The place where a road to the Ring of Fire would cross the Attawapiskat River is full of cultural heritage for the people of Neskantaga First Nation, according to a Lakehead University professor.

Last month, Scott Hamilton, from the university’s department of anthropology, travelled to the site with elders from Neskantaga as part of an ongoing effort to document traditional knowledge.

mi-barrel-stove-300

A homemade stove made out of a 10 gallon barrel found last month at the old 'village' site. Lakehead University professor Scott Hamilton says "some of the stuff visible on the ground was likely cached for use the next time people stayed at the location. This is pretty common. Rather than transport heavy or bulky stuff across the countryside, some needed material would be cached at regularly used places to be reused when needed." Jody Porter/CBC (Jody Porter/CBC)

"There’s lots of evidence of a seasonal gathering place," Hamilton said of the tent frames, and homemade barrel stoves found there.

"It’s a really important place on the cultural landscape."

‘Vulnerable to loss'

Hamilton said it appears the site was used regularly as a ‘village’ up until approximately the 1970s. But he said he also found what appears to be a section of a musket barrel, which would point to people using the area at least as long ago as the fur-trade era.

Hamilton said the elders from Neskantaga have "an enormous amount of information [about the site] that is very vulnerable to loss."

"It is extremely important for large-scale environmental assessment both in terms of heritage values on the landscape but also ecologically sensitive areas," Hamilton said.

"Where are the important fish-spawning places? Are they vulnerable to disturbance and damage from industrial development? What’s the baseline data of current ecological conditions before any transformation begins to occur? We haven’t any of that kind of information yet."

Hamilton said no formal archaeology was done during his visit. He said he’s currently writing up a report for Neskantaga based on his field observations and conversations with elders.