How We Got Here
Bird Friendly London would like to acknowledge the history of the traditional territories of three local First Nations with the place that is known today as Southwestern Ontario, Canada. We recognize and aspire to honour the longstanding relationships between First Nations and this land.
Deshkan Ziibi seen from Oneida First Nation, downstream from London.
Where we are
Long ago, the Attawandaron (Neutral) peoples settled in this region alongside the Anishinaabeg and Haudenosaunee peoples, and together they enjoyed and sustained the land as traditional hunting grounds. The three longstanding Indigenous groups that reside in this geographical region are called the Anishinaabeg, the Haudenosaunee and the Lenaapeewak.
Before colonization of the Americas – known to many Indigenous peoples as Turtle Island – the land surrounding present-day London, Ontario was some of the richest on the continent. Sprawling deciduous forests and flowing waters supported an immense variety of plants, fungi and animals that evolved here over millions of years. The river that passes through this region is today called the Thames River (named after the river in England) but it was originally known to local Indigenous peoples as Deshkan Ziibi or Asskunessiipi, both of which roughly translate to “Antler River” in homage to the river’s shape. Indigenous peoples lived in harmony with this river and surrounding ecosystems for millennia, amassing vast knowledge of the land and life it carries. This knowledge was passed down by tradition across generations.
In Indigenous societies, humans are fundamentally interconnected with nature and share sacred responsibility for the land on which we all depend. The birds that live on Turtle Island are known to Indigenous peoples by a variety of names that are commonly derived from birds’ physical characteristics, behaviours, ecological roles, and parts in creation stories and other traditions. Birds are prominent animals in Indigenous culture and ways of life. Unlike some bird watching traditions practiced by settlers today, which focus heavily on identifying, attracting or otherwise appreciating individual species of birds, Indigenous conceptions of birds place less emphasis on disassociating individual animals from the ecologies in which they occur. Instead, birds are regarded on a relational basis as being fundamentally connected with nature, including the land, plants and other animals.
In the 17th century, settlers began arriving in this region from Europe. The settlers, in stark contrast with the Indigenous peoples who preceded them, intensively altered the land. Forests were cut down, rivers were dammed, and the land and its riches were monopolized, parcelled off and depleted. The Indigenous peoples who were attached to this land became systematically disconnected from the environment and their culture. Entire generations were cut off from their inheritance of ancient traditional knowledge and languages. Many thousands of Indigenous people suffered and were killed.
The leaders of the European settlers signed Treaties with Indigenous peoples, in effect purchasing ownership of portions of their traditional territories. However, many terms of these Treaties were ultimately dishonoured by the settlers, who took more from the land than they were given. The City of London exists today on land that was exchanged between the Crown and certain Anishanaabe peoples as part of Treaty 6, or the London Township Purchase, which was signed on September 7 1796. The territory originally described in the written Treaty was approximately 30 square kilometres. Some of the payments made upon signing of the Treaty included calico and serge cloths, cooking implements, rifles and flint. The Treaty states that the settlers were “To have and to hold the said parcel or tract of land together with all the woods and waters thereon situate lying…” Yet today, the same land has been mostly stripped of the woods and waters that were described in the Treaty. You can read a full transcript of Treaty 6 here.
Our Commitment to the Land and Reconciliation
Even with all that has changed, water (nibi in Anishinaabemowin) still flows down the river in London today and supports life – plants, fungi, humans and other animals – throughout the region. Today, we at Bird Friendly London understand that it is our shared responsibility as residents of this region to protect its life, water and land, and to conserve what’s left for future generations.
We would also like to recognize the three First Nations communities downriver: Chippewas of the Thames First Nation, Oneida Nation of the Thames, and Munsee-Delaware Nation. We strive to work with these communities, to continue to listen, learn and restore the land and river back to its original vitality wherever possible, to support environmental initiatives and to help to conserve biodiversity.
Bird Friendly London recognizes the historical and ongoing inequities connected to colonization. As an organization of partners in the London area, we commit to working towards creating a community and programs that are inclusive, respectful and just, and honouring the relationships between all peoples, birds and the land we share.
You can learn more and support local First Nations by checking out the resources below:
Read the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Reports and Calls to Action and discuss these with your friends, family and peers.
Support Atlohsa Family Healing Services, a London-based non-profit organization that provides community members with Indigenous-led programming and services that offer holistic healing, education, shelter and support.
The N’Amerind Friendship Centre is a non-profit organization in London committed to the promotion of physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual well-being of native people and in particular, urban native people.
True North Aid provides a list of First Nation charities to support.
ShopLdnOnt provides a list of BIPOC-owned businesses and services in London.