Ancient history in your backyard

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1) The turtle is a powerful spiritual symbol for many Canadian First Nations. This little one, made of soapstone and found just across the Ottawa River from Quyon, toured a number of countries as part of the exhibition First Peoples of Canada: Masterworks from the Canadian Museum of Civilization.(Canadian Museum of History)

Ancient history of the Ottawa Valley

Deborah Powell

OTTAWA VALLEY – Friends of Chats Falls hosted an online presentation, March 28, with archaeologist Jean-Luc Pilon.

Pilon described the purpose of his talk: Archaeology is quite often portrayed as something exciting and exotic that takes place in distant lands. The Ottawa Valley has very rich ancient history stretching thousands of years. That human story attests to perseverance, determination and ingenuity. Many aspects of the Ottawa Valley’s ancient past have been appreciated by specialists and the general public around the word, but for the most part it remains virtually unknown at home.

I hope to change that perception by sharing some of the highlights of the pre-European history of the Middle Ottawa Valley, so you’ll see this landscape in a new way and better appreciate the rich legacy of the Anishinabe Algonquin culture.”

 Pilon highlighted archaeological findings from the area that attest to First Nations presence in Ottawa Valley but also the long distance trade and social relationships that existed in pre-European and early contact periods; stone that originated from the tip of Labrador, fine implements and bracelets that are 5-6000 years old and made from copper that came from the western portion of the Lake Superior basin, and ceramic pots that may indicate St. Lawrence Iroquoian presence.

At the end of the presentation, a participant asked where to find out more on the topic. Pilon recommended the Museum of History in Ottawa as well as the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg Cultural Centre near Maniwaki and Pikwàkanagàn at Golden Lake, Ontario.

During his more than 33 year-long career at the Canadian Museum of History, in addition to fieldwork, Pilon worked on a number of exhibitions, including Kichi Sibi Our Region’s Past, (now permanently on display in Kitigan Zibi), First Peoples of Canada: Masterworks from the Canadian Museum of Civilization, which toured internationally, and the First Contacts module in the Canadian History Hall.