Sunday, April 15, 2012

Curious Measurements in Canadian First Nations History

The standardization of arbitrary measurements can be traced back to ancient times, with the Greek and Romans using the foot as a measurement.  In the middle ages, Charlemagne used the "toise de l'Écritoire" which was the distance between the fingers of a man's outstretched arms.  Several moments in Canadian First Nations history show that the practice of using what was available, was the norm before standardized surveying tools were available.
Ancient Metrology John NealTheSecret Academy
One particularly arbitrary measurement was used in the determination of lands purchased from the Mississauga tribe in the early nineteenth century.  The Mississauga territories were located west of Lake Ontario including where the city of Mississauga is today.  The treaty of the land surrender was know as the "Gunshot Treaty", as the depth of the land purchased went back as far as a musket shot could be heard on a clear day.  (J.Miller, Skyscrapers, p.84)
Missisauga Treaty signing August 1st, 1805George McElroy Missisauga Library
Date     1881
Source     Royal Society of Canada
Author     George Bryce
Another instance of using the familiar for measurement is found in the land purchase for the Selkirk colony in Red River.  These lands were to stretch back two English statute miles from the Red and Assiniboine Rivers.  (Miller, 133)  When the Ojibwa and Cree asked how far a statute mile reached, they were informed "it was the greatest distance, at which a horse on the level prairie could be seen, or daylight seen under his belly between his legs."

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