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Architecture of Space;

The Teachers' College

The Hospital;

Psychiatric History

The Carrying Place; 

Trails of Toronto

The Location Scout;

Movies @ Humber

Trunks and Tweets;

Life in Sam Smith Park

Digital Exhibits

Our History, One Click Away

The Carrying Place; Trails of Toronto

The Carrying Place was a series of interconnected paths created over generations of use in time immemorial (beyond memory). These foot trails, river routes, and portages linked many First Nations’ communities along what is now Lake Ontario through the Humber River, the Rouge River, and their innumerable offshoots. 

The settlement and trade sites of many First Nations communities were integral to the formation of Toronto as we know it today.

Click the links on the map to see more information about each site!

Hover over the map to see Toronto area's main archaeological sites.

Before European arrival, there were three major waves of Indigenous occupation in what is now known as Ontario, spanning over 15,000 years.

Many earlier sites have little to no record, but were integral to the later occupation of the Toronto area by a multitude of Indigenous Communities.


In the Toronto and Etobicoke area, the land was occupied primarily by Anishinaabe, and Haudenosaunee communities, including: Anishinaabe, Seneca and Mohawk Haudenosaunee, Iroquois, and Huron-Wendat.

Humber River from the bridge on Lawrence Ave. in Toronto

The Toronto Carrying Place was made up of many complex, foot trails, portages, and river routes, that were shaped by the landscape's geography and seasons.


The trails acted as a "highway" between Lake Ontario, the Atlantic coast, the Midwest, and the rest of the Great Lakes through Lake Simcoe.

Using the Humber River, Rouge River, and Don Valley as main routes, the interwoven trails were important for Toronto and Niagara regions in facilitating trade, relationships, and linking areas for seasonal hunting, fishing, and harvesting.

A section of the Tallis c. 1850 map of what is now Ontario, an overview of the Carrying Place routes
A weir on the Humber River near Raymore Park
Toronto, Canada

Much of the Torontonian layout, and even names, are owed to the First Nations peoples of Ontario.

The most widely accepted origin of “Toronto” is from the Mohawk word “Tkaronto”, meaning: “where there are trees standing in the water.”

This described a popular fishing location, originally North of the city, where stakes were used to create fishing weirs. The name moved southward in 1680 when French traders referred to a canoe route as “Passage de Taronto” on early maps, today called the Humber River. 

Etobicoke owes its name to the Mississaugas of the New Credit, referring to the area as “Adobigok” meaning “where the alders grow”.

The Toronto Purchase occured in three stages. It composed of a surrender of lands in the GTA from the Mississaugas of New Credit to the British.


The agreement was made in 1787, revisted in 1805 for clarification of lands included in the purchase, and further disputed for 200 years. A settlement was made between the Mississaugas and the Canadian Government for lands in the area in 2010.

Map of Lower Humber, mentioning the Carrying Place

Curator's Statement:

I learned a great deal from this project, particularly about the formation of (what is now) Toronto and Ontario’s prehistory. I hope that this exhibit will become a resource for others to discover and gain a new appreciation for the historical and contemporary Indigenous Peoples of Canada. In Canada’s 150th year, I hope to bring appreciation for our local heritage, beyond 150 to time immemorial.

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