DRYDEN, ONTARIO – September 18, 2018 – Artifacts discovered on an isthmus (land bridge) in northwestern Ontario have revealed that the area holds profound historical significance for Indigenous Peoples. Despite these new findings, the Eagle Lake First Nation and a local grassroots organization, the Farabout Peninsula Coalition, fears industrial logging roads will destroy the sacred land.
“Any disruption of these sites through road construction across the isthmus to Farabout Peninsula by the Dryden Forest Management Company would be a violation of the Ontario Heritage Act. Further, it would violate indigenous rights and would be an action of remarkable cultural insensitivity”, explains Chief Arnold Gardner of Eagle Lake First Nation.
This summer, an exploratory dig led by archaeologist Allyne H. Gliddon in collaboration with Eagle Lake First Nation and the Farabout Peninsula Coalition, was conducted on the isthmus – a narrow piece of land connecting the mainland to the peninsula. The biologically rich Farabout Peninsula is located on Eagle Lake, approximately 50 kilometres west of Dryden in northwestern Ontario. The portage on the narrow land bridge was used by ancient peoples to avoid the dangerous wide waters of Eagle Lake and access a safer route to the Eagle River.
After some artifacts were unearthed in a test pit, further exploration revealed many more artifacts belonging to ancient Indigenous cultures. A copper projectile (arrowhead) was found that appears to be of the Archaic period (2,000 – 7,000 years ago). These people were one of the first in the world to refine copper and make copper tools. Among some of the other artifacts discovered were white quartz arrowheads and fragments of pottery crafted in the pre-historic style of the Laurel Culture (1,000 to 2,000 years ago). The Laurel People are ancestors of the Ojibway and Cree Nations, and these artifacts indicate that they camped on the isthmus. The dig unearthed evidence of a second ancient culture inhabiting the isthmus, finding numerous pottery fragments fashioned in the traditional style of the Black Duck Culture (500 to 1,000 years ago). These findings show us that the isthmus was a significant location for Indigenous Peoples to camp over many millennia.
“These significant archaeological findings are the latest in a long list of 10 years of documented reasons as to why the Coalition and its supporters do not want road building and clearcutting to occur on Farabout Peninsula, an area of land located in the middle of a world class musky lake”, said Dale MacKenzie, Chair of the Coalition. “If the loggers are truly ‘managing’ the forest, why is it necessary to clearcut a peninsula so rich in its natural diversity and indigenous history, in a location that has been important for tourism for decades”.
In the previous management planning (2011), the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) and Dryden Forest Management Company (DFMC) proposed a logging road to access Farabout Peninsula. Clear-cutting of forests on Farabout Peninsula was halted when local people found an eagle’s nest on the narrow isthmus. Since this time, the eagle’s nest has been abandoned and the area is now being reconsidered for industrial logging.
“Eagle Lake First Nation and the Farabout Peninsula Coalition are not alone. There are hundreds of thousands of hectares in northern Ontario that local people have identified or supported for protection that just sit on the books,” said Julee Boan, Boreal Program Manager for Ontario Nature, based in Thunder Bay. “Best case scenario, they are set aside temporarily until the next forest management planning cycle. This puts all of the responsibility on local people to keep up the fight, sometimes for decades – until people either pass on or give up and the area is logged.”
Farabout Peninsula, which falls just outside the boundaries of the adjacent 3,400-hectare Eagle Lake Islands Conservation Reserve, is an opportunity preserve an area of incredible biological diversity. If protected, Farabout Peninsula will also contribute to the 10.7 percent of land in Ontario that is currently protected, helping Canada reach its goal of protecting at least 17 percent of lands and waters by 2020.
The discovery of these artifacts proves that the isthmus is a site of great historical, cultural and sacred importance that must be protected. Residents are looking for the political support to permanently protect the peninsula.
For more information, visit: www.savefarabout.org
Media inquiries contact:
Dale MacKenzie, Farabout Peninsula Coalition, Coalition Chair
Michelle Shephard, Eagle Lake First Nation, Economic Development Officer
John Hassell, Ontario Nature, Director of Communications and Engagement
The Farabout Peninsula Coalition is a diverse group of activists consisting of Eagle Lake First Nation, concerned seasonal and full-time residents, naturalists, local tourist lodges and commercial fisheries. Our goal is to save the Farabout Peninsula area of Eagle Lake in Northwest Ontario.
Ontario Nature protects wild species and wild spaces through conservation, education and public engagement. Ontario Nature is a charitable organization representing more than 30,000 members and supporters, and 155 member groups across Ontario. For more information, visit ontarionature.org.