When I gave my historical novel its title, I realized that I was saddling it with a name that wouldn't be familiar to most Canadians, but I called it The Haweaters anyway because, well, that's who the book is about.
But the name does require some explanation.
'Haweaters' is a nickname given to the inhabitants of northern Ontario's Manitoulin Island and springs from the socio-cultural dynamics of the region that testify to the profound historical relationship between the island and its earliest permanent European inhabitants.
The term traces its roots all the way back to the 19th century when Manitoulin's impoverished inhabitants were forced to subsist on indigenous crops -- hawthorn berries in particular, which are known locally as hawberries -- that grew abundantly on the island. These small, edible fruits became the cornerstone of the islanders' diet and spoke volumes of their connection to the local environment and the resources it offered. The adoption of 'Haweaters' as a nickname came to symbolize the resourcefulness that characterized the lives of the island's early residents.
The nickname also speaks to a deeper cultural significance and over time has come to be synonymous with the resilience, adaptability, and self-sufficiency of Manitoulin's islanders who have learned how to persevere in a geographically isolated and resource-challenged environment.
Today Manitoulin residents embrace the nickname with a sense of pride, associating it with their tenacity in triumphing over life's challenges and their capacity to subsist harmoniously within their natural surroundings, thereby transforming the nickname into an emblem of their distinctive cultural identity.