The First Summer People in the Thousand Islands

Thousands of visitors flock to the 1000 Islands every summer to enjoy the boating, the fishing and the natural beauties of the area. In fact, such seasonal migrations have been going on in the islands since the end of the last Ice Age, some 10,000 years ago, when Aboriginal Peoples came to set up tents and to fish the rich waters of the river. Interesting evidence of these long ago summer visits was discovered in 1979, when a local man , while diving off Grenadier Island, found a ceramic pot embedded in the muck. It was identified as being of the Point Peninsula Culture which thrived about 2500 years ago.

In the 17th century French explorers, fur traders and missionaries began to follow the St. Lawrence River into the interior of the continent. Their early accounts record stops at places like Toniata (believed to be Grenadier Island) and nearby Jones Creek, to visit native encampments where many hundreds had gathered for the summer, living in wigwams with skin coverings, set up on a breezy point where the mosquitoes would be absent. Who were these summer people? It seems that many were from the Onandaga group of the Iroquois nation, whose homeland was in present-day upper New York State. There are accounts that they had a large eel fishery running just east of Mallorytown Landing all the way to Ivy Lea. They also fished for bass, perch and pike, and for suckers in the creeks that ran into the St. Lawrence. In the fall the hunters of the group made their way up the small tributaries feeding the St. Lawrence to hunt moose and deer and bear. Closer to their encampment they hunted for smaller game like raccoon, turkey, beaver and waterfowl.

Eventually the traditional fishing camps were abandoned after European settlers started moving in around 1784, following the end of the American Revolution. The Indigenous people continued to visit the area to fish but, by the 1860s, fish stocks were becoming depleted. In the following decades, the region was discovered by well-to-do Americans and Canadians who became the new summer visitors to the 1000 Islands.