'Simply devastating': ERCA officials upset after signal tree destroyed
The signal tree at Maidstone Woods Conservation Area on Monday, May 20, 2019. (Courtesy ERCA)
Published Tuesday, May 21, 2019 1:25PM EDT
Officials with the Essex Region Conservation Authority are upset after an important tree was destroyed.
ERCA general manager Richard Wyma says he was sad to hear of the destruction of the notable Indigenous Signal Tree this past weekend at Maidstone Woods Conservation Area.
“It’s simply devastating that someone would destruct a tree of such cultural significance,” said Wyma. “We suspect someone set off fireworks in the tree’s hollow and that the tree was destroyed from the inside-out.”
Indigenous peoples used signal trees to point to all kinds of things: villages and camps, water sources and river fords, or to mark boundaries between different communities.
Signal trees were formed by bending saplings down near the ground, and tying the leader (the main stem) to a rock or another tree with rawhide, grapevine or secured with heavy rocks. The lateral branch pointing directly upwards was retained while the rest were removed.
Over time the tree settled into the bend, the rawhide was removed or withered away, and a ‘nose’ was often left to point the way. As the tree grew, the diameter of the main trunk remained larger than the lateral branch forming the crown.
Over the decades, ERCA says thousands of people have visited the conservation area and photographed this tree.
“Though common in pre-settlement times, most are now lost to habitat destruction and the practice of removing ill-formed trees in woodlots,” Wyma says. “The remaining ones are among the most important heritage trees around, and we are truly saddened by its loss.”
If anyone has information about the destruction of this tree, they are encouraged to contact their local police non-emergency number.