9,000 year-old artifacts found near Thunder Bay

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Another Thunder Bay-area archaeological site has bitten the dust. “We were hoping that we would have been notified that this site was here before it happened,” said Red Rock Chief Pierre Pelletier June 16 at an archaeological site that is scheduled for excavation this summer near Thunder Bay. “They dug up a major portion of the site that should never have been hauled away in gravel trucks.” 

Pelletier said First Nation communities need to be notified about any archeological sites that are scheduled for excavation. 

“They have to give us notification so that we can make sure that the history is saved and everybody knows what is going on,” Pelletier said. “What I heard is this site was supposed to be left alone until the archaeologists finished off, but apparently it wasn’t.” 

The site was intended to be completely avoided by the construction work, a Ministry of Transportation Ontario spokeswoman said in an e-mail message. 

“As soon as it became apparent that construction would impact the site, a licensed archaeologist was contacted,” said Annemarie Piscopo, regional communications officer with the Ministry of Transportation Northwestern Region. 

Piscopo said the archaeologist contacted area First Nations advising them of the situation. 

“Ontario remains committed to meeting its constitutional obligations to consult with Aboriginal peoples where proposed activities might adversely affect an existing or asserted Aboriginal or treaty right,” she said. 

Piscopo said local area First Nations and both the Anishinabek Nation head office and Thunder Bay office were contacted early in 2010 after preliminary archaeological investigations and have been kept informed and involved as the project has continued over 2010 and 2011. 

Pelletier, the first First Nation person to find out about another archaeological excavation site at McKenzie Bay last summer, said his community was notified about this site in 2010 after finding out about the McKenzie Bay site. Thousands of 9,000 year-old artifacts were shipped last summer from that archaeological site to Lakehead University. 

Pelletier, Biinjitiwaabik Zaaging Anishinaabek (Rocky Bay) Chief Bart Hardy and a group of First Nation members and archaeologists met June 16 at the site to conduct a traditional smudging ceremony prior to any further excavation of the archaeological artifacts. 

“It’s to honour the site, that First Nations people were here from 9,000 years ago,” Pelletier said. “This is First Nations land and it shows it right now.” 

Pelletier said the remaining artifacts will be removed from the site by the archaeologists to provide future generations with this knowledge. 

Both sites are being excavated to make way for the new four-lane Highway 11/17 route east of Thunder Bay. 

Archaeologists have been working on the new archaeological site for the past two weeks. 

“We got a call (about three weeks ago) that they (construction workers) were encroaching on the site,” said David Norris of Western Heritage, a Saskatchewan-based archaeological firm. “They wanted a further assessment done. There had been an earlier assessment done in the 1990s and 2006, so they knew the site was here.” 

Piscopo said the intact archaeological site on the ridge, associated with a post-glacial shoreline or beach, has not been impacted by construction. 

“Artifacts that may have been dispersed away from the intact site through wave action, flooding or other natural erosion processes have been identified by the archaeologist and have been recovered below the ridge on which the site is located (i.e. towards the construction zone),” Piscopo said. “The Ministry will continue to work with First Nations to ensure that the site is mitigated in the appropriate manner, and with full First Nations participation in the process.” 

Norris found lots of artifacts at the site made from taconite, an iron-bearing sedimentary rock, including stone tools, a knife, cores and flakes. 

“We did find a knife, which is pretty cool,” Norris said. “And we found a lot of bifaces, which are rocks that have been sharpened on either side to an edge.” 

Norris said that taconite was being used by people in the Thunder Bay area about 9,000 years ago. 

“The water would have been up a lot higher essentially because of the glaciers retreating,” he said. “I think this would have been a long ridge that was surrounded by water and people were here because of the taconite and the water.” 

Author: Rick Garrick | Source: Wawatay News [June 24, 2011]

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