Archaeological Fieldwork Reports for 2000
Archaeological Investigations Conducted North of Lac De Gras
Jean Bussey; NWT Archaeologists Permit 2000-893
Jean Bussey of Points West Heritage Consulting Ltd. directed archaeological investigations for BHP Diamonds Inc. in its claim block north of Lac de Gras. Gabriella Prager and Bonnie Campbell, also of Points West, and Nancy Casaway of the community of Lutsel k’e assisted. The field work consisted of an archaeological inventory as well as tours for representatives of the Dogrib First Nation. Edward Camille and Francis Williah, both elders, and their interpreter, Michelle Rabesca, were involved. Numerous recorded archaeological sites were revisited during the tours.
During the archaeological inventory, twelve new archaeological sites were discovered, bringing the total number of known sites in the BHP claim block to 162. Stone tools or the fragments (flakes) removed during the manufacture of stone tools characterize the twelve new sites. The majority of the specimens are white or grey quartz. One site was found on a lake southwest of the EKATI Diamond Mine, and two were discovered on an esker to the east. The other nine sites are associated with the Ursula West esker north of the mine where the majority of the field inventory was conducted in response to a proposed road and gravel source. Eight of these nine sites are located on the esker and one is on a small knoll overlooking Ursula Lake. Three of these sites are within or near planned developments associated with a proposed gravel source and if selected, additional archaeological investigation would be required.
Due to the initiation of construction for the Misery mine southeast of Ekati, five previously recorded sites located in the vicinity were visited to reassess their status. Two of these sites are near proposed development. LdNs-2 consisted of a small surface scatter that was subjected to complete collection in 1995. Because intact deposits were within the proposed right-of-way of a waterline, some additional excavation was undertaken at LdNs-16 this summer. LdNs-16 had been sample excavated in 1997 and the artifacts recovered this year are comparable to those found during the earlier excavation. The newly collected artifacts will be analyzed during the winter.
Peel River Ethnoarchaeology Project
Melanie Fafard, NWT Archaeologists Permit 2000-894
In July 2000, the Gwich’in Social and Cultural Institute (GSCI) in partnership with the Teetl’it Gwich’in Council and the University of Alberta initiated an ethno-archaeological project aimed at finding archaeological sites in the Peel River drainage of the Yukon and Northwest Territories. This watershed traditionally played an important role in the life of the Teetl’it Gwich’in, with fish camps established along the Peel River during the summer and the river providing access to a vast inland area, including the Peel River Plateau, where people hunted in the winter.
The field crew consisted of an elder, young adults and youth from Fort McPherson, GSCI staff, Dr. Ray Le Blanc and Mélanie Fafard from the University of Alberta. The field work included: (1) a helicopter survey in the eastern part of the Richardson Mountains; (2) a twelve-day river survey of the Peel River between Fort McPherson in the Northwest Territories and the Caribou River in the Yukon Territory and; (3) a test excavation at a site located in Fort McPherson, beside the Anglican church where, according to the oral history, the Teetl’it Gwich’in used to camp during their annual visit to the Fort in the spring.
Using the information provided by Teetl’it Gwich’in Elders about places that are named in the Peel River area and the stories associated with them, we examined close to 25 of these locales and recorded 13 new sites ranging in age from the pre-contact period to the present. These included places where only stone tools were collected, a winter camp (Vadzaih ván tshik) that has been used by the Teelt’it Gwich’in since the pre-contact period up to this day, sites where remains of cabins were identified or where material remains were found in the eroding bank and one site with a moss house (ninkahn). Finally, in all the test pits excavated in Fort McPherson, cultural remains were identified. Those mostly included European trade goods, although a bone awls and three stone artifacts were also found.
Archaeological investigations on winter access routes to Gahcho Kué and Snap Lake mineral exploration areas, District of Mackenzie, for De Beers Canada Exploration Inc.
