Crossroads

10-year old me chillin’ at my favourite spot for catching frogs, tadpoles, snakes, and speckled trout: Murphys Pit, Hammonds Plains.

According to local records, Hammonds Plains, Nova Scotia is a cultural crossroads of historic significance. The Mi’kmaq were the first peoples to occupy these lands. During the winters, they would stay along Pakwek, or Pockwock Lake. In the summers, they hiked some twenty kilometers through hills, ravines, wetlands, and boreal forests to the head of the Bedford Basin: a large bay that ballooned off the northwestern end of Kjipuktuk or “the Great Harbour” (Sandy Lake Community Research Group, 2002). They might have landed at Kitpukusisek (“at the eagle’s nest”), where Sobeys Inc. currently stakes its claim. Here they would fish for mackerel and pollock. A short walk along the basin’s edge towards the north would lead them to what is now known as the Sackville River, a narrow tributary once abundant with salmon, trout, and gaspereaux. 

These footpaths formed the nascent Hammonds Plains Road, and though the Mi’kmaq foraged, hunted, and inhabited these lands for thousands of years, their impact was virtually imperceptible. Maybe it was due to their worldview, one that embraced the interconnected flow between animate and inanimate. Or maybe it was because theirs was a language of verbs rather than nouns (Sable & Francis, 2018), which cast the world as a system of dynamic relationships rather than exploitable resources.

It was with the arrival of colonial settlers during the 1700s that this harmony was frozen and subdued: rivers were dammed, trees felled, homes rooted, fields cleared, and animals corralled.

The footpaths were displaced by roads in the late 18th century to provide supply routes between Lunenburg (colonized by German speaking Protestants) and Halifax. These roads also allowed for the movement of settlers and troops over land between isolated communities. In 1786, along one of these roads, an area was established to re-settle American Loyalists. These new landholders voted to name their community, Hammonds Plains, after Andrew Snape Hamond: the outgoing Lt. Governor of Nova Scotia at the time.

Later, in 1815, a portion of land north of Hammonds Plains and adjacent to Pockwock Lake was set aside for Black Refugees who managed to escape the War of 1812. Five hundred Black men, women, and children escaped the bloody shackles of American Slavery only to experience lesser evils at the hands of white settler families in the surrounding areas.

My family moved to Hammonds Plains in the 1990s. Ours was a blue house on Hammonds Plains road, east of the giant milk carton sign for Farmers Dairy. I was around six years old when we arrived. I knew nothing about the Mi’kmaq, Loyalists, or the Black Refugees. I was also unaware of the historic event that occurred upon our arrival: the first Iranian family (that I’m aware of) to call Hammonds Plains “home.”

There was a crab-apple tree in our front yard. They dotted Hammonds Plains road, and are allegedly the progeny of apple cores tossed out of carriages in earlier times. I’d scale this tree and eat these apples as a child. They were tart and mealy, as crab apples are.

Today, the tree is nothing more than a crippled snag. Though we still own the property, the house I grew up in is no longer there. Just an empty lot, rewilding. The neighbourhood is bustling with new developments – the expanding suburban sprawl of Halifax West.

Layers, upon layers, and layers.

1 Comment

  1. Emad Jon Thank you for archiving these moments in history of your life time.These stories are very precious. You are an amazing story teller. Keep on sharing. Love you so much.

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