2008 Archaeological Investigations for the Development of a Land Use and Heritage Management Plan for the HBC Trading Post known Locally as Old Fort Rae

Shannon Hayden (NWT Archaeologist’s Permit 2008-008)

Old Fort Rae is situated on the east side of the North Arm of Great Slave Lake, about 25 km south of the community of Behchokǫ̀. The aim of conducting archaeological studies at Old Fort Rae is to map and document culturally significant site and landscape features and to interpret the inter-relationships between cultural deposits, oral histories, the environment, and the landscape so that areas of cultural and spiritual significance can be avoided and respected by current and future land users. The ultimate goal of this research is to develop a Territorial Historic site nomination and Heritage/Land Use Management Plan for Old Fort Rae.

A wide range of potential occupational periods has been represented in both the oral histories and in the archaeological record of the site. Tłįchǫ and Métis elders who participated in the survey and site visit helped identify trails, portages, travel routes, auxiliary sites, and place names that are important features of traditional life in the region.

Low precipitation rates and continuous vegetation cover have limited disturbance to archaeological remains at the site; however, recent human activity in the area, as well as large game movement, such as caribou, bison and moose, has impacted the archaeological record, sometimes moving or exposing artefacts. Because of the relatively small size of the known Old Fort Rae site, the entire immediate area was surveyed using a combination of foot traverses, surveying equipment, and GPS. All archaeological materials encountered were recorded and mapped.

Additional field work, planned for next summer, will explore in more detail local oral histories and the extent of archaeological material represented at the site and begin to develop plans for heritage resource management. Old Fort Rae and the surrounding area are part of a sacred landscape, important to the local peoples and their traditions.

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