Great Canadian Parks / Ontario

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The Parks / Ontario / Point Pelee National Park



 

Pre-European occupation may have existed on Point Pelee several thousand years ago. Evidence of native settlements from 600 A.D. has been found near the marsh of a culture relying on muskrat, fish and turtles as the mainstays in their diet. Later groups hunted larger animals, gathered plants and may have harvested wild rice as well. Near the end of the 10th century, there is evidence of some limited cultivation. By the time Europeans arrived in the 17th century, the natives of the area, probably Chippewa, were living in permanent villages and cultivating the land. In 1842, 250 aboriginal people were sharing the peninsula with squatters whose smallholdings defied the restrictions against living in what was then a naval reserve. By 1871, the natives had vacated their settlements entirely. In 1892 the Department of the Interior, which held the naval reserve land in custody, granted the squatters free title to their land. By then, 22 commercial fisheries were operating along the peninsulaŽs shores and by the late 1800's, the deer had been completely wiped out by over hunting. 10 000 muskrat pelts were sold at auction on the point each spring. In spite of strong objections, the Department of the Interior also granted hunting rights to a group calling itself The South Essex Gun Club. Strong protests were registered again when the government granted a private logging company the right to cut and remove cedar on the reserve threatening the survival of the red cedar. In 1902, a lease permitting drilling for natural gas was authorized. Four separate leases for the removal of sand remained in force while the point receded 800 metres as a result of offshore dredging of sand for use in the U.S. In 1918 Point Pelee became Canada's ninth national park. Between 1957 and 1970, the land acquisition program reduced the number of privately owned properties from 255 to 80. In 1972 a newly adopted plan outlined the conservation of natural resources and made the preservation of wildlife habitat a priority.

 

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