I am on a journey of self-discovery of my Mohawk culture and heritage. As a Mohawk, British and Scottish woman living in Toronto, it has been very exciting to make this connection to my past. This journey has also been a life changing experience and has transformed my outlook of my life, my family and my country. I see things from a different perspective and have a new awareness of Indigenous issues and Truth and Reconciliation. Through my initial research of our family lineage, by reading old documents and visiting Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, I learned more about my ancestry, and in particular the life of Chief and Captain John Deserontyon, whose Mohawk name translates to, where the lightning has struck. I derive energy and inspiration from his life and to honour him, I have named my company ‘Lightning Spark Books’. I feel that as my ancestor, part of him lives on in me as a ‘spark of his lightning’. I also think about a ‘spark’ of creativity when it comes to writing and storytelling. I have a new found passion and dedication to share our stories with local Indigenous people and non-Indigenous Peoples so we can celebration Indigenous achievements, heroes and ancestors.

I have recently discovered a closer connection to my new found Indigenous community right across the neighbourhood in which I live. During the past several months of the pandemic, I have been exploring the walking paths and trails along the Don Valley region in Toronto. Did you know Toronto originally was known as T’Karonto a Mohawk word, meaning ‘trees standing in the water’; the ‘trees’ are actually poles used as fishing weirs in the water?

I’ve been hiking along these trails and exploring the routes my ancestors travelled for thousands of years. I frequently stop and imagine what it would have been like hundreds and even thousands of years ago travelling along these trails. While I was researching my family ancestry, I found it quite interesting that the person who had significant involvement in Lake Ontario treaties including the Toronto region also had a land deed (known as the Simcoe Deed), for the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte. That person was named John Graves Simcoe.

My ancestors escaped from the Mohawk Valley (New York), during the end of the American Revolutionary War, and landed at the Bay of Quinte two hours east of Toronto on May 22, 1784. Three Mohawk leaders were a part of this landing, Captain John Deserontyon and Captains Isaac and Arron Hill. These three leaders were instrumental in negotiations with John Graves Simcoe for almost 10 years. Their diplomacy would help secure the deed for the Mohawk Territory promised by King George III.

Simcoe decided to settle for some time with his wife, Elizabeth Posthuma Gwillim at the Don Valley near what is known as Castle Frank, named after their son. Appointed by King George III, Simcoe was the first Lieutenant Governor for Canada, born February 25, 1752 in Cotterstock, Nothamptonshire. He  died in October 1806 in Execter, Devonshire. Coincidentally, this is area where I have been hiking and exploring while simultaneously discovering more about my ancestral roots and history. I take this to be a sign from my ancestors that I am on the right path and should continue along this learning journey.