Archaeological Investigations for the Tibbitt to Contwoyto Winter Road

Jean Bussey (NWT Archaeologist’s Permit 2007-010)

In 2007, Points West Heritage Consulting Ltd. conducted archaeological investigations for the Joint Venture that operates the Tibbitt to Contwoyto Winter Road. This work was conducted under Northwest Territories Archaeological Permit 2007‐010 through EBA Engineering Consultants Ltd. These investigations were directed by Jean Bussey with the assistance of Brian Apland, of Points West, and Darcy Ross, of the North Slave Métis Alliance. Two field trips were required, one for monitoring in late June and the second in mid‐July.

The winter road runs from the south end of Tibbitt Lake near Yellowknife to almost the north end of Contwoyto Lake in Nunavut and has been used each winter for more than 20 years. Monitoring of archaeological sites located near this road was one component of the 2007 investigations. A second component of the archaeological field work involved examining a secondary route identified at the southern end that was used for return trips last winter. This secondary route heads west from West Bay on Gordon Lake to the vicinity of the old Discovery Mine and then south to Prosperous Lake. A third component consisted of examining an alternate to the northern end of the secondary route; this is an existing “cat” trail. The major component for 2007 involved assessment of a possible seasonal overland route (SOR) between Tibbitt and Lockhart lakes. This proposed route is approximately 154 km in length.

Archaeological monitoring of recorded sites along the existing winter road indicates that annual examination of the sites should continue. It was discovered that more substantial markers are required at one site near Lac de Gras camp. The Joint Venture has committed to having these installed. Examination of a potential gravel source near the existing route north of Lockhart Lake resulted in the discovery of a new archaeological site. The aerial reconnaissance of the existing secondary route and the proposed northern alternate route suggests that no further archaeological investigation is required provided no route changes are identified. Although there is archaeological potential on adjacent landforms, the actual track is suggestive of low sensitivity.

A combination of aerial and ground reconnaissance was employed along the proposed route of the SOR; potential borrow sources were also examined. Subsurface testing was undertaken at locations with moderate or greater archaeological potential when surface visibility was not sufficient. As a result of these investigations, one location with modern mining activity and six prehistoric sites were discovered. Most of the archaeological sites are avoidable with minimal route modification or by elimination of potential borrow sources from further consideration; one small, sparse site appears to be on the route and will require assessment to determine suitable mitigation if avoidance is not feasible. Once the final route has been determined, it will be necessary to conduct additional field reconnaissance.

(Edited by Shelley Crouch, Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre)