From left: Cindy, Angel and Eugene Kahgee, Mississaugas of the New Credit Coun. Erma Ferrell, and Ward 15 Coun. Judi Partridge unveil a stone marking the site of a sacred fire at Waterdown’s Souharissen Natural Area on Nov. 7. – Mac Christie/Metroland
A stone commemorating the location of a scared fire in Waterdown’s Souharissen Natural Area was dedicated during a ceremony on Nov. 7.
The stone was donated by former Waterdown District High School teacher Eugene Kahgee and his wife Cindy, in commemoration of a sacred fire started by Mississaugas of the New Credit Elder Garry Sault on Aug. 21, 2014 and tended by Rocky Burnham of Six Nations of the Grand River.
The fire was lit as part of the dedication of the Souharissen area — which covers 55 acres in Waterdown — located just south of Dundas Street, stretching from Burke Street to just north of Flanders Drive. It is located on the traditional territory of the Chonnonton, Haudenosaunee and Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nations; the Souharissen is the result of years of work following the discovery of 104 aboriginal archeological sites in the Waterdown Bay Development Area in 2005.
WDHS History teacher Nathan Tidridge said that the fire, which was visited by Mississaugas of the New Credit Chief M. Bryan Laforme and Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley in 2014, is believed to have been the first sacred fire in the Flamborough and Waterdown area for generations — perhaps centuries.
“Now we have this beautiful permanent marker, to tell people who walk by.” — Nathan TidridgeKahgee, who picked the site for the fire — and gave the area its name — said being that able to dedicate the stone “makes his day.”
“It really hits my heart here — every time I come here, it’s a very nice place for me to come,” said Kahgee, who is from Saugeen First Nation, but said he is happy to be associated with the Mississaugas. “This land will be here for generations, now that it has been recognized.”
Tidridge noted that the area helps highlight the living Indigenous identity of Waterdown.
“You’re standing in an area that has been inhabited for ten millennia,” he said. “We wanted to work with the Mississaugas, reflect that true treaty partnership and create this space.”
He said that prior to the stone dedication there had been a makeshift signage to designate the site, but the Kahgees wanted to give back to the community and highlight the important space with the permanent marker.
“Now we have this beautiful permanent marker, to tell people who walk by,” Tidridge said.
Ward 15 Coun. Judi Partridge noted that about a year-and-a-half ago, city staff tried to remove the sacred fire pit, as they thought neighbourhood children had been building fires.
“I said, ‘Don’t you touch that — that is a sacred fire,’” she said. “Eugene — thank you so much to you and your wife for officially putting a marker here, so city staff will no longer come by and consider taking this away.”