2015 Ontario Archeological Society Symposium

The annual symposium of the Ontario Archeological Society (OAS) was held at the Best Western Conference Centre, Midland, on October 16 – 18 2015

Hosted by the Huronia Chapter (Midland) of the OAS, some 300+ attendees included 50+ Quebec Wendat and a similar number of delegates from the Eastern States Archeological Federation in the US. Well represented were municipal planners, heritage professionals and members of heritage advisory committees.

Sponsorship funds were provided by, among others, the Municipality of the Township of Tay and the Township of Tay Heritage Committee. The symposium was attended by Councillor Cate Root and Terry Fegarty of the Tay Heritage Committee.


On the 400th anniversary of Champlain’s visit to Southern Ontario, the conference, titled “Circles of Interaction: The Wendat and their neighbours in the time of Champlain”, focused on the 17th century and earlier time periods from the First Nations’ side.

As background, there are over 1,000 known aboriginal sites in Simcoe County. Only 200 have been tested, and only 20 have been fully excavated.

On average, 2-3 new pre-contact sites are found each year in Southern Ontario.

The program included 50+ (concurrent) presentations and 4 guided tours over 3 days.

Guided tours included:

  • Huronia Museum, Ste. Marie among the Hurons, and the Martyrs’ Shrine
  • Forget site, Ossossane ossuary, Ellery site, St Ignace site
    • Led by Jamie Hunter
  • Tay Point site (Allen Tract)
    • Led by the archeologist team from Sir Wilfrid Laurier

IMG_7874Longhouse Excavation at Forget Site

       Jamie Hunter at St. Ignace II                  Longhouse Excavation at Forget Site

Some topics of particular interest:


  • Wendat towns and nations 1450 – 1650
  • Land-use trends of the Wendat and Iroquoians
  • Aboriginal use of the Georgian Bay Islands before 1600  
    •   e.g. mortuaries, trading sites, refuges, cache pits, fishing stations, maize farming


  • Archeological verification of location of 17th century sites                                                       
    • e.g. Jesuit Relations maps 1630 – 1660, carbon dating, pottery sherds, beads etc.
    • e.g. Site of Jesuit martyrdom: St. Ignace II (Jury)?, St. Louis (Hunter)? No certainty

st Ignace                        Jury’s Excavations off Rosemount Road, Tay Township

  • Warminster site, 1610 – 1624
    • 2 villages, 25 acres
    • Historic Cahiague? A major settlement of 200 long houses inside a protective wooden palisade that was home to as many as 5,000 people.
    • Champlain there in 1615

Tay Point Excavation

  • Allen Tract site, Tay Point (Ahatsitstari)
    • 6 village sites 1450 – 1650
    • Bead finds indicate extensive trade
    • Historic Cahagouha? Site of first mass in Upper Canada (Champlain’s journal 1615-1616)

                                                                                             Test Pit at Allen Tract


Dr, Alicia Hawkins, Laurentian 

University,(right) at the Ellery Site

    • Changing Wendat food ways caused by epidemics?
    • Bought by the Province to conserve
    • Less lake trout, whitefish, deer, bear
    • More local foods: perch, suckers, rabbits, pigeons


  • Wendat presence in Southern Ontario after 1649
    • Late 17th century maps include Wendat names
    • Lived with Iroquoians
  • Wampum belts to document treaties
    • Beads indicate items to be discussed
    • Meaningful symbols (e.g. villages)
  • Ground Penetrating Radar as a tool to locate historical graves
    • e.g. Tay Point site
  • Computer graphics to visualize historic sites
    • e.g. Fort Frontenac
  • Assessment of Champlain
    • by Dr. Conrad Eidenreich, leading authority on Champlain and archeology of southern Ontario.
    • Champlain as surveyor, geographer, colonizer, administrator
    • Champlain memorable in his respect for indigenous people
  • Damage and destruction of aboriginal sites
    • From development, highway and telecommunication construction, collectors/looters etc.
    • This topic was addressed by a panel of members of local First Nation communities, municipal planners, archeologists, heritage professionals and members of heritage advisory committees.
    • Artifacts are property of the Crown. How to treat private collections and artifacts obtained illegally?
    • In the face of large construction projects, can planners and local heritage committees become more proactive in protecting archeological sites?
    • A reminder that archeological sites are eligible for protection as cultural heritage


Huronia Chapter of the Ontario Archaeological Society  https://www.facebook.com/groups/Huronia.chapter/

Tay Heritage Committee http://www.tay.ca/en/your-municipality/tay-heritage-committee.asp


This entry was posted in archaeology, culture, First Nations, heritage, history, Huron - Wendat, Huronia 1600s, rural Tay, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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