It is my view that archaeology begins and ends with the public. My work at the NCC involves sharing my passion and expertise in archaeology with Canadians. It’s truly a pleasure to have the opportunity to help them experience the region’s history
A meeting place for thousands of years
Canada’s Capital Region has a rich pre-contact archeological history. The Ottawa, Rideau and Gatineau rivers are massive drainage basins that connect with other drainage basins. As a result, raw materials, goods and ideas flowed into the region over long distances. We’ve found materials from Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Lake Superior, Hudson Bay and even the northern tip of Labrador. Not only are we collecting our own history, but we’re also gaining an understanding of past cultural relationships with other regions!
Beginning around 6,000 years ago, our region was at the heart of a vast pre-contact exchange and communications network. Large numbers of people would camp along our shores during the summer to exchange ideas, trade material goods and renew social relationships. Today there are physical traces of their time spent on the lands we manage.
Enhancing public awareness of the importance of archaeology
Over the last 45 years, I’ve worked on numerous sites that are rich in archeological discoveries. Until now, my profession was mainly focused on the eastern Arctic and Subarctic. Today, I am the only federal archeologist managing the archaeological resources of Canada’s Capital Region.
My role at the NCC is multi-faceted. I find, recover, interpret and manage artifacts that tell the story of our cultural heritage. I also review development proposals to ensure that projects proposed on NCC and other federal lands in the region won’t damage or destroy our archaeological resources. Perhaps the most rewarding aspect of my role is that I enhance public awareness of the importance of archeological resources.
The NCC launched its public archaeology program in 2012, and it has grown every year since. That first year we held public digs over four days and drew 40 people. Last year we held public digs over 14 days and drew more than 1300 people.
Why should the public care about archaeology? Because it provides us a valuable fabric based on how people once lived in the region. This influences our decision-making and enriches our daily lives. I believe we all have a responsibility to preserve archeological resources and the knowledge they contain.
Redefining the field of archaeology
The NCC is taking a new direction in archaeology. One of my goals is to enable the public and Algonquin communities to develop their own sense of what is important to them and their cultural heritage. A great example of this approach is the workshops we held over the winter and spring at the Moore Farm. We invited the public to process the artifacts found during the public dig held at the farm last summer. This year, they will be asked to create displays highlighting the artifacts they feel are most significant.
I also work closely with the local Algonquin communities to help them develop the capacity to undertake the protection and management of archeological resources for their own cultural and educational purposes. Visitors to the Kabeshinân Minitig Pavilion on Victoria Island will find a display of artifacts that bring to life the history of the region from the perspective of the Algonquin people.
The Kabeshinân Minitig Pavilion
I’m very proud of the partnership the NCC has created with the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg and the Algonquins of Pikwakanagan First Nation. Our Protocol for the co-management of archaeological resources ensures ongoing collaboration for the protection and management of archaeological resources on federal lands in Canada’s Capital Region. It’s the only agreement of its kind between the government and Algonquin communities in this region.
I’ve spent my entire career receiving knowledge, and now it’s time to give it back. I’m doing so by equipping others with the knowledge and tools they need to make their own interpretation of archeological resources. It’s a great way to finish my career.