Callum Thomson, NWT Archaeologists Permit 2000-895
Callum Thomson, archaeologist with Jacques Whitford Environment Limited, was joined by Lawrence Catholique, Lutsel K’e Dene First Nation, and Lawrence Goulet and Alfred Baillargeon, Yellowknives Dene First Nation, for two brief archaeological surveys on behalf of De Beers Canada Exploration Inc. in 2000. The first survey in August focused on a number of sites recorded in 1999 on the 120 km winter access route from MacKay Lake to the De Beers mineral exploration property at Gahcho Kué (Kennady Lake), via Reid, Munn, Margaret and Murdock lakes. Where sites had been found on the access route and at proposed road construction camps in 1999, alternate routes and camp locations that would avoid these sites were found, assessed and mapped. During this process, and in surveys of high potential areas adjacent to the route that had not been surveyed in 1999, an additional 48 sites were found to add to the 50 found in 1999, mostly from the pre-contact period. At Gacho Kué, preliminary surveys in the Doyle Lake exploration area and 12 km winter access route south of the De Beers camp resulted in the finding of two new sites, and another site was found on an esker while we were obtaining GPS coordinates for the 45 sites found around Gahcho Kué in 1999. The survey finished with a preliminary helicopter flyover of a 100 km route that De Beers was considering for use as an alternate means of accessing Gahcho Kué, starting at the Lupin Ice Road south of Warburton Bay on MacKay Lake and proceeding south to the former Winspear development at Snap Lake and east via Lac Capot Blanc to Munn Lake to join the original De Beers route. Several hundred areas and locations of archaeological potential were noted on and adjacent to the route during the flyover. Quick visits to four of these locations confirmed the aerial predictions: seventeen sites were found. In September, a return visit was made to undertake a more detailed survey of portages on the alternate route via Snap Lake, and an additional 48 sites were found on and adjacent to the route and at nearby eskers that have some potential for use as borrow areas. Four new sites were found on a proposed approach route to a road construction camp on the original route south of Back Lake. Six new sites were located during a more extensive survey around the Doyle Lake exploration area south of the De Beers Gahcho Kué camp. Snow on the last night of the survey put a sudden end to the work. During these surveys, we saw a wolverine and a fox, a female moose well north of the tree line, several sets of grizzly bear tracks, a bear den and an active wolf den. Small numbers of caribou were also seen, although the country is laced with a network of deep caribou trails.
During the course of the two surveys in 2000, 126 new sites were found. Most of the precontact period sites were located on elevated knolls and terraces, or on and beside eskers, close to water, where a good view could be obtained of caribou approaching or crossing nearby lake narrows. Most of the sites contained a scatter of a few to as many as several hundred white quartz – sometimes grey or pink – cores, tools, flakes and chunks from the process of quarrying, reducing, manufacturing or modifying stone tools, and some contained tent rings and hearths. A few quartz boulders and bedrock veins were found where raw material for tool making had been quarried. One site produced two stone adze blades and a stemmed point, possibly from an occupation several thousand years ago, but most of the pre-contact sites probably date within the past 2,500 years. The few artifacts that were collected for analysis will be returned to the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre, where a decision will be made on their ultimate disposition. Sites most likely from the more recent traditional use period contain tent rings, hearths, boulder markers, axe-cut trees, firewood, wooden floats from a net, and two fragmentary wooden bows, suggestive of caribou hunting, fishing and possibly trapping during the past two centuries or so. The large number and density of sites found over the past two years (average of 1 site/1.5 km on and within 500 m of the 220 km of access route portages investigated) indicates that surveys of winter access routes are a necessary form of impact assessment, and a productive source of knowledge. De Beers is committed to heritage conservation and will, wherever possible, modify access route alignments, camp locations, and exploration plans to avoid disturbance of this evidence of several thousand years of occupation of this region. Where avoidance is not possible, sites will be fully documented and appropriate mitigation recommendations will be submitted to the regulator for approval.
Archaeological Investigations on Western Victoria Island, N.W.T., July-August 2000
James Savelle and Arthur S.Dyke, NWT Archaeologists Permit 2000-897
Archaeological investigations, in conjunction with geological investigations, were carried out between July 17th and August 17th, 2000, on western Victoria Island, N.W.T. These investigations represent the second field season of a proposed long-term project that focusses on an assessment of the relationship between initial and subsequent Paleoeskimo and Thule and historic Inuit occupations on southwestern Victoria Island and changing paleoenvironmental conditions. While previous studies have documented Paleoeskimo (ca. 4000-1000 B.P.) and Thule and historic Inuit sites in this area, a systematic attempt to investigate varying intensities of prehistoric occupations, and relate these to changing environmental conditions, has not previously been attempted.
