidemics is closely tied to the beginnings of settled agriculture and domestication of wild species. Many diseases have jumped from animals to humans, including COVID. Others are transmitted via animals: tuberculosis, typhoid and diphtheria via milk, plague via fleas carried by rats. There are over 200 known zoonotic diseases. As I did the research for this walk I realized that epidemics have been the norm not the exception in human history since settled agriculture began about 12,000 years ago.
We are heading out now, to hear more about the neighbourhood.
Once you are outside, hold on for a moment while John Lorinc will introduce the Ward neighbourhood. He’ll be speaking here, then again after the next stop. John edited and contributed essays to two fabulous books, The Ward: The Life and Loss of Toronto's First Immigrant Neighbourhood and The Ward Uncovered: The Archaeology of Everyday Life. ” JOHN LORINC Well the Toronto Region has been the home to indigenous peoples for 1000s of years. The colonial city was founded in the early 19th century by British and Scottish settlers and by refugees from the United States coming up as United Empire loyalists. The ward was its first suburb really it grew up as a sort of collection of working class cottages north of Queen Street which was known in the by the 1830s as Lot Street. It was originally, not a slum. It was just a collection of small cottages and taverns and even a bowling alley, it became what we describe as Toronto’s first immigrant neighbourhood because it attracted. It attracted, people who were coming from different parts of the world, and between the 1840s and the 1920s. It became the primary site of immigration into the city. So between those two periods, we've seen the, we've seen the arrival of Irish refugees fleeing the potato famine, African Americans fleeing slavery in the United States, Italians, coming Italian laborers coming from Italy, Jews fleeing the pogroms in the 1890s in Russia. And finally, Chinese immigrants coming from Western Canada and from China. And they all settled together in the ward. It was, it became an increasingly dense and crowded environment. When they came to be known for its, its crowding its use of substandard housing. The proliferation of infectious diseases, and it was considered by the early 20th century a problem to be solved, and eventually became a target for redevelopment. 9 ANTHROPOCENE IMMERSION, UNEARTHING LOST TADDLE CREEK STOP #9: THE DEMISE OF TADDLE CREEK, ELIZABETH STREET AT DUNDAS HELEN MILLS Now cross to the south side of Dundas and head west to Elizabeth Street. You will be looking for a big green pole right at the corner of Elizabeth Street. I’ll start talking about Taddle Creek now, as it is just a block away from us. This part of Taddle Creek was last seen on a map in 1858. Here is Mrs W Forsyth Grant, daughter of The Hon. J. B. Robinson, talking about Taddle Creek at her childhood home which was called Sleepy Hollow on the other side of University Avenue above Elm Street.
“A TADDLE TALE” - January 6, 1914: there…flowed a stream, crystal clear, rising in blue land ……… brickwork was arranged as a waterfall, over which the creek, as we called it, ran in foaming glee, and through the deep ravine, with three lovely little rustic bridges, covered with wild grapevine. That was romantic! But the reality on this side of the tracks was something different. Most homes had a privy pit in the yard. It might be emptied by the “honey pot man”, or just left to soak into the ground and a new privy built nearby. It cost money to get connected to a surface drain in the street. The drains might flow into rivers or into sewers that flowed either into the lake or the Don River. Drinking water came from wells, creeks and the harbour, and was pretty contaminated. From 1832 to 1866 there were four cholera epidemics in Toronto. The last typhoid epidemic was in 1910. Once it was discovered that cholera and typhoid are waterborne diseases, the politicians, public health officers and engineers began figuring out how to keep the un-sanitary sewage out of the drinking water. The beginning of a heroic engineering project that continues to this day and the beginning of the death of the creeks. Mostly the creeks were converted into sewers. But on maps of the ward Taddle Creek just disappeared. No sewer is shown along its line, but instead all the sewers seem to have run along the streets. This was not a small ravine – it would have been almost a block wide so it is a bit strange that it somehow seems to have been filled in without a pipe being put in. At Elizabeth Street you are literally on the banks of Taddle Creek . If you look north you will see the gentle slope of the land – all that is left of the ravine. You should be standing at a big green pipe with a stop sign attached to it. This is a methane vent from the big interceptor sewer that runs under Dundas Street on its way to the Ashbridge’s Bay Sewage Treatment Plant. 10 ANTHROPOCENE IMMERSION, UNEARTHING LOST TADDLE CREEK STOP #10: DOWNTOWN DIVERSITY PARK
HELEN MILLS So lets head south down Elizabeth Street now. We will be following along with the Taddle, and in fact it will cross Elizabeth before we reach the Downtown Diversity Park.
And now back to John with a few words about Chinatown. JOHN LORINC From the 1910s until the end of the Second World War. The Ward was Toronto's first Chinatown and Elizabeth Street was its central commercial artery. This was a place with lots of laundries, and small cafes, restaurants, the choice of businesses reflected the restrictions that many Chinese faced in working in Toronto and operating businesses here. The Chinese immigrants came from Western Canada and from Canton. And they created a thriving community in this area, but they faced an incredible amount of racism and hostility from the predominantly white Toronto, there were regular attacks on Chinese businesses, there were restrictions imposed by the municipality that prevented white women, for example from working for Chinese businesses. It was also an area that became a site of activism on the part of the Chinese community, you know, with, with delegations sent to Ottawa to protest against racist legislation against Chinese immigrants. And at the corner of diversity garden stands a plaque for Jean Lumb who was a community leader and really led the push to to repeal some of the laws that were actively preventing Chinese immigration and Chinese family reunification.
HELEN MILLS Right about here is where Taddle would have crossed Elizabeth Street, and very shortly you will arrive at the Downtown Diversity Park. You will see the historical plaque there for Jean Lumb, though the park isn’t very clearly signed. You can head into the park and take a look around when you get there.
At the last stop I said a bit about cholera and typhoid and how that lead to the burying of the creeks. But there are more subtle bio geo chemical cycles happening as well. This is a good moment to introduce the work of Rita Wong, a poet and environmental activist who lives in Vancouver.
I think of this poem as a message blown across the railway lines to Toronto - the route that so many Chinese men took to get to Toronto. SANDRA CAMPBELL A poem by Rita Wong titled “Laundry Song” by Wen I’to Wash them (for the Americans) wash them! from shopworn hands to toxic coughs
sputters patience rubbed too thin 11 ANTHROPOCENE IMMERSION, UNEARTHING LOST TADDLE CREEK the season of grease never ends but squeals into perchloroethylene lesions kidneys and livers mumble to the brass of cash registers ching chong rings the water turned profit margin laundered in endocrine disrupters the sudsy chemicals gargle fumes sulk in your blood for a decade you might carpenter a tree house escape but the assiduous rain will find your pores one big inhale, washing, washing thyroid, chrysanthemums, duck eggs all together from contaminated basin
onto tampered scale for the checkout: bark odes or bark owed how to recognize clean lines in body burden times? This poem was published in Rita’s book “Forage”, winner of the 2011 Canada Reads for Poetry, and of the BC Book Prize HELEN MILLS From the Downtown Diversity Park, we will carry on down Elizabeth Street and then will be turning east - left onto Hagerman Street. But before you go just take a stroll through the park. There are brightly coloured seats, and the park seems to always be full of people. There is also a medicine wheel on the south wall. And you can take a look at the plants around you and beneath your feet. The red osier dogwoods are good fall food for migrating birds, and the fragrant sumac is good starvation food for winter birds and returning birds in the early spring. And there are so many random “weeds” coming up through the mulch. Mostly weeds are plants that are closely related to cultivated plants. They are very adaptable - moving into any crack in the pavement or vacant space they can find. Most are edible, and many have traditional medicinal uses. Along with squirrels, rats, foxes, raccoons, birds like sparrows and pigeons they are a special kind of urban ecosystem that’s common to the cities of eastern North America. STOP #11: LARRY SEFTON PARK HELEN MILLS The Ward ecosystem also included domestic animals such as horses, dogs, chickens, and even the odd “free-range’ pig or cow. And early by-law proclaimed that pigs over the age of six months were not to be allowed to roam at large. The “sanitization” of the 12 ANTHROPOCENE IMMERSION, UNEARTHING LOST TADDLE CREEK city included new by-laws to regulate the sale of animals, and to prevent humans”people from “co-habiting” with animals in this way. One remarkable story I ran into was not in the Ward, but south near Front and Yonge where a small collection of houses were built on stilts with the pigs being kept under the houses. This helped keep them warm in winter. Another, in the Ward, was from Dr Charles Hastings who we will hear from at the next stop as well. He described a tiny living area in the backyard of another house where a family with nine children were living, essentially in one room, with assorted chickens, four dogs and a horse in the yard - “all but the horse had free access to the living room.” Now we have come full circle as people are advocating for the right to keep poultry in the backyard - locally grown low footprint food. On Hagerman as you get to Bay Street you will arrive at Larry Sefton Park on your left. Taddle Creek flowed right through this park.
