Thursday Doors: Sweet Water Festival

It’s spring, which in this part of the world means maple syrup season. The sap starts running, the maple trees are tapped, and a sweet treat is produced.

This year, maple syrup season also came with a history lesson.

One of the excursions I had on the weekend with Deb from the Widow Badass was to the Crawford Lake Conservation Area for the “Sweet Water Festival“.

We were attending a special presentation by an Indigenous chef about traditional Indigenous foods, including some sampling of these foods featuring the use of the ‘sweet water’.

Maple Salmon, Wild Rice with Blueberries and Maple Syrup, Freshly baked Bannock with Maple Butter – YUM!!

Chef Johl Whiteduck Ringuette related fascinating stories about his culture, the food was outstanding, and the ambiance of the venue really sealed this as a truly special event.

It was raining. It was wet and muddy. We didn’t care.

Crawford Lake was “the first prehistoric village in the eastern woodland area of North America to be accurately dated” (as per one of the many historical plaques) and archaeological analysis of their agricultural practices can be dated back to the mid-1400s.

It is not known exactly which peoples lived here, except that they were part of the Iroquois Nation. Evidence exists that there were once 11 Longhouses in this area.

Three have since been reconstructed.

This is the Dancing Deer Longhouse (notice illustration over the doorway)

Obviously some liberties were taken in the reconstruction – like door handles, push bars, and electric lighting. In fact the doorways of the original Longhouses were likely not protected by doors at all – but only animal skins.

In spite of its metal push bar, this door has a certain ‘rustic’ charm.
The sign says ‘Closed for Special Function’ … that referred to our food tasting event.

Although I had hiked through the Crawford Lake area on the Bruce Trail a few times, I had never seen the Longhouses. To say I was in awe of them would be an understatement and no single photo I took that gray wet day could do justice to their impressive size.

The lower level was for sleeping, the upper level was used for storage, and in the centre of the Longhouse were fire pits. Holes in the roof allowed the smoke to escape.

Inside these Longhouses, multiple families would live. This society was matrilineal in that the families living together in a single Longhouse were normally related through the maternal line. In other words, a man would join the Longhouse of his wife – not the other way around – and a woman could easily live her entire life in the same Longhouse.

Turtle Lodge

In the few short hours we spent at Crawford Lake, I learned how little I really knew about the First Nations People. I’m embarrassed by my ignorance.


Thursday Doors is a weekly photo feature hosted by Norm Frampton at Norm 2.0.


    • Someday I’ll have to return to the West Coast to further my education. What I love about the West Coast cultures is that they have totem poles. That’s not something we tend to see here.


  1. .and now I am coveting your Maple Salmon, Wild Rice with Blueberries and Maple Syrup, Freshly baked Bannock with Maple Butter #ohCanada!

    Love those super cool longhouses. Havenโ€™t seen one since Vietnam #weareallconnected


  2. Hi Joanne,
    I’m sorry I am so tardy in reading this…we were so occupied with the sailing trip that everything else sort of went on the back burner.
    I am fascinated by the Iroquois Longhouses; this native people was spread all over the Northeastern US as well, especially NY and NE in various tribes and subtribes.
    It sounds like an important site – archaeological as well as educational. I also confess to being too ignorant of this history.


  3. you really do find the coolest doors and I like the metal arm push bar thing and then the rustic pieces-
    also – the fav shot here is the umbrella among the tall trunks – beautiful


  4. Fascinating to see these longhouses Joanne. Iโ€™ve never seen anything like it. Count on you to research fascinating locations!
    Such a pleasure to come t with you and Lynn last week. We truly appreciate the effort. What a fun time. Xo

    Liked by 1 person

  5. What an interesting post – full of great historical information and supporting pictures. You have managed to have some unique outings with your local blogging buddies (now I’m sorry we just had lunch when my husband and I met you in Toronto… next time, we will up our game!).


    • hahahaha! Absolutely! I’m game.

      … although if I remember correctly, I had a broken collarbone when we had lunch. I wasn’t doing much of anything during that time. Hopefully the next time we get together, all my bones will be intact ๐Ÿ™‚


  6. Hi Joanne, I have never experienced Maple syrup season. It looks fun and tasty. I donโ€™t usually associate the words โ€œprehistoricโ€ and Canada together. Interesting historical information.

    I have learned a little about the Bruce Trail from a friend. She has a beautiful B&B on the Bruce Peninsula and she often has guests that have hiked the Trail.

    Sharing your experience with stories and photos helps us all to learn more about the First Nations People. Thank you!


    • I hiked the Bruce Trail end to end (900 km) 6 years ago. I can’t believe it was that long ago already! I was a reluctant hiker at the time – practically badgered into doing it. The experience changed me – I fell in love with hiking and wished I knew a LOT more about botany and geography.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I do think you managed in that last shot for us to get a glimmer of the size. It’s quite impressive! And those door handles are important; otherwise they’d be ruined by so many people touching them after all these years. Very interesting, Joanne. – Marty


  8. I too am embarrassed by my ignorance of original cultures on this continent. Your photos were fascinating! What an unexpected contribution to Thursday Doors! Thank you!


  9. That sounds like a memorable experience Joanne! The food looks wonderful! And those buildings are amazing! When we lived in Naples we would always go to the Old Florida Festival. It portrays the history of Florida and my favorite part was always the storytelling by the Seminole Tribe. It was mesmerizing. And their fry bread is so good! When I was in Aruba, I noticed the thatched roof chickees and had to look them up because my dad knows the Osceola family. They are the ones who built all of the ones found in Naples. It turns out, that the Osceola family has built chickees on Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao!