Field surveys were undertaken in four areas on Prince Albert Sound: Woodward Point, Page Point, Linaluk Island region, and along the south central part of the sound. The nature and amount of data collected at each site varied according to field priorities at the time of examination. Thus, some sites were examined and recorded in considerable detail, while others were simply noted as to location, and the number and types of features estimated. No excavations were undertaken, and items recovered from the various sites were restricted to charcoal, bone, wood and other materials suitable for dating purposes.
A total of 115 sites, comprising 628 Paleoeskimo and 350 Thule/historic dwelling features, and several hundred caches, fox traps and other features, were recorded. Several of these sites had been previously reported by Robert McGhee. While the occupation of the study area spans essentially the entire temporal range of human occupation known for this region of the Arctic, our preliminary results suggest that there are definite occupation ‘pulses’, similar to those described elsewhere in the Canadian Arctic. Specifically, following relatively high Early-Mid Pre-Dorset population levels, occupation intensities decreased substantially until Mid-Late Dorset times, at which point they increased slightly, but not attaining the Pre-Dorset levels. Early Thule occupations were generally sparse, but increase substantially toward the late prehistoric/historic transition period.
Kitigaaryuit National Historic Site
Elisa Hart, NWT Archaeologists Permit 2000-898
Parks Canada provided funding to the Inuvialuit Social Development Program (ISDP) to complete the mapping of cultural remains at Kitigaaryuit National Historic Site. Kitigaaryuit was the central gathering place of the Kitigaaryumiut, who gathered there in winter for celebrations related to the disappearance and eventual return of the sun. They also gathered in summer for a collective beluga whale hunt. Among the remains at the site are a village, a Hudson’s Bay Company Post, and an Anglican mission. There are also extensive graveyards, in which about 230 traditional log graves are visible on the surface.
ISDP has conducted research related to Kitigaaryuit since 1995. This has involved oral history and archival research along with an archaeological inventory and mapping. It has also included vegetation surveys, and preliminary assessments of the impacts of tourism, and of coastal processes threatening the site. The crew of 2000 consisted of Elisa Hart (ISDP), David Taylor, who operated the differential GPS, and Don Gardner of Old Ways. Don was invited to continue his research on Kitigaaryumiut skin boats through an analysis of boat parts found at the site. Don’s research has shown that the Kitigaaryumiut had a unique and little understood boat building tradition. Their innovative designs attest to their knowledge of creating boats that were strong, but much lighter than found in other parts of the Arctic.
During the 2000 project we found that major impacts are occurring from erosion and the thawing of permafrost. ISDP proposes to undertake more extensive research on coastal processes in the summer of 2001. Oral historical research will also continue so that we can learn more about the uses of the cultural remains at the site, and of life at Kitigaaryuit.
Mackenzie Valley Winter Road Ochre River Bridge Project for GNWT Department of Transportation
Brian Ronaghan, NWT Archaeologists Permit 2000-899
GNWT Department of Transportation plans upgrading a portion of the existing Mackenzie Valley winter road by building a new bridge at the Ochre River crossing north of Wrigley. This project will improve winter access and will assist in controlling erosion after spring-melt. In June 2000, Brian Ronaghan of Golder Associates examined construction zones for historical resource concerns associated with this development. The project also included participation by an elder of the Pehdzeh Ki Dene Community, Edward Hardisty, who accompanied the archaeologist and representatives of Transportation during the field inspection to advise about any concerns there might be for sites and areas that the community would consider important.
Although several archaeological and traditional use sites had been recorded in studies that took place before the road was built, all of these occur outside areas proposed for bridge construction. The project involved inspection of the proposed development zones, some of which had been cleared by hand in the winter, and testing of areas that might contain buried artifacts. Mr. Hardisty confirmed that no cabins or other sensitive areas would be affected, and no new archaeological or traditional sites were found during the inspection. It was recommended that the Department of Transportation be granted approval to build the new approach and bridge crossing at the Ochre River.
