Jane Beecroft, the founder of the Community History Project and the leader of the restoration of the Tollkeeper's Cottage, died in hospital of pneumonia on Sunday October 10 2021.
An obituary will appear in the Toronto Star.
We are grateful that we had the opportunity to celebrate Jane’s plaque and her winning of the Eagle Award and to witness the pleasure on her face. She leaves us inspired to carry on her mission to preserve the meaningful stories, buildings and artifacts that connect us to our past.
Jane Beecroft Wins Eagle Award (Sept 2021)
"Toronto should formally acknowledge its thousands of years of aboriginal history. I mean much more than a proclamation, I mean concrete action which informs future policy, visible commemoration which reflects the depths of these histories. I do not mean tokenism."
You might be forgiven for thinking the above words were written by a passionate candidate stumping for votes. They are instead taken from one of the many letters written by Jane Beecroft, founder of the Community History Project, during her more than 20 years of advocacy for heritage and aboriginal issues.
This year, Jane was one of three women to receive from the Chief and Council of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation (MCFN) an Eagle Award to acknowledge her commitment. She received the Friends of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nations Award in recognition of the work she has done to keep MCFN history and presence alive. Through countless talks, meetings, letters to politicians and others, and devoted participation in their events, Jane has argued for indigenous voices to be heard.
"I am honoured and delighted to receive this award" said Jane, partly seen in the photo above. Former chief Carolyn King said that Jane "shamelessly promoted and advocated" for the Mississaugas at the City, the Province and the Federal levels. She wrote letters, petitions and asked "anyone who would listen" to tell the story. "She is truly one of our best friends."
The Eagle is symbolic of the importance of honesty and truth principles. The eagle has the ability to soar high in the sky and it is believed that it serves as a messenger between people and the Creator. The Eagle is also the predominant totem of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation.
Mississaugas of the Credit are an Ojibwe (Anishinaabe) First Nation with 2,600 band members, of whom approximately 800 live near Hagersville, Ontario.
Back at the Cottage, we have plentiful reminders of Jane's correspondence beginning in 1987 and we see how she took every opportunity to promote the indigenous presence in Ontario's past.
In a petition to Bob Rae, then Premier of Ontario, Jane wrote:
"We urgently recommend...the writing of forty pages of history from every First Nations Council (to be placed) in a book for use in the schools, public libraries and in book stores for the general public."
To the Ontario Realty Corporation in 2005, regarding the hospital property at 999 Queen West, she pleaded:
"This property once accommodated a Grand Council Village of Mississaugas...who were physically driven out of the Toronto region Their help was sought when the War of 1812 broke out and they bore the brunt of the first assault by the American invaders in the Battle of York, 1813. We have the names of the chief and warriors who were killed and carried off the battlefield and taken to the burial ground at 999 but we have no real idea where they are and this is a tragedy. These people were the first to give their lives in defending this city and are true heroes...and we hope that governments would plaque the site with their names."
As a response to the Draft Report of the Ontario Commission on Planning and Development, 1993, she pointed out:
...a Humber Sewage Treatment Plant destroyed a Mississauga village and burial ground without a single voice raised in question. There are (hundreds of) historic sites of some extinct and some living First Nations still in existence. Where are the provincial policies and legislation which will protect the heritage of a river of huge importance (and) the heritage of the great Ojibwa Nation, whose history can be traced back 8000 years-at least?
Congratulations to you, Jane, on this meaningful and well-deserved award for your tireless work.. Your example has inspired us to value all who came before and to speak out so that they will be remembered and acknowledged.