All in a Name

While we were in the Niagara Falls area over the weekend, we decided to see something neither of us has ever taken the time to see before: Old Fort Niagara. We both learned a little history today. This fort has on its premises the oldest permanent structure on the Great Lakes. It is a “House of Peace” that the French built in the 1700’s.


The photo brings testament to the grandeur of this old building. But what is it? It is the centerpiece and original building of Old Fort Niagara. When the French wanted to build a fort to control the mouth of the Niagara River (and the whole watershed upstream!), the local Native Americans objected. No fort. So the French, those sly ones, agreed to build a house instead. A House of Peace. You can tell by looking at it how peaceful it is. Never mind that it also just happens to have all the same things a fort in those days would have. Never mind that its strategic location clearly shouted, “Fort!” By the time it was clear to the Native Americans that they had been tricked, it was too late.

By the way, (and this is something I learned earlier this summer) the name of those Native American tribes is something we should think about. They are known today as the Iroquois, but this is a name given them by their “friends,” the French. The French word originally meant “snakes,” so I think it was probably a derogatory term. Apparently the tribe thinks so too, because they today prefer to be known as the Haudenosaunee.

One more thing: Why am I not surprised that my new friend, Cal, also decided to visit Old Fort Niagara before leaving this area?

One thought on “All in a Name

  1. We went on a field trip there in grammar school.Our guide told us the story of someone who was beheaded in there,and every night he would come back in ghostly form,looking for his head.Scared the tar out of me then.

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