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Mnjikaning Fish Weirs

Coordinates: 44°36′15″N 79°22′11″W / 44.60417°N 79.36972°W / 44.60417; -79.36972
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Mnjikaning Fish Weirs
Nearest cityOrillia, Ontario
Coordinates44°36′15″N 79°22′11″W / 44.60417°N 79.36972°W / 44.60417; -79.36972
Original useHarvesting fish
Official nameMnjikaning Fish Weirs National Historic Site of Canada
Designated12 June 1982 (1982-06-12)

The Mnjikaning Fish Weirs are one of the oldest human developments in Canada. These fishing weirs were built by the first nations people well before recorded history, dating to around 4500 BP during the Archaic period in North America,[1] [2] according to carbon dating done on some of the wooden remnants. The weirs were built in the narrows between Lake Couchiching and Lake Simcoe, now known as Atherley Narrows,[1] over which Ontario Highway 12 passes today. They were preserved by the water and layers of protective silt.

The weirs were built as fences using local wood species, including eastern white cedar, sugar maple, and white birch for the stakes.[3] The weirs were used to trap the various fish species swimming through them. The early fishermen wove brush and vegetation among the weirs to make net-like fencing where the fish were guided to be speared, netted or kept for later use, particularly for consumption during the winter.[1]

The weirs – historically called ouentaronk (Huron) and tkaronto (Mohawk) – are believed to have provided the City of Toronto with its name, following a series of copy errors.[4][5] They were in use for about 5,000 years, until about the early 1700s.[6] Samuel de Champlain recorded their existence on September 1, 1615, when he passed the weirs with the Huron en route to the battle with the Iroquois on the south east side of Lake Ontario.

The Mnjikaning Fish Weirs was officially recognized as a National Historic Site of Canada on 12 June 1982.[7] It is managed by the Rama First Nation, who created the Mnjikaning Fish Fence Circle to protect and promote the site.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Munson & Jamieson 2013, p. 121.
  2. ^ Johnston, Richard B; Cassavoy, Kenneth A (1978). "The Fish Weirs at Atherly Narrows, Ontario". American Antiquity. 43 (4): 697–709.
  3. ^ Munson & Jamieson 2013, p. 121, figure 7.6.
  4. ^ City of Toronto.
  5. ^ Natural Resources Canada.
  6. ^ Bernick 2013, p. 76.
  7. ^ Parks Canada.
  8. ^ Chippewas of Rama First Nation, Mnjikaning Fish Weirs, at current day, Atherley Narrows.


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