Tabor Hill Scarborough, Feast of the Dead

by Kiri Vadivelu | 2 min. read history

Early history of Scarborough with Indigenous people of Canada

In Scarborough, the Tabor Hill Site is the most well known archeological site. This section will refocus our attention to an important moment in Scarborough history and outcomes of the excavation conducted by archaeologist Walter Kenyon. Under the scholarship of University of Toronto Professor Walter Kenyon, an Indigenous burial site dating to the 13th century was discovered. Excerpt from Scarborough Historical Society.

Feast of the dead ceremony chief in 1960
1.Feast of the Dead Ceremony Chief, 1960 | © Kiri Vadivelu

The site contained an ossuary as well as the mass burial of approximately 472 individuals. According to Walter Kenyon and James Lovekins, the burial ritual were in accordance to Iroquois tradition (More information available in Archival – A023). Through the Feast of the Dead ceremony, Iroquois community members would wait 10 to 12 year intervals to bury their dead in a mass burial.

In August of 1956, The Tabor Hill site was officially discovered by developer Gordon McBride near Bellamy and Lawrence. The McBride development was halted indefinitely, only to be expropriated by the provincial government years later. The years prior to the official expropriation, the site was left untouched and in a “neglected state”(More information available in Archival Guide – A027). Public pressure to address the condition of the site, resulted in the Township of Scarborough creating a three acre park with the financial support of the Provincial government.

This discovery caused an uproar within the Indigenous community, as the disturbance of a burial site is forbidden in the culture and traditions. Moreover, the importance of this site derives from Indigenous communities from across the nation gathering for the reburial ceremony. The official ceremony, referred to as the ‘Feast of the Dead’, took place during June 1961. Although there are many archaeological sites within Scarborough, there is significance of the Tabor Hill site, through how well known it is and its importance to the Indigenous community.

Feast of the dead ceremony, 1961
2.Feast of the Dead Ceremony, 1961 | © Kiri Vadivelu

Unlike any other archeological site in the history Scarborough, the Tabor Hill site garnered international and national attention. The Feast of the Dead brought Indigenous representatives from all over such as the Six Nations Confederation, the Onondagas, the Mohawks, the Cayugas, the Senecas, the Oneidas and the Tuscaroras as well as representatives of Branford Reserve. Minister of Immigration described the ritual as an example of happier relations for the future. The Feast of the Dead marked the re-burial and rectification of the earlier disturbance of the excavation. Below there are new articles that discuss the event and its history, as well as other images of significance in relation to the Ceremony. Learn More.

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