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Neutral Indian Burial Ground (Grimsby), prehistoric

Discovered in Grimsby in 1976, the Neutral Indian burial ground is one of the few representative sites known to have survived relatively intact in Ontario. Further, it is one of the few burial sites as yet discovered containing the remains of the Neutral Indians – a confederacy of Iroquoian tribes that occupied the area around western Lake Ontario before 1655. In all, 31 single graves and 24 multiple graves were found, containing the remains of over 373 individuals. After the excavation was completed, the remains were re-interred in 1977.

The Neutral Indian burial ground in Grimsby was probably in use from c. 1640-50, and provides a rich source of information regarding the social organization and material culture of the confederacy. The Neutrals had great reverence for the dead, and burials were generally conducted in two stages. In the first stage, the deceased were put on a scaffold, and remained there until their flesh decayed. The bones were then brought back into the houses to await the second stage of burial. The secondary burial stage coincided with the Feast of the Dead. This was an elaborate, multi-day ceremony that was apparently conducted annually by the Neutral Indians. During the Feast, many of the deceased were collected and put into communal burial pits. The Neutral Indian burial ground in Grimsby provides a wealth of information about this little-known confederacy. Since the Neutrals disappeared prior to extensive exploration and settlement in the area, only a sporadic record exists concerning their culture. The Grimsby burial ground has contributed greatly in providing a better understanding of these largely unknown people.

In 1979, the Ontario Heritage Trust secured a heritage easement to conserve the site.

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