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It is heartening when something reappears unexpectedly,
or a long-forgotten story is experienced once again. The spring
and summer of 2010 was truly a time of cultural rescue at the
mouth of the Saugeen River in the town of Southampton.
A collaborative effort undertaken by the Town of Saugeen
Shores (TSS) and the Saugeen Ojibway Nation (SON)
demonstrates the positive outcomes that can be achieved
when our shared heritage is properly and respectfully
Archival and archaeological investigation has returned to life
many chapters of local history that had literally been buried
at the river’s mouth. Centuries of recovered stories of the
Saugeen Ojibway and their ancestors will enlighten residents
and visitors for generations to come.
And it is rather ironic that a construction project whose
installation now serves to flush “things” away was the medium
for cultural rediscovery and preservation!
In 1944, seasonal Southampton resident Donald Shutt
reported an “Indian” site and burial ground on the north side
of the river mouth.
During his early-1950s’ groundbreaking search for
archaeological sites in counties that fringe lakes Erie and
Huron, Tom Lee from the National Museum of Canada
visited, described, and collected a sample of artifacts from
the site. The site that Lee called BBv51 became registered
by the provincial and federal governments as BdHi-2.
Locally, knowledge of its existence was soon forgotten.
On March 29, 2010, TSS and SON archaeologists encountered
deeply-buried fragments of ancient stone tools, pottery vessels,
and animal bone in an exploratory trench at the western end
of South Rankin Street.
More than a half century after initial reports of its existence,
site BdHi-2 was rediscovered.
Prior to the installation of the Southampton sanitary sewer
pipeline, archaeologists meticulously excavated a two-metre
wide trench through the section of BdHi-2 where South Rankin
Street and Shore Road meet.
Both as a teacher and as Chief of the Chippewas of Nawash
Unceded First Nation, Ralph Akiwenzie was a tireless and
determined advocate for Saugeen Ojibway Nation culture.
Chief Akiwenzie understood the benefits that could be
derived from careful and considered archaeological
investigation. He also made abundantly clear to
archaeologists that such studies must be done with
respect and minimal disturbance. His guidance and
enthusiasm will be missed.
Whose Home & Native Land?
The lower reaches of the Saugeen River -- including what is now the
Town of Southampton, has been the focus of cultural activity
for at least the past 3000 years
Government, surveyor, church, and commercial records
from as early as 1805 identify who was doing what
around the river mouth.
During the first half of the 19th century it was the
Saugeen Ojibway who were living, fishing, hunting,
farming, and burying their dead.
And they were hosting travellers and traders.
One such visitor was the Wesleyan Methodist minister Peter Jones (Kahkewaquonaby)
who, between July 22 and 25, 1829, made a stop at the mouth of the Saugeen with his
party of Native converts. While there, ... I went to see an Indian burying ground. There were a number
of graves lying east and west, to indicate that the departed
spirits had gone in that direction.
Euro-Canadian and Métis fur traders frequented the river’s mouth to barter with the
resident Saugeen Ojibway. Historical accounts reveal that these traveling salesmen
were but seasonal visitors who set up shop over the winter, peddled their goods, then
moved on. Some returned as settlers after the area had been ceded to the Crown.
For the vast expanse of time before written records, how is it possible to know who lived at archaeological sites such as BdHi-2?
Certain types of archaeological evidence have been
used; for instance, pottery, house, and settlement styles.
Even diet. These, however, have proven to be unreliable.
Providing greater confidence are archaeological
manifestations of cultural traditions and the identification
of the sources of raw materials that were used for stone
tool production. Evidence from BdHi-2 has been quite
Cultures -- past and present, are defined by their traditions. Historical accounts from
the 1640s onward describe a ritual involving immature white-coloured dogs that is
unique to the Ojibway and other Anishinabe groups.
Archaeological evidence from across the upper Great Lakes region has brought to
light that this ceremonial practice is not restricted to the period of written records...
or to young dogs.
At BdHi-2 and other sites in what are now the counties of Bruce and Grey, the
bundled and buried remains of ritually-treated immature dogs and beavers, as well
as water birds, are common occurrences. This Anishinabe ritual goes back many
centuries before it was first recorded by Europeans.
While bundled animal burials may be common archaeological occurrences, raw materials for
making stone tools are present on all sites... and in great frequency.
