Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Note on Brian Ross' Talk on the Archaeology of Beausoleil Island

On Thursday, Nov. 8, 2012, Brian Ross, formerly with Parks Canada, presented a slide show and talk on the Beausoleil Island National Park excavations conducted at Camp Kitchikewanna over the past 20 years. Here are a few points he raised in his talk and they are offered here to give a flavour of the very interesting 90 minute presentation.

Beausoleil Island is an 8-kilometer long island in the Lake Huron's Georgian Bay, near Port Severn, Ontario.   It is the largest island in the Georgian Bay Islands National Park. Link to wikipedia article on Beausoleil Island.

The YMCA camp on Beausoleil Island was established in 1919; the National Park in 1929. Beausoleil is an interesting and diverse location on the southern edge of the Canadian Shield and the boreal forest and the northern edge of the hardwood forest, with many species of plants and animals.

The first excavation was made in 1970. The site of the camp lies on an unusual yellow sand, which appears much like brown sugar.  This material was deposited by glacial Lake Algonquin.

There are two historic cemeteries on the island: one is called the Cemetery of the Oaks.  Some remote sensing study has been done of the cemeteries.

The YMCA is an actively used site. Both the camp volleyball and basketball courts are heavily used and artifacts are emerging from the action of all those pairs of kids’ sneakers.  The daily meeting area also has artifacts emerging from the daily foot traffic of the campers and staff.

Some of the mitigation effort done in the past twenty years has been the result of the Camp wanting to upgrade their water lines and septic systems. The camp were uncertain of the exact location of water lines.

The timeline of human occupation is from the late archaic up to the Contact Period and on to the Reserve Period and to the Boys Brigade 1900 and finally the early YMCA Camp of 1919. Ceramics on the site are of great quantity and diversity. Large numbers of burnt acorns found. Brian said they had found millions of these acorns. Artifacts found on Beausoleil Island are mostly Algonquian.

In the 17th century, Fr. Gabriel Sagard describes attending a feast that was likely on Beausoleil. To this day the area is  renowned for the wonderful fishing in the waters surrounding the island.

Over time he archaeological program has evolved to include educational portions for the campers and involvement by First Nations people.

Recently the Parks Canada archaeology program has undergone a large reduction in staff.  There are currently just two archaeologists servicing the nine national parks in Ontario. With cuts to the Parks Canada Archaeology program, future work on Beausoleil Island is uncertain. - Bill Gibson -

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