Larry Sefton was the Director of the United Steelworkers and this park is dedicated to his memory. Every year there is an event here to remember workers who have died or been injured on the job: see the plaque reading “Mourn for the dead. Fight for the living.” Poignantly, this has been online during COVID and specially directed to remember the workers who are affected by COVID through their work. The park is right across the road from the site of the former Eaton’s factories that lined Bay Street and employed many people from the Ward. There are different stories about working conditions, but I did run into one story from the 1911 Report ofToronto’s Medical Health Officer, Charles Hastings on slum conditions in Toronto. It described a tenement on Albert Street with one privy for the whole three story building. The privy was nailed shut. Nightsoil was being deposited in a nearby open field. Next door was a single basement privy that served the entire Eaton’s workforce
STOP #12: HOLY TRINITY CHURCH - GROUND ZERO
HELEN MILLS At Bay Street cross the road and then go east on the tree lined walkway due east to Trinity Square and Holy Trinity Church. On your right you will see a small waterway that was specifically built to recognize Taddle Creek. From here you will be hearing from Zachary Grant for about five minutes. Just keep following the path to Holy Trinity Church and go slightly to the right to follow along the south side of the Church to the stairs. At the south entrance stairs you will find the Toronto Homeless Memorial. Zachary’s talk will still be running when you get to the Memorial, so hold on there for a minute while he finishes speaking.
ZACHARY GRANT Hi, my name is Zachary Grant, and I am the Community Director for the church of the Holy Trinity. I am speaking today in front of the Toronto Homeless Memorial, where on the second Tuesday of the month, we gather to honour all of those who have died on the streets of Toronto- folks who have died as result of the state violence of 13 ANTHROPOCENE IMMERSION, UNEARTHING LOST TADDLE CREEK houselessness, poverty, policing, poisoned drugs, mental health crisis. We honour all of those who call trinity square home, those for many years have found shelter here, formed friendships and community here, and who find sustenance here. It is one of the few remaining public spaces in our downtown core- surrounded now by the apparatus of colonization, banks, mining companies, major developers, land traders, malls. over the past decade we have seen many traditional places for street involved peoples disappear, annexed by development, bulldozed for construction, or policed by networks of private security firms. As downtown development intensifies, and this changes our social policies to suit a ruling class- we see the continued displacement and dissolution of our communities- from the places they have existed in for decades, if not hundreds of years. We mark these places where people have passed on -leaving their imprint on the land. The corners and alleyways, the benches and shelters, the grates and entrances. They continue to be present among us, and encourage our mutual struggle for permanence, place and peace. We honour all of those who have passed away- and all the forces of nature and spirit that live here among us. This is truly a special place, and COVID has been an important time for us. The Church of the Holy Trinity never closed, and as the world shut down we remained present in trinity square to be with our community, supporting a large encampment that grew out of necessity around our parish- together serving hundreds of meals a day, provided clothing, survival supplies, crisis support and took care of one and other, all with a small volunteer staff, our downtown community, and our interfaith partners like Toronto Urban Native Ministry. Together we launched Unity Kitchen which operates out of our church and from which we have been able to provide COVID testing vaccine distribution, health care, harm reduction and so much more. This time has been very difficult, but it has also been a moment of great power, in which houseless people have stood up to systems of displacement, demanding their right to exist and survive in this city. Through this, they have moved our city to provide dignified housing and supports. They continue to work to this goal, and I am sure as you are listening to this you are amongst the people, young and old, of many backgrounds, here living in tents. They are working for the betterment of all of us, for a society that recognizes the oppressed and traumatized, that centres their needs. When the most vulnerable are cared for, we see the fabric of our community deepen and become safer and stronger for all. I thank you for your presence here today and please send your energies to sustain this change making work, and to a just future for all. Peace and blessings.