Fort Simpson Heritage Park
Tom Andrews, NWT Archaeologists Permit 2000-900
At the request of the Fort Simpson Historical Society, Tom Andrews and Sherry Lovely of the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre undertook a brief archaeological inspection of the Fort Simpson Heritage Park. About an acre in size, the park was recently established by the Fort Simpson Historical Society to commemorate and preserve the McPherson House, a log cabin built in 1936, and one of the oldest surviving buildings in the community. With a commanding view of the confluence of the Mackenzie and Liard rivers, the park has proved popular with residents and visitors. The park development plan includes moving the Roman Catholic Rectory, built in 1911, back to its original site within the park boundary, requiring a new building foundation to be excavated and constructed. However, the area has long been suspected as being the site of “Fort of Forks”, a North West Company fur trading post constructed near the confluence of the Mackenzie and Liard rivers in 1803. Concerned that their plans for the site might impact the remains of the fur trading post, the Society requested that the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre conduct a brief archaeological inspection of the park area.
The objective of the archaeological inspection was to assess whether or not archaeological deposits exist at the park, to determine their nature, and to advise the Society whether or not further archaeological research might be necessary. Over a period of three days, and with the able and kind assistance of Steve Rowan, a founding member of the Fort Simpson Historical Society, Andrews and Lovely used a power soil auger to test for archaeological deposits in the area of the Rectory foundation. The testing program uncovered a stratified archaeological site, with a depth of at least 2.5 metres. The upper portion of the soil column contained objects dating to the post-contact period and was badly disturbed. However below this 25cm-thick layer were undisturbed, stratified cultural deposits, where a hearth, and a stone flake were noted. The Fort Simpson Historical Society hopes to undertake further archaeological research at the site in the coming years.
Andrew Mason, NWT Archaeologists Permit 2000-901
Paramount Resources Limited (Paramount) is proposing to drill and test nine new wells and conduct tests on seven existing wells within their significant discovery licence (SDL) area in the Cameron Hills area in the Northwest Territories (NT). Depending on the success of the wells, flowlines, a camp, an airstrip, bridges, a satellite and a battery would be constructed within the NT. In addition, a pipeline would be constructed to the south, into Alberta, to tie-in to a proposed pipeline from Paramount’s Bistcho Plant to a point just south of the Alberta/NT border. Another option, a pipeline that ran south-east from the battery to a point located along the highway north of Indian Cabins, Alberta was also assessed. This expansion of the present Paramount oil and gas development is referred to as the Cameron Hills Project (the Project) and was originally proposed for the winter of 2000/2001. The development is on hold pending regulatory approval. Andrew Mason of Golder Associates Ltd. (Golder) carried out a heritage resources impact assessment (HRIA) as part of the Environmental Screening for the proposed development. The HRIA fulfills the requirements of the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act as required by the Oil and Gas Directorate of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada and the National Energy Board.
The HRIA was completed by Golder between July 31 and September 17, 2000 under Northwest Territories Archaeologists Permit #2000-901. The Alberta portion of the study was completed under Alberta Archaeological Research Permit #2000-123.
The entire development area was flown by helicopter numerous times in the company of Elders and other representatives from local First Nations communities to document traditional ecological knowledge the Elders may have concerning the study area and to identify areas of moderate or high archaeological potential. Areas noted by Elders or areas of assessed moderate to high archaeological potential were subjected to more detailed field inspections. A number of low potential areas were also examined and shovel tested to confirm the assessed archaeological potential. Much of the study area was found to have low archaeological potential given its generally wet and low-lying conditions (Photograph 1). Crossings on the Cameron River and other elevated, well-drained areas exhibited the greatest archaeological potential, but shovel tests and the examination of existing exposures did not reveal archaeological materials (Photograph 2). No heritage resources were identified during the HRIA and as a result, no further archaeological work was recommended for the Paramount Cameron Hills development as presently proposed.
Archaeological Investigations of Old Fort Rae’s “Old Fort”, August 2000
Marc Stevenson, NWT Archaeologists Permit 2000-902
In 1892, during his stay at Old Fort Rae on the North Arm of Great Slave Lake, the explorer/adventurer Frank Russell (1898:69) observed that: “Two hundred yards from the big house (i.e., the Hudson’s Bay Company main post building) on the shore of a little cove called Sandy Bay, a few crumbling ruins of clay and stone chimneys mark the site of an ‘old fort,’ abandoned so long ago that nothing is known by the present inhabitants concerning it.” With this information in hand, these ruins were re-discovered in June, 2000, by Clem Paul of the North Slave Metis Alliance. Partial removal of the moss from this feature and an adjacent, but smaller, rock mound soon confirmed that we had found the remains of an “old fort”, and most probably the one identified by Russell. Plans were then made to conduct a preliminary archaeological assessment of these remains in August 2000.