Most notable is chert -- a sedimentary rock composed primarily of microscopic quartz crystals.
However, impurities became part of the “recipe” during its formation, producing many visually
and chemically distinctive chert types.
With each individual chert type having a restricted geographical range, archaeologists can
reconstruct the interaction sphere of the people who used this material.
Almost all of BdHi-2’s chert types come from geological deposits located in an immense area
bounded by central Ohio, northern Michigan, and Grey County’s Beaver Valley.
Only a miniscule amount comes from the Niagara Peninsula’s Onondaga Escarpment -- the
source of massive outcrops of superior quality chert.
If the varieties of chert recovered from BdHi-2 are any indication, the people at the mouth of
the Saugeen River were, for millennia, interacting with groups around the Lake Huron basin.
This large area included the territories of many Anishinabe groups, including the historically-
recorded Ojibway/Chippewa, Odawa, Potawatomi, Sauk, Fox, Kickapoo, and Shawnee.
An assortment of historical and archaeological evidence convincingly demonstrates that the lower reaches of the Saugeen River have, for millennia, been part of the traditional territory of the Saugeen Ojibway and their ancestors.
Despite only a very small section of BdHi-2 having been investigated,
many cultural periods -- crossing a great span of time, have been
identified at the river’s mouth
Various techniques have been used to determine the ages
of the artifacts and the landscape features. Some methods
provide great precision, others not so.
When could people first have lived at the river’s mouth?
BdHi-2 is perched on the first terrace overlooking the
intersection of the Saugeen River with Lake Huron.
The terrace lies at an elevation of 180 metres above sea
level. The lake rests at 176 metres.
A sequence of 15,000 years of lakeshores around the Great
Lakes has been defined using radioactive carbon-14 dating.
Today’s river mouth and the Lake Huron shoreline are
recent creations. Well, relatively recent.
Until about 500 BC, BdHi-2’s terrace would have been
submerged beneath the coastal waters of Lake Huron’s
immediate and higher water predecessor -- Lake Algoma.
The hill that rises to the east above the BdHi-2 terrace is
the shoreline bluff carved by the lake.
Not until Lake Algoma began to recede to the present
Lake Huron level about 2500 years ago could people
have begun to live on that 180-metre terrace.
What, though, is the earliest cultural evidence?
The archaeological excavation revealed that the 180-metre
terrace was, like a layer cake, composed of distinct levels.
Lowest, of course, is oldest -- but how old? Artifacts, charcoal,
and animal bone were recovered from the earlier, and now
deeply-buried ground surface -- the “Paleosol”.
While no artifact styles were recovered that could reveal its
age, samples of animal bone and charcoal were submitted
for carbon-14 dating. Dates ranged between AD 10 and
AD 890. These dates reveal that the sand upon which the Paleosol
had developed is much younger than the original Lake
Algoma lakebed. After Lake Algoma’s descent began about
500 BC, it and Lake Huron periodically returned to Lake
Algoma’s 180-metre level. Those advances would have
obliterated any earlier stable ground surfaces and all
evidence of previous cultural activity.
Still, a layer containing cultural material left behind by
inhabitants of the river mouth some time between the
time when Jesus of Nazareth walked the Earth and the
Vikings discovered Greenland is pretty old!
A profusion of datable Native- and European-made artifacts
were recovered from the upper topsoil layer that is now
capped by the road bed. How are they dated?
If, for instance, a style of a Native-made ceramic vessel that
occurs on confidently-dated sites elsewhere across the
Great Lakes region is also present at BdHi-2, those dates
can, with caution, be assigned to the BdHi-2 artifact and the
layer from which it was found. This technique is referred to
as “cross-dating” and it also works for European goods.
Industrial and historical records allow many European-
and Canadian-manufactured artifacts to be dated with
great precision. Very occasionally an artifact is marked with
its date of manufacture.
Evidence for more than 1000 years of cultural activity is
crammed into the relatively thin capping topsoil layer. From
a small ceramic rim fragment that dates between ca.
AD 600-800 to an 1899 Canadian dime, much history
literally lies under foot.
Maps and historical accounts document with great chronological precision the river mouth’s most recent inhabitants and cultural activities.
