Archeological Evidence of Indigenous Presence in the Metis Area

History buff and local Metis resident Gilbert Bossé has made a pretty exhaustive search of prehistory and historical records about the area, referred to in his July 11, 2007 Lecture of Metis PrehistoryHe identified several finds, most likely from the latter part of the 19th or first part of the 20th century:

“With the departure of our native visitors, little is known of the area, with the exception of several artefacts discovered during the last 150 years.  In 1932, Professor Henry Armstrong found a mallet or maul, while George H. Matthewson also picked up a highly polished, full grooved, gouge and located two celts or axes of mudstone.  Peter Francis Leggatt found a large retouched Ramah quartzite knife.  Sir William Dawson found two large chert bifaces, perhaps from the Price archeological site.  The former New Brunswick archeologist Christopher Turnbull and his wife, Susan, found a tempered pottery sherd at the mouth of the grand Mitis River in 1972, including a stone endscraper made on a flake, from the Late Woodland era, about 1000 AD, possibly from Tobique River, northern New Brunswick (Perth-Andover).  More recently, a man working near where the Grand Metis wharf used to be, found a notched point (encoche latérale) made of Ramah chert originating from the furthest reaches of northern Labrador, dating around 3,500 years [old].”

Here’s some more information.

Fonds Dawson, Matthewson, Leggatt:   The items found in the Metis area by Professors Dawson (a geologist) and Armstrong, Mathewson, and Leggatt were brought to Montreal by Wilfrid Bovey and donated to McGill’s Redpath Museum, founded by his great uncle.  The artifacts were later transferred to Montreal’s McCord Museum, and are referenced in an article: Les collections archéologiques préhistoriques de la Gaspésie au Musée McCord (extrait).

Local historian record of artefacts:   Gilbert Bossé assembled all he could about Indigenous finds in the immediate area in an article titled George Sim’s Archaeological Collection:  Facts or Ethnohistory?  Bossé tried to track down several items that had left the area, unfortunately, in the case of George Sim’s collection, without success … yet.

Sent to a Quebec museum:  Also in the 20th century, an indigenous grave was found on the north (water) side of Beach Road during an excavation undertaken to move the small building (formerly a bunkhouse) across to where it now sits behind 448 Beach.  It is understood that items from the site were sent to a Quebec City museum, however, which one and whether anything remains of the discovery is not known.

Archeological digs this century 

Price – 2004-2005:  Gilbert Bossé wrote of a prehistoric archaeological site dating back 8,000 years near the town of Price; the land was to be destroyed to build a used-water treatment plant for the municipality. A 16.67cm biface knife was found on a ploughed hayfield, however, 200 other pits revealed nothing.  A further 75 test pits were dug on a tree-covered part of Hydro Quebec property.  Hundreds of artefacts, mostly flakes and chips and a few interesting tools, were found. While local Métis were unable to protect the area permanently, a noted Quebec archeologist did participate, and 130 or so tools, plus 10,000 other artefacts, found were sent to the Archaeological Conservatory in Quebec.

Mouth of the Mitis River – 2012-2014:  Starting in 2012, as part of a project investigating public access to the St. Lawrence River by consolidating the Mitis River, its park (Parc Mitis), and the Jardins de Métis (former Reford Gardens), the Friends of the Métis Gardens/Les Amis des Jardins de Métis (Les Amis) and partners wanted to ensure integration of proper and sustainable practices.  Given what was referred to as ‘the rich history of the Mitis River and immediately surrounding area,’ the partners hoped to find items of archeological interest for conservation.

Les Amis commissioned a study that revealed elements associated with Indigenous site occupancy during the late Middle Woodland (1500 to 1000 years BC) or Late Woodland period (1000 BC to 450 years AD).  More in-depth searches in the same area in 2013-2014 revealed further artifacts and evidence of civilization that showed that the site was occupied even earlier – from the Middle Woodland period (2400 to 1500 years BC).  As well, some items were unearthed suggesting that an Indigenous group with ‘colonizer objects’ stopped at the site in the early 17th century.  These people were likely Mi’gmaq and possibly Iroquoians, who came to feed, replenish and repair tools, and make ceramic vases.