Digging up First Nations history in Rouge Park

First Nations archaeologists oversee the preservation of their history as preparations get underway for the new national park

First Nations archaeologists oversee the preservation of their history in the national park that's coming soon

First Nations groups are taking part in archaeological digs in Rouge Park to help preserve their ancestors' history ahead of the park's development. (John Rieti/CBC)

Beneath the scenic forests and wetlands of Rouge Park, First Nations archaeologists are unearthing artifacts that tell the rich history of their ancestors.

Parks Canada will soon develop the region into a new national urban park. A group of First Nations archaeologists have been put together to monitor the excavations and oversee the preservation of these historical lands.

"There's a lot of different nations represented here in the park," says Luke Swinson, an archaeological monitor at the site and member of the Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation, in an interview with Metro Morning on Friday.

He says teams are currently accessing the farm land that might be developed in the north end of the park.To make sure that no cultural artifacts are disturbed, they have started test pitting the area — an archaeological method that involves digging up small square spaces and sifting through the soil in each.

"We find mostly culturally modified rock, which indicates tools [were made], and this could be from thousands of years ago," he says. "We also find lots of pre-contact ceramics, arrowheads — stuff like that."

Metro Morning host Matt Galloway broadcasting from Rouge Park on Friday. (CBC)

Swinson says the First Nations nomadic nature means that settlements in Rouge might not have lasted very long. However, he hopes these digs will uncover their stories and help to better inform the public of their culture.

"Every time we find something new, we can kind of piece together the puzzle of what went on here."

Despite others concerns about preservation, he said that he believes the traditional lands, and the over 1,700 species that inhabit them, will be fine.

"Every time I look out at [the land], I think about my ancestors and what they were doing, and it's kind of emotional," he says. "Parks Canada seem just as passionate about preserving our culture as we are."