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PLACES MENU GASPÉ PENINSULA EASTERN TOWNSHIPS ABITIBI-TEMISCAMING NUNAVIK QUEBEC CITY REGION (CAP-TOURMENTE AREA) NORTH SHORE LOWER ST.LAWRENCE MONTÉRÉGIE OTTAWA VALLEY INTRODUCTION SAGUENAY-LAKE-SAINT-JEAN
Places

Abitibi-Temiscaming

LANDSCAPE

«Travellers coming from the south hail an encampment where a few families are staying beside a river.

As the first canoes touch the shore, people hurry to welcome the newcomers. The men stepping out of their canoes bear bundles filled with copper, exotic stones and objects for trade.

Their faces are well-known to the families, for these people have long been trading partners.»

A REGION OF FORESTS AND LAKES

Situated on the Canadian Shield’s watershed divide, the Abitibi-Temiscaming region has a forest that is mixed in the south but gradually becomes characterized by spruce to the north. The region has a rich ecology and supports a diversity of wildlife. The various species have specific distribution areas and their populations fluctuate with the rhythms of environmental factors.

 

RIVER
 

The distribution of wildlife affected the way humans occupied the territory and hunted on it. At the time when the first Europeans arrived, nomadic First Peoples lived in small, widely scattered families for much of the year but assembled in larger groups in summer.

The families gathered together in summer, when fishing was an important activity. The annual cycle of winter hunting in small groups and summer fishing in communities represented an age-old pattern, although some variations must have occurred over time.

RESOURCES OF A LAND

In the Contact period (when First Peoples encountered the influence of European culture), the main animal species eaten by the Amerindians were beaver, hare, moose, deer, wood caribou and various fish and birds.

 

CERVIDAE SKULL
CERVIDAE SKULL

 

The study of faunal remains from archaeological sites has shown that, previous to Contact, people mostly ate large cervidae (especially caribou) in the earliest periods, hunted beaver and cervidae in the Late Archaic and Early Woodland periods (about 3 000 years before the present) and began to consume more fish by the Late Woodland period (about 1 500 to 400 years before the present).

TRADE ROUTES

The many lakes, rivers and streams flowing through the Abitibi-Temiscaming region were used by the inhabitants as waterways linking them to the neighboring areas. Raw material identified on archaeological sites is evidence of a dynamic trade network. This material includes stones from various sources: chalcedony from the Hudson Bay Lowlands, quartzite from Mistassini and Onondaga chert. The trade in native copper from the Lake Superior region seems to have been well established.

 

NATIVE COPPER
NATIVE COPPER

Since the Abitibi-Temiscaming area covers a watershed divide, those living in the region could travel along the waterways in different directions and maintain the many contacts that facilitated their lives as hunter-gatherers. There is good reason to believe that, throughout prehistory, these people cultivated contacts and special trade relations with a number of groups, particularly those dwelling around the Great Lakes in the Late Woodland period (1 000 to 400 years before the present).

LOYAL TRADING PARTNERS

From earliest times, people living in the Abitibi-Temiscaming region maintained contacts with their neighbors. During the Late Woodland period (1 000 to 400 years before the present) and into the historic period, trade with the people of the Great Lakes area became increasingly important. The pottery found on Abitibi-Temiscaming sites clearly belongs to the Ontario Iroquoian tradition.

 

NIGHT LANDSCAPE
 

In the historic period, it was recorded that the Hurons traded regularly with Algonquian groups living further north, exchanging corn and tobacco for furs and meat. The discovery of pottery characteristic of the Hurons and their ancestors on Late Woodland sites in Abitibi-Temiscaming supports the hypothesis that this trading relation existed before the arrival of Europeans. The inhabitants of the Abitibi-Temiscaming region may have made long trips when they engaged in this trade, but it is equally possible that a role was played by Algonquian middlemen, such as the Nipissings or the Ottawas, who lived on the very outskirts of Huronia.

LONG-LASTING ALLIANCES

The artifact assemblages found by archaeologists in the Abitibi-Temiscaming region contain no pottery characteristic of the St. Lawrence Iroquoians. Such pottery might be expected, since the Ottawa River offered a direct route to the St. Lawrence Valley. It is known that in the historic period the Hurons and Algonquians were allies in a struggle with their common enemy, the Iroquois. The exclusive presence of pottery in the Huron or “proto-Huron” tradition on these sites suggests that the alliances and deep-seated antagonisms observed in the historic period had their roots in earlier times.

 

DECORATED POTTERY SHERD (DETAIL)
DECORATED POTTERY SHERD (DETAIL)

The production of pottery has long been used to distinguish the sedentary groups of the south from the nomadic groups living further north. The technique of using clay to make both useful and decorative objects has been seen as marking a step in the process by which the groups in the Great Lakes area and the St. Lawrence Valley became sedentary and adopted agriculture. However, the excavation of Abitibi-Temiscaming sites has clearly revealed that small groups of nomads used pottery as far back as 1 000 years before the present. It seems that at certain periods it was made locally and displayed the beginnings of regional characteristics. But in other periods, vessels were imported from the Hurons.

 

REGION'S PROFILE

PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGION:
Canadian Shield (southern edