Nfld. & Labrador

Digging up the past to build for the future in Sheshatshiu

In a community where housing is in high demand, the Sheshatshiu archaeology project aims to preserve the past while clearing the way to build for the future.

Housing site is an Innu camp from about 3,000 years ago

There is room for two houses on the spot the where the current archaeological dig is taking place. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

Just off a residential street in Sheshatshiu, locals, students and others are on their hands and knees sifting through the earth.

They're finding tools and other artifacts used by Innu people who used to camp and live there thousands of years ago — clearing the way for much-needed modern-day dwellings to be built.

"It's important because you uncover the history of the way they lived way back, so I think it's pretty important they maintain it," elder Jack Selma said.

Kayla Jourdain, 17, of Sheshatshiu is helping out with the dig. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

Right now there are 130 families on the waiting list in Sheshatshiu for new housing. Clearing space for new homes is an important focus for the community, but so is telling the story of the past.

"I think it's pretty cool to know that our Innu people were here, like thousands of years ago, making stone tools," said Kayla Jourdain, 17, of Sheshatshiu as she scraped through the earth.

We're respecting the land, not just destroying it.- Eugene Hart

The spot the group is working on should clear the way for two new houses to be built.

Just across the road there are three more lots that need to be cleared. 

There are currently 130 families on a waiting list for housing in Sheshatshiu. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

"Every day we're looking for housing," Sheshatshiu Chief Eugene Hart said.

"Our elders and ancestors from the past, they were here. We're respecting the land, not just destroying it."

"The community really needs to be commended for recognizing the significance of the resources here and actually putting in the manpower," said Scott Neilsen, a MUN archaeology professor who's heading up the project.

"It will pay off in the long term because they can have a story that they can tell."

Anatoly Venovcev shows evidence he found of the tool-making process by Innu ancestors at a camp site that is around 3,000 years old. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

About the Author

Jacob Barker


Jacob Barker is a videojournalist for CBC Windsor.