Alderville has been home to the Mississauga Anishinabeg of the Ojibway Nation since the mid-1830’s. Before that time the people lived in their traditional lands around Bay of Quinte (Grape Island) but with the influx of refugee settlement after the American Revolution their existence found itself under increased pressure. The British having lost the American colonies after 1783, were forced to relocate the soldiers and civilians that had been loyal to the King during the conflict. For this reason, the Bay of Quinte became one area of settlement for those who became known as the United Empire Loyalists. The Mississauga then were directly involved in early “land surrenders” along the St. Lawrence River and the Bay, allowing this resettlement to occur.
Along this corridor the traditional economy of the Mississauga found itself under continued pressure for the next 40 years. The creation of Upper Canada and its colonization, and later the War of 1812, were events much larger than the Mississauga and other related groups could contain. Eventually, by the 1820’s, they found themselves forced to adapt and during this period a number converted to Christianity, primarily Methodism, from the Bay to the Western end of Lake Ontario. By 1826 the Methodists at the Bay had convinced the Mississauga to take up the development of a mission and attempts were made at teaching the people a new agrarian economy. On tiny Grape Island, the people learned to read, write, and to worship in a different manner, becoming a major target group of the early assimilation policies of Canadian church and state.
While the people basically accepted the value of learning to read and write and adapting to a new economy, at the same time their sense of identity would not allow for a complete surrender of their cultural values and language. The Methodist experience among the Mississauga can best be described as a hybrid, or a mixed composition of traditional and western values and spiritual worldview.
The Mississauga actually maintained a hold on many of their traditions including the Ojibway language all through the early decades of the Methodist experience. In realizing that harsher policy was being designed to eradicate these traditions did a stronger resistance develop in the communities. For ensuing generations, this resistance toward their complete assimilation existed and it has become the basis upon which the cultural survival of the people has been maintained.