HELEN MILLS Let’s head south now, past theToronto Public Labyrinth. You will notice an entrance ramp to your right. We really are at Ground Zero here -surrounded by “Cathedrals of Consumer Capitalism”, overwhelmed by COVID, the stresses of climate change and inequity. Yet right here, activists are reclaiming territory, supporting healing from trauma, and finding direction to the future. The labyrinth is an ancient symbol dating back more than three thousand years. It is a universal symbol of pilgrimage and of our journey through life. A labyrinth has only one 14 ANTHROPOCENE IMMERSION, UNEARTHING LOST TADDLE CREEK path and, unlike a maze, - or real life - it has no dead ends. As many labyrinths are found near the water, this labyrinth is located on the former course of Taddle Creek This is the site of our 1845 map, and Holy Trinity is on the exact site of James Macaulay’s house. By the way, the church was built with wood harvested from the surrounding forests. Just past the Labyrinth, you will notice that there is quite a slope in front of you. This is a last remnant of the Taddle Creek ravine. At the base of the slope you will notice a few sewer grates. This is where Taddle once crossed under the Eaton Centre. We will stop there for a last good-bye to Taddle Creek. STOP #13: JAMES STREET SEWER HELEN MILLS The philosopher Alan Watts said that “ the constructs of human beings are really no more unnatural than bees' nests, and birds' nests, and constructs of animal and insect beings. They're extensions of ourselves." I think of that when I think about digging up the Eaton Centre to get Taddle Creek back. I have been so privileged to know many truly incredible young scientists, architects engineers, artists who are pouring their creative hearts and minds into solutions in the Anthropocene. One of them is Setayesh Babayei, a multi-disciplinary designer who did her thesis on Lost Rivers at OCAD U. Her talk will take you to Albert Street where you will be turning right. It will continue past the corner so be sure to make the turn. SETAYESH BABAYEI I grew up in Isfahan Iran surrounded by the pressures and limitations of the social system and structure. I liked to sing. A remedy to my soul it was. An escape perhaps. There were pockets in the city where I could visit what meant “freedom” to me. Sio-sepol* was one of those places. There I had the safety to sing in public given to me by the sound of a roaring river rushing through the rocky platforms. The river was drained every couple of years as a result of exploitative practices and my freedom was gone with it every time. In Canada, by habit, I wandered around the city looking for those pockets. Walking alongside Toronto’s ravines, these “dark wounds in the ground” as Hugh (Hue) Hood the Canadian Novelist calls them, I couldn’t help but be brought back to Isfahan and the loss of Zayanderood. It drove me to reflect on Toronto’s relationship with its rivers. Veins, my speculative design project, was born out of imagination for a better city where we don’t need to push our rivers away, hide them out of sight and keep them out 15 ANTHROPOCENE IMMERSION, UNEARTHING LOST TADDLE CREEK of reach. It is a system of living technology, in our sewage tunnels, that with bacterial structure and enzymes can filter and break down pollutants. With its sampling tools, it carries the samples to be tested and coded and monitored for contaminations. This living technology carries life by collecting native seeds & planting them where needed. It can function as one or work as collective intelligence. It’s a sensory system with sensory memory. By scanning the hidden layers of the land, it collects data to be used for the future generation and the future city building. With Veins, I am aiming to create this rationality between above and below, visible and hidden, temporary and primary, moving and holding-still, human and nonhuman, known and unknown, between natural and urban world. STOP #14: CITY HALL HELEN MILLS It is just a short distance now. You can continue walking west to the lights at Bay Street, and we will be crossing to City Hall. There are so many stories of the Ward that we didn’t get to tell, the other communities who lived here. Many of those stories are in John’s books.
