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The Horse Horse & Buggy Era (1880-1900)

Dr. Oronhyatekha's Cane

Cane & Platter

Dr. Oronhyatekha's 19th Century Cane

Dr. Oronhyatekha was a distinguished Mowhawk physician, orator, leader of the Canadian Independent Order of Foresters, and sponsor of the IOF Orphans' Home on Forester's Island near Deseronto. DISCOVER MOREReadmore Arrow

Born August 10, 1841 at Loyal Village near Brantford, under the name Peter Martin, young Peter learned English and Mohawk, and took the name Oronhyatekha, meaning "Burning Cloud." Oronhyatekha excelled at school, attending the New England Company's industrial school, the Wesleyan Academy at Wilbraham in Massachusetts, and later, Kenyon College in Ohio. By this time, Oronhyatekha knew he wanted to become a doctor.

In 1860, The Prince of Wales, the future King Edward VII, came to visit Canada, and although he was only a young man, Oronhyatekha was selected by the Chiefs of the Six Nations to welcome His Royal Highness. The Prince was so impressed with Oronhyatekha's speech and bearing, he invited Oronhyatekha to study at Oxford University. Oronhyatekha accepted the invitation, and returned to Canada in 1863. He married Ellen Hill of the Mohawk community at Tyendinaga, near Deseronto. He completed his medical degree at the University of Toronto in 1867, becoming one of the first aboriginal physicians in Canada.

Oronhyatekha established a small practice in Frankford, near Belleville, before moving to Stratford. Later, in 1872, on the recommendation of Sir John A. Macdonald, Prime Minister of Canada, he accepted an appointment as Government Consulting Physician to the Mohawks at Deseronto and moved to Napanee in 1873, living on Roblin's Hill. During this time, Oronhyatekha built a summer home, "The Pines," at Tyendinaga.

He moved his practice to London, Ontario, in 1874, and in 1878 he was granted membership to Court Dufferin No.7 of the Independent Order of Foresters, making him the first First Nations member. In 1881, he was elected Supreme Chief Ranger of the Canadian IOF.

A 1902 Certificate of Membership issued to Fred H. Perry is signed by Dr. Oronhyatekha in his role as Supreme Chief Ranger.

Dr. Oronhyatekha discontinued his medicinal practice in 1889 to concentrate on the IOF and relocated to Toronto. He devoted his spare time to farming at "The Pines," entertaining family and friends at their home on Forester's Island, "Sherwood Forest Castle." A hotel and pavilion were added to Forester's Island in 1894. Dr. Oronhyatekha's residences were home to many treasures he had collected during his travels throughout the world.

Following Ellen's death in 1901, Oronhyatekha donated the Castle in 1902 to the IOF and made plans for the construction of an Orphan's home on Forester's Island. The cornerstone was laid in 1904 and the first orphan accepted in 1905. After Dr. Oronhyatekha's death in 1907, the IOF attempted to sell the buildings, but the sale was never completed. The buildings were torn down in 1909. Dr. Oronhyatekha is buried at Christ Church in Tyendinaga, next to his wife Ellen.

In 1908, an auction was held at the Pines. Among the items auctioned were a dinner service and a collection of canes. The handsome meat platter by Thomas Dimmock, featuring a transfer print of a castle scene, reflects the "castle" style of the Orphanage. The cane, featuring a blind man carrying a lame man on his shoulders, evokes Oronhyateha's life's work as a doctor and founder of an orphanage home for children.

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