Students of Great Slave Lake history generally accept the arrival of the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1852 as the date when Metis first settled at Old Fort Rae. However, there are a number of lines of evidence to suggest that Old Fort Rae, or Mountain Island as it was known prior to the establishment of the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) post, was occupied by Metis as much as half a century or more earlier. This evidence led to the consideration of four possible explanations for “old fort” remains:
- a pre-1780 occupation of Metis formerly associated with the Company of the Sioux,
- a late-1780s/early 1790s occupation of Metis associated with the heyday of Northwest Company (NWC) trading activity on the North Arm,
- an early 1800s occupation of Metis associated with XY Company, or
- a later NWC occupation of Metis dating to the late 1810s.
In addition to the two-room dwelling (Feature A) that was the focus of investigations in August 2000, an additional half dozen features were recorded including the remains of another well defined dwelling with fireplace and adjacent interior cellar. Excavation of approximately 10 square meters in Feature A recovered ca. 50 artifacts and 3kg of broken and burnt caribou, fish and unidentifiable bone. While the preliminary nature of the archaeological investigations undertaken and the relatively small size of the artifact sample obtained precludes rejection of any of the four hypotheses at this time, the occurrence of trade silver, wire wound barrel as opposed to tubular drawn beads, and hand-wrought nails as opposed to machine cut nails tends to support an earlier (pre-1800) rather than later (post-1800) occupation.
In light of the archaeological and historic evidence, the most reasonable conclusion, that can be drawn about Old Fort Rae’s “old fort” at this point in time is that, it is either 1) a pre-1780 occupation of early Metis formerly associated with the Company of the Sioux, or 2) a late-1780s/early 1790s occupation of Metis associated with the heyday of NWC trading activity on the North Arm. Although the evidence tends to favour the former interpretation, only subsequent archaeological and historical investigations will confirm which hypothesis, if either, is correct. Nevertheless, what is certain is that subsequent investigations of Old Fort Rae’s “old fort” will necessitate a serious rewrite of the history of the early fur trade on the North Arm and of Metis use and occupation of Great Slave Lake.
 Russell, F. (1898). Explorations in the Far North. University of Iowa.
Canadian Forest Oil Ltd. Well Site and Access Road Impact Assessment
Thomas Head, NWT Archaeologists Permit 2000-904
On behalf of Canadian Forest Oil Ltd., Thomas Head of Bison Historical Services Ltd. undertook an Historical Resources Impact Assessment of a proposed well site and access road about 20 km northwest of Fort Liard, NT. This project was facilitated by the Acho Dene Koe First Nation. Field assistance and information on traditional land use was provided by Mr. Dolphus Codille and Mr. John Klondike Jr., both from the Acho Dene Koe First Nation (Figure 1).
The access road is sited to avoid poorly drained areas (Figure 2) while the well site is associated with some of the most poorly drained terrain associated with this project. Shovel testing was undertaken as a principal site discovery technique since natural exposures were lacking. Thirty-two negative shovel tests were dug during the heritage resource impact assessment. Traditional land use studies included a discussion with Mr. Dolphus Codille and Mr. John Klondike Jr. from the Acho Dene Koe First Nation. Following completion of the wide ranging discussion, a helicopter overflight of the area provided a visual link between the verbal information and the study area. No traditional land use sites were identified on, or immediately adjacent to, the proposed well site and access road.
Elisa Hart, NWT Archaeologists Permit 2000-905
Elisa Hart of the Inuvialuit Land Administration accompanied a seismic reconnaissance crew working for Veritas DGC Land of Calgary, to locate known heritage sites on or near proposed developments related to two seismic programs. One program is for Burlington Resources Canada Energy Ltd. and the other is for AEC West Ltd. Veritas and their clients propose to maintain a 100 m buffer between known sites and developments such as seismic lines, access routes and mobile sleigh camps. Precise GPS readings were taken for each site found and those in close proximity to developments were staked.