A special ceremony will take place this weekend to mark the return of thousands of artifacts to Metepenagiag First Nation from provincial facilities across New Brunswick.
Over several decades, about 60,000 artifacts were discovered on the shores near the community, formerly known as Red Bank, located west of Miramichi.
Metepenagiag Heritage Park Inc. is now working with New Brunswick's Archaeological Services Branch to repatriate the items which, until now, were conserved by the province.
'It means a lot to me to be a part of the family and see the artifacts being brought back to Metepenagiag.' - Patricia Dunnett, Metepenagiag Heritage Park
To celebrate this, the community is holding a special repatriation ceremony on Saturday at 11 a.m., as part of its Canada 150 anniversary event.
"The artifacts are a direct link to the community's sacred path," said Claude DeGrâce, chair of the Metepenagiag Heritage Park. "It brings pride to the community, it's their heritage."
The artifacts, which are about 3,000 years old, were discovered in the early 1970s by local historian Joe Mike Augustine, who approached provincial archeologists with his find.
"I feel like I'm playing a role in history," said Patricia Dunnett, Augustine's granddaugther and general manager of the Metepenagiag Heritage Park.
"It means a lot to me to be a part of the family and see the artifacts being brought back to Metepenagiag … he would have been so proud."
DeGrâce said the artifacts provide a direct link to the community's history, its ancestors and Indigenous heritage.
They include stone tools, spear points, stone plates, heavy axes and sharp stone knives. There were also strings of small and large copper beads, which preserved threaded materials, he said.
- Campsite dating back 12,000 years unearthed by Route 8
- Ancient tools found near Route 8 now believed to be 12,700 years old
Although the artifacts were recovered between the 1970s and 1980s, other items continue to wash up on shore, said DeGrâce.
"It's a rich archaeological site," he said
What happens next?
Once the artifacts are repatriated, DeGrâce said they will go into storage.
He said the province had been looking to return the artifacts for quite some time and invested in improving facilities in the area to properly store them.
"Some artifacts don't require special care technically because they're stone, they're very stable artifacts," he said. "Others like organic materials, need special controlled conditions."
He said there is a smaller room within the artifact storage area at the park, that can house those artifacts.
He said work is also being done to make Metepenagiag Heritage Park a world heritage site.
The group submitted a formal request to Parks Canada in January and are hopeful for a response later this year.
"It's a site that has been occupied for some 3,000 years," he said
"It's also felt to be one of the the best preserved archaeological sites throughout the Maritimes. It's a very special site."