Manitoban finds 7,000-year-old spearhead near Sagkeeng First Nation

A Manitoba man wants to sell a 7,000-year-old spearhead that he found near Sagkeeng First Nation, but an archeologist says selling it could land Ken Swampy on the wrong side of the law.

Ken Swampy wants to sell artifact he found in 2009

Ken Swampy holds up a spearhead that he found near Sagkeeng First Nation in 2009. (Marcy Markusa/CBC)

A Manitoba man wants to sell a 7,000-year-old spearhead that he found near Sagkeeng First Nation, but an archeologist says that could land him on the wrong side of the law.

Ken Swampy was walking around the Winnipeg River in 2009 when he noticed the spearhead on the shore.

Swampy says it's not the first thing he's found, but certainly one of the most valuable.

"Back at home we find arrowheads. We've never really come across a spearhead," Swampy said.

"I've been collecting all kinds of stuff. I love collecting. My wife thinks I'm a hoarder."

For years Swampy kept the spearhead in his pocket or in a dresser, and he even thought the worst had happened at one point.

"It drove me crazy for the last six years. I almost lost it for half a year; meanwhile, it's in my dresser," he said.

Early artifact from southeastern Manitoba

Now, following the death of his parents, Swampy said he wants to sell the spearhead to help his family with money. He has been showing it to experts in Winnipeg, including Kevin Brownlee, curator of archeology with the Manitoba Museum.

"I was quite excited when I first saw it," said Brownlee. "There was no question in my mind that we were looking at one of the early points from southeast Manitoba."

Brownlee dated the spearhead — comparing it to different examples from Manitoba's past — to 7,000 to 8,000 years ago — a time, he explained, when Manitoba was a much different place.

Southeastern Manitoba had been under a glacier 1,000 years prior to this spearhead being made, he explained, and it would have been a mix of open woodland and meadow, which is much different than the rock and forest that dominate the area today.

The climate would have made the area an ideal place for hunters at the time."You had bison, moose, elk and woodland caribou," said Brownlee.

What is it made of?

While Swampy and Brownlee agree on the age of the spearhead, the two men disagree on the material it's made out of.

"I went to a couple of jade collectors when I got back into the city, and the first expert told me it was nephrite jade," said Swampy.

"I wanted a second opinion, so I went to ReddLine Jewellery, and I asked him if he could give me a written document," he added.

The document from ReddLine Jewelry states that the spearhead "could be New Zealand jade from the Arahura River."

ReddLine Jewellery's assessment of Ken Swampy's spearhead. (Marcy Markusa/CBC)

But Brownlee said while there are some examples of jade in Manitoba, this spearhead is most likely a kind of stone called "West Patricia recrystallized chert" from northwestern Ontario.

According to Brownlee, "there are hundreds and hundreds of points, knives and tools made out of it from southeastern Manitoba," and the way this spearhead was formed is not consistent with jade.

Selling would violate provincial law

As for Swampy's plans to sell the spearhead, Brownlee said that would violate provincial law.

He noted that even the Manitoba Museum isn't allowed to own any artifacts added to its collections after the 1960s, when the legislation came into place.

"Mr. Swampy is a steward of that piece, on behalf of the province of Manitoba," said Brownlee.

The province agrees. In a statement to CBC News, the government said, "The sale of objects of heritage value is not allowed under the Heritage Resources Act…. The individual would be advised that under most circumstances they would be allowed to retain possession and care of the item, but the artifact remains the property of the Crown."

But Swampy said he plans to sell the spearhead anyway.

"I just hope it will land with somebody who will take care of it, pass it on, and share it with the world."


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