From “Indian Land” to Southampton Town Plot
Today, the Saugeen Ojibway Nation (SON) includes
the communities of Saugeen First Nation #29 and
Neyaashiinigmiing, or the Chippewas of Nawash
Unceded First Nation #27. Anishnabekiing is their
traditional homeland and that of their ancestors.
Occupied continuously since the final retreat of the
Laurentide ice sheet more than 12,000 years ago,
the land-based extent of traditional SON territory
covers an area that is roughly three times the size
of Prince Edward Island.
In 1836 Sir Francis Bond Head -- Lieutenant-Governor
of Upper Canada, sought the physical, cultural, and
institutional separation of indigenous First Nation
and immigrant Euro-Canadian populations. The goal
of Upper Canada’s apartheid was to provide Euro-
Canadians with access to more land and natural
The British Crown’s 1763 Royal Proclamation had
defined the process by which tracts of First Nation
lands could be transferred to Euro-Canadian
immigrants. It first involved the negotiation of a
treaty -- a formal agreement or contract, between the
Crown and a First Nation. While the Crown
considered these to be land surrenders, First Nations
understood treaties as opportunities to build
relationships and protect their connection with
Treaty 45 1/2 (1836)
Bond Head faced resistance when he proposed that
the Saugeen Ojibway abandon all their traditional
territory and move to Manitoulin Island. As a
compromise, Bond Head promised that if they would
at least withdraw into the Saugeen (Bruce) Peninsula,
King William IV would forever protect the Saugeen
Ojibway from further encroachment by Euro-
On August 9, 1836, Treaty 451/2 transferred that part
of Saugeen Ojibway territory south of the peninsula
-- then known as the Saugeen “hunting grounds”, to
the Crown. This included the land on the south side
of the river mouth that would become the core of
Treaty 72 (1854)
Into the 1850s, Euro-Canadian squatters and resource-pillagers
continued to intrude into the unceded Saugeen Peninsula.
The colonial government claimed that they were helpless
to prevent these illegal encroachments. A suggested remedy
was that it would be in the best interest of the Saugeen
Ojibway to transfer more land to the Crown for sale to
settlers. If they didn’t, the government warned, their
children would be left with no resources -- natural or
Over the night of October 12-13, 1854, the “surrender” of
most of the Saugeen Peninsula was negotiated. This included
the lands on the north side of the river mouth where the
Southampton sanitary sewer system was installed in 2010
and site BdHi-2 is located.
Excluded from Treaty 72 were the Saugeen, Chief’s Point,
Newash (Owen Sound), Colpoy’s Bay, and Cape Croker reserves.
In the span of a single generation -- between 1836 and 1861, almost 99% of traditional Saugeen Ojibway territory was ceded to the Crown. Based on the Crown’s behaviour and broken promises, the Saugeen Ojibway Nation initiated a court action in 1994 claiming that Treaty 72 was unfair. The claim remains unresolved.
Tradition & Innovation
With resourcefulness, creativity, and skill, the Saugeen Ojibway
and their ancestors have fashioned raw materials into products
for utilitarian, decorative, and ritual uses
Lithic materials possess characteristics that can serve a
variety of functional and symbolic purposes. Knowledge
of geology and physics -- long before they were known
as “geology” and “physics”, was essential.
Chert is a variety of quartz that was formed hundreds of
millions of years ago from the silica skeletons of sponges
and other marine animals that lived in the area’s tropical
seas. It is now found as nodules and beds in the county’s
Because chert fractures in a predictable fashion, it can
be chipped (also referred to as “flaking” or “knapping”)
to produce cutting, drilling, scraping, and piercing tools
with very sharp and strong edges. And it can be struck
to produce sparks.
Other sedimentary rocks -- such as catlinite, shale and
siltstone, were cut, ground, and drilled to form beads,
pendants, and smoking pipes.
The last glaciation pushed very hard igneous and
metamorphic rocks southward from the Canadian Shield.
Some cobbles were used as hammerstones to make
chert tools. Others were pecked and ground into
chopping and woodworking tools. Still others were
notched for use as netsinkers.
Deposits of clay accumulated on the bottoms of the post-
glacial lakes. As lake levels dropped and watercourses
carved valleys, beds of clay were exposed.
