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[WITHDRAWN] A Tale of Three Sites: Identity, Governance and Community Archaeology in Waskaganish, Eeyou Istchee

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9:00, Monday 6 Jun 2016 (30 minutes)

The Waskaganish First Nation is surrounded by a rich archaeological heritage representing occupations in various time periods. Three sites especially stand out—Nûtameshânan, (or Smokey Hill), Sanders Pond and Charles Fort—two of which have been recently investigated in the framework of the Waskaganish Archaeological Project, a community-oriented project carried out by the Cree Nation Government and the Waskaganish First Nation (WFN). While these sites are a source of local pride, each has its own set of issues with respect to recognition, protection and governance. This paper will explore community attitudes and actions with respect to these sites and the role they play—and may play in the future—as part of the community's collective memory and cultural heritage. Our presentation will thus address both of the major themes for the session. 

With respect to site management and jurisdiction, the Charles Fort site (established by the English in 1668)—together with the other trading post sites within the community— are a part of a protected “waterfront heritage zone” defined by the WFN under the provisions of a local heritage protection by-law, which is thus far unique amongst the Cree First Nations in Eeyou Istchee. This by-law recently proved a powerful tool for shaping community development, one that provides a model for other communities in Eeyou Istchee. The Nûtameshânan (Smokey Hill) site is also entangled in issues of community development. Celebrated by the community as a place where Crees gathered from time immemorial to fish cisco at a stone weir, archaeology shows that this is a large and significant site. While, the diversion of the Rupert River in 2009 for hydroelectric development has had an impact on its use, the educational and community heritage role of the site continues to be strong. Nûtameshânan is a critical element of Waskaganish’s community identity.  

Finally, the Sanders Pond site, occupied over four thousand years ago, produced an assemblage of polished stone points and knives that is unique for Eeyou Istchee, and seems to show cultural affinities with in Labrador, over one thousand kilometres away. Though the ancient occupants cannot be clearly identified, this site is also a source of local pride in community heritage.  

These sites, and the history they represent, will soon be showcased in the Waskaganish’s new cultural heritage centre, located in a recently renovated historic building. The paper will conclude on the theme of community building and identity by examining different issues of interpretation and public presentation of the past related to each of the sites.

David Denton


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