When the World Began...
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When the World Began...
The First Peoples
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Reconstructing Life
On the coast of Labrador is L'Anse Amour, the oldest known ceremonial burial site on the continent. It is a large, enigmatic tomb built 7,000 years ago containing the remains of a twelve-year-old boy. The skeleton lies face down, an unusual position in any culture, a slab of rock has been placed across his lower back.
Recreation of burial site at L'Anse Amour, Labrador from Canada: A People's History
Recreation of burial site at L'Anse Amour, Labrador from Canada: A People's History

Red ochre, a blood-coloured powdered mineral, is sprinkled over the back of his head and used to define a circle around him. Objects surround his grave; a decorated caribou antler pestle, a bone pendant, fragments of bird bones, a harpoon head, bone whistle. A walrus tusk has been placed near his head.

The tomb would have taken twenty men a week to build, and it is unusual for a primitive culture to have that luxury of time. The fact that he is pinned by a rock indicates that whoever buried him wanted him to stay down. It seems unlikely that this was simply a hunting accident. Was the boy a sacrifice? An exalted prince? Did he represent some overwhelming evil the band wanted to banish?

There is a considerable challenge in trying to reconstruct life in North America as it existed before Europeans arrived. Sometimes there are only cold, sporadic archeological clues such as we find at the L'Anse Armour tomb. But, fortunately, there also exists to guide us, the evolving oral record of the natives themselves.

While to some, the archeological record may seem the more reliable, the oral traditions are often the most compelling. These stories exist on a number of levels; as spiritual and moral instruction, education, history, and not the least, entertainment. They don't always follow a conventional narrative structure, often resembling dreams, with their circular themes and wild, surreal tangents. They contain the collective wisdom and nightmares of a people.

The native peoples inhabited the grim climatic and geographic realities of the country; they allied themselves with nature, both physically and spiritually. Their stories reflect these alliances and the inevitable betrayals. As you move across the landscapes and through the timelines of their history, you can see how the belief system of each tribe is so closely linked to the elements and the animal life that surrounded them.

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When the World Began...
The First Peoples
Reconstructing Life
Origins of Human Life
Women and Men
Huron and Corn
Plains Indians and the Buffalo
Beliefs and Rituals
Inuit: Survival Stories
Times of War and Peace
L'Anse Amour
Yakima Indians
The Archaeological Survey of Canada

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