By about 800 BC, three important features of clay came
to be recognized by southern Ontario residents:
1. moist clay can be shaped and will retain a form when
dried; 2. fire and/or heat -- typically between 600 and
1000 Celsius, permanently hardens clay; and 3. adding
different materials (temper) to clay improves its natural
properties and reduces shrinkage and cracking during
The production of ceramic containers and smoking
pipes is not a simple process. It’s a delicate marriage of
chemistry and pyrotechnology. If proctised by the
inexperienced, the results can be explosive!
Beginning in the Middle Archaic period -- ca. 3500-2500 BC,
Great Lakes groups were heating Lake Superior copper
nuggets at low temperatures and then cold-hammering
them into utilitarian, ornamental, and ritualistic items. With
a melting point of 1083 Celsius, a sufficient amount of
heat could not be produced to melt and cast native copper.
With the introduction of European goods into the area in
the late-16th century, a new supply of copper-based metals
was introduced. Recycling was born.
Endowed with the same symbolically-charged properties
as native copper, European copper and brass kettle scrap
was re-worked into ornamental and ritualistic items. Brass
-- being harder than pure copper, was formed into projectiles.
As had native copper nuggets, bars and musket balls of soft
European lead were being hammered and cut into various
And with the introduction of low-melting point lead
(327 Celsius) and pewter (170 -230 Celsius) during
the 18th century brooches and decorative inlays were
being cast by Great Lakes groups. A new technology
made its appearance.
While animals are a source of food, they also supply an
abundance of raw materials -- nothing that was killed
was wasted. Animal bone and antler, and shells --
freshwater and marine, were fashioned into a variety
of tools, decorative items, and ritualistic objects.
The array of technologies practiced across the millennia cannot, unfortunately, be fully appreciated. Objects made from wood, hides, and cord very rarely survive archaeologically. Even bone deteriorates. Generally, only artifacts made from the most durable materials live to tell cultural tales.
Sustainers Of Life
Pot, bowl, kettle, basin, cauldron... a basic necessity by any name. Fragments of containers recovered from BdHi-2 come from vessels of
different sizes and shapes, and are made from a variety of materials.
While vessels can serve many functions, they all share one primary
purpose -- to sustain life. Foods to be cooked and served. Maple sap to be
reduced. Seeds, prepared foods and water to be stored and transported.
To produce ceramic bowls (14) of identical shape and
size, a mechanized arm with an attached profile template
is lowered on a centered ball of clay within a spinning
mould. A product of the Industrial Revolution, the
technique is called “jolleying”. The template forms the
bowl. It is removed from the mould, air-dried, then
subjected to stages of kiln-firing, an assortment of
possible decorative techniques, and glazing.
European-made kettles from the 16th through 18th
centuries (12-13) were hand-hammered from sheet
copper or brass (an alloy of copper and zinc) into the
desired shape by “basin-beaters”. The mouth is trimmed
and its lip rolled. Cut and folded-over brass or hammered
iron lugs are then riveted to the rim to receive a
wrought iron handle.
Native-made vessels from the Late Woodland period --
post-ca. AD 600 (1-11), were hand-formed using the
paddle and anvil technique from a mixture of clay
and various tempering materials. Decorated with
impressed designs while wet, they were then sun-
dried and slow-fired using bark.
While in southern Ontario in the early 1620s, Recollet
priest Gabriel Sagard described their manufacture and
There is a great assortment of shapes and decorative
techniques represented amongst the Native-made
ceramic vessel fragments recovered from BdHi-2.
This shouldn’t be unexpected considering that pottery
was being made at the river’s mouth for more than
1000 years. The differences, however, are not exclusively
stylistic changes over time.
Two distinctive and coincident ceramic traditions are
present -- one from the upper Great Lakes area of
Michigan and Ontario; the other from south-central
Ontario. With BdHi-2 being located at the interface of
these geographic areas, the movement of people -- or
at least ideas, is reflected in the mixed ceramic
Ceramic vessels first appeared in southern Ontario during the
Early Woodland period -- ca. 800-300 BC.
No pottery fragments, however, were recovered from BdHi-2’s
lowest cultural layer. Its absence in the ca. AD 10-890 Paleosol
is likely the consequence of only a very small section of this
layer having survived in the section of the site that was
Every person throughout history has had need of one... containers are humanity’s common material thread.