    • I’m always amazed with what I call the rolling snowball effect. It seems that once we know or see something new, ripples of it keep popping up in the most unexpected places – like your chickees ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Oh my gosh, what a truly unique and interesting post.Great share. I want to go there, to experience such careful grace — which I’m not so natural with, and um, also, to eat a plate of that, which I am good at.


  11. Great post Joanne and I whole-heartedly agree with your comments about the 2 key principles our modern society has completely abandoned – “Take only what you need, and respect the earth that provides for us.” Oh, one more thing – the pictures were absolutely fantastic. Loved them and as one of your followers mentioned – if I were within one of those longhouses – I too would need to sleep close to the fire.


    • Thank you ๐Ÿ™‚ As a school kid, I would have found trips like this boring. They wouldn’t have held any interest for me at all. It seems that we don’t start to appreciate history until we are much older. It’s such a shame because it fascinates me now.


  12. Fascinating post, Joanne! Loved your photos and after the frontal shot it explains why they call them long houses. The maple salmon plate looks delicious and I imagine it was.

    I think your โ€œembarrassmentโ€ just elevated our ignorance a notch higher so thank you for sharing.


    • It seems that the more I learn, the more I realize I don’t really know much. What really resonated with me was the sense of honouring and respecting the earth that supports us. There are lessons in there that our world leaders desperately need to learn today!

      … and yes, that food was SO good. I had never had bannock before and was expecting a kind of hard tack bread. It was actually like cake.


  13. Great shots Joanne. This sounds like the kind of event I would love to attend.
    Yes, it’s a shame that more effort isn’t made to spread the word about native culture and history, especially the pre-European contact part of it. I wonder how much of this has to do with it being an oral history that was passed down from generation to generation but never really documented. There’s also a lot of indifference on the part of those of us who moved in and took over too.


    • The white “colonizers” (invaders) worked very hard to totally eradicate native culture and even as late as the 90s (!!!!) I believe, our country was STILL ripping apart native families by making their children attend residential schools to learn white culture, instead of learning their lessons, their language, and their culture at home. Shameful.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I apologize Deb and thanks for setting me straight, I should have put a lot more thought into my initial comment. Rereading it after you bring up this obvious point that I was already aware of but somehow managed to overlook, leaves me embarrassed for coming across as so insensitive. You’re right. It is a shameful part of our country’s history. To this day I cannot fathom how anyone could have thought that tearing children from their families for social/cultural reprogramming was a good idea and yet we did it for decades.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Thanks Norm. I had a friend query aloud to me a few weeks past about why โ€œweโ€ keep throwing $$ at reserves to fix the water problems and yet nothing ever changes. Her inference: the natives are mismanaging things. I told her this is totally on us (whites) because we did our damnedest to break these people in body, family and soul. We need to remember this, always.

          Liked by 1 person

    • I think your original comment, Norm, is still a valid one as supported by the expression ‘history books are written by the victors’. We get a highly skewed version of events.
      Our enduring indifference perpetuates the problem originally started by past aggressive efforts to eradicate their culture and completely assimilate the First Nations people

      Chef Johl’s presentation was a huge eye-opener for me.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Ally. Considering what a dull rainy day it was, I was happy with the photos I took that day.

      The background on how they determined the age and history of this site was quite fascinating. I could have spent days down that investigative rabbit hole!

      Liked by 1 person

  14. This sounds like a good day out for all sorts of reasons. Love the brolly picture! And the information. We visited a couple of places in western Canada and learned a lot about the First Nations. I was very taken by the wonderful stories they tell and the totem poles.


    • Western Canada is famous for their totem poles! I love totem poles but they aren’t so common here.

      I really liked that umbrella photo too. What you can’t tell so easily is that Deb is wearing blue rubber boots. I’m glad we were wearing our wellies on this day!

      Liked by 1 person

  15. This post is very interesting. I know very little about the Native Americans in our country, and there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of an organized effort to correct that situation. I love looking at how structures are built. It’s amazing to me the way they made good use of the materials at hand.


    • Actually, Deb and I decided that the rain turned out to be a good thing. If it had been a warm, sunny day it would have been very busy, noisy, and crowded. This way we got to enjoy the displays (and maple taffy ๐Ÿ˜‰) without fighting crowds.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. I’m always amazed at how people lived in different times. They made things comfortable and I love the matrilineal concept. It may be easier than moving in with your husband’s family.


  17. How interesting Joanne. I am certain you are not the only one who feels embarrassed when it comes to knowledge about our First Nations people. I would include myself in that group. It is a fascinating history & one we should all spend a little more time learning about & understanding. Thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Beautiful, Joanne! I knew you would do the longhouses justice with your photos and commentary. I too, am embarrassed of my ignorance of the rich culture of the first people of the area. I think events like this one are so necessary and I thought Chef Johl’s talk was inspiring. I think we both came away from it with a desire to dig deeper and learn more of Indigenous practices and wisdom.



    • Oh my! … and you know so much more than I do!!

      This event was actually very humbling. Chef Johl reminded me of the 2 key principles our modern society has completed abandoned – take only what you need, and respect the earth that provides for us.

      Liked by 2 people

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