I did run into a description of the neighbourhood round 1835 as one with picturesque cottages and market gardens right around Albert Street.
As I was researching the Ward I found a remarkable absence of any sign of indigenous presence in the era of the Ward, besides the amazing discovery of a 2,000 year old spearhead at the archaeological dig on Chestnut Street which we unfortunately couldn’t get to on this walk. On a note of hope, and since we are passing the courthouse I will share something that I only recently learned.
John Borrows Kegedonce, of the Chippewas of the Nawash First Nation, is the Canada Research Chair in Indigenous law at University of Victoria. He has created Canada’s first joint common law and Indigenous law degree. He went to law school at University of Toronto above Philosophers Walk where Taddle Creek once flowed. He talks often about Taddle Creek and now I know the Ojibwe name for Taddle Creek - Ziibiing, meaning Little River. He said this: “Its waters were a gathering place for Anishinaabe people for many generations. This helped me gather my spiritual feelings here - knowing that ancient power continued to roll despite attempts to submerge its force. The river runs on. 16 ANTHROPOCENE IMMERSION, UNEARTHING LOST TADDLE CREEK When you get to the lights, cross over and head into Nathan Phillips Square. Take the ramp into the square and turn left. You will be facing the flags of the First Nations, just beside the future site of a garden of remembrance for the children of the residential schools. You will see the pond and the Toronto Sign with a Medicine Wheel at the west end. Head to that corner of the pond. You can read the plaque there that talks about the art work of Danilo McCallum. His design for the sign uses colourful African fabric patterns as well as African cultural symbols such as the Adinkra Sankofa bird, which represents the importance of moving forward by remembering the past And for him the future means not just 100 years but 1000 years. The distant date is meant to provide a platform that enables Black people to break from the historic ties of oppression still prominent today. We have walked together through 11,000 years of history into a moment of great resurgence and creative energy in Toronto - the very same moment that we are in intense earth crisis and human crisis, stress, conflict, COVID, and un-reconcilable sorrow and wrong-doing. 1000 years are needed. Yet our time is short, or may be short. I will talk a bit more about John Borrows and Indigenous Law. He wrote that the law ‘from a First Nations perspective, is literally written on the earth. “The land, oral histories or a tree the record. Cases can be like stories that are attached to different animals, plants, ecological formations, and the law is in those stories as they're told." Early this year the Muteshekau Shipu (Magpie River) in Québec became the first river in Canada to receive legal personhood. This is part of a global Indigenous led movement to recognize and uphold the rights of nature in law. This led me to wonder….. Could Taddle Creek get legal personhood? I would like that. By now, you are probably at the Medicine Wheel and beside the water. Let us end with gratitude and the Nibi song. http://www.motherearthwaterwalk.com/?attachment_id=2244 HELEN MILLS Gratitude to the Great Lakes Water Walkers who sing this song and teach it to others, and to Doreen Day who wrote it and gifted it. Thank you for coming on this walk and thank you to the collaborators and contributors who helped make this happen: The Luminato Festival Toronto team: Alex Rand, Kim Purtell, Wilson Lin, Pip Bradford and Lekan Agunbiade AND 17 ANTHROPOCENE IMMERSION, UNEARTHING LOST TADDLE CREEK The Lost Rivers team: Rhonda Lucy, John Lorinc, Rita Wong, Sandra Campbell, Zachary Grant, Setayesh Babaei were the voices on the walk. And the people who helped with the story development, editing, review, fact checking and the accompanying map. It is quite a list. Rhonda Lucy, Elisha MacMillan, Ellen Karp, Dilys Leman, Maureen Scott Harris, Paul Overy, Rene Fan, Ed Freeman, Ambika Tenneti and Byron Moldofsky. THANK YOU! 18