Who owns the artifacts?
The answer to this question is ambiguous at best. The answer differs somewhat depending on the landowner: the rules for federally owned lands, such as national parks, and First Nations reserves are different from those applying other lands in Ontario. The Ontario government does not assert ownership of artifacts, but it does set out the laws governing the practice of archaeology in the province. These state that:
1. Only a licensed archaeologist may collect or excavate artifacts in the province of Ontario.
2. Under the terms of the licence, the government charges the archaeologist with holding the artifacts in trust for the people of Ontario.
3. The archaeologist may place the artifacts in a public institution, such as a museum, for safekeeping.
In other words, the licensed archaeologist is the only person who may collect artifacts, but she or he does not own them. In fact, one could say that every resident of Ontario owns them, but no single individual does.
Does this mean that I need to turn over the collection that my grandfather made in 1952?
No. While it would be great if it was donated to a museum, the province is not attempting to recover old collections. It does mean that you should not be adding to that collection.
Can anyone dig?
Only those with an archaeological licence or people directly supervised by someone with a professional or research archaeological license may excavate.
What is the penalty for digging without a license?
The Ontario Heritage Act prohibits anyone from disturbing or altering an archaeological site — whether on land or under water — unless they hold a valid archaeological licence issued by the ministry. You may be disturbing an archaeological site, if you pick up arrowheads in a farmer's field, grade an archaeological site with a bulldozer, or take objects from a shipwreck.
Anyone who disturbs or alters an archaeological site or removes an artifact from a site without a licence can be fined or imprisoned. A person or a director of a corporation found in violation of the act or its regulations can face a fine of up to $1,000,000 or imprisonment for up to one year or both. A corporation found in violation of the act or the regulations can face a fine of up to $250,000.
What happens if we find a burial?
The Cemeteries Act and the Funeral, Burial and Cremation Services Act, when proclaimed in force, requires anyone who uncovers a burial site containing human remains to report the discovery to the appropriate authorities — the police or a coroner. Likewise, archaeologists who encounter human remains during archaeological fieldwork are required to comply with all relevant provisions of the Cemeteries Act and Ontario Regulation 133/92 (Burial Sites) as part of the terms and conditions of their archaeological licence.
If human remains are discovered during land development activities, all construction and soil disturbance must stop immediately to allow the authorities to investigate. All archaeological fieldwork must stop until the coroner has had the opportunity to investigate and the Registrar of Cemeteries has been consulted. The Cemeteries Act requires that the descendants or representatives of those buried at the site be consulted prior to any decision regarding final disposition of the remains be made.
Who are the descendants of the people who once lived here?
The Huron/Wendat confederacy that consisted of four or five confederated nations living between Nottawasaga Bay and Lake Simcoe. They reported to have lived here some 200 to 300 years prior to the first Europeans arriving in Huronia and were Iroquoian by culture and language.
How can I get more involved?
Join the Ontario Archaeological Society or come to a local chapter meeting.
BENEFITS OF OAS MEMBERSHIP
- Membership in Ontario's archaeological community. Eligibility to join one or more of the Society's Chapters in Hamilton, Huronia, London, Peterborough, Thunder Bay, Ottawa, Toronto or Windsor.
- Tours of archaeological interest in Ontario and beyond.
- Participation in workshops, courses, seminars.
- Eligibility to present a paper at the Society's annual symposium.
- Attendance at the Society's annual symposium, business meeting and banquet.
- Attendance at lectures and meetings.
- Information on excavations and volunteer opportunities.
- Subscription to Ontario Archaeology, our refereed journal.
- Subscription to Arch Notes, our bi-monthly newsletter and your window on the current Ontario archaeology scene.
- Purchase of specialist items such as buttons, badges, T-shirts, posters.
- Access to the Society's research library, computer services and information on archaeological databases.
- Participation in working committees at provincial and chapter levels.
- Eligibility for awards or other forms of recognition (and the opportunity to endow and/or create such awards).
The Huronia chapter of the OAS meet the second Wednesday of each month at the Huronia Museum in Midland, Ontario.
Meetings start at 7:pm with a presentation and is followed by a business meeting of the chapter.
Members, guests and the general public are welcome to attend at no charge.
Visit the Huronia chapter blog to stay informed of chapter activities and join in the discussions relating to the archaeology and history of Huronia.
More on the legalities of the practice of archaeology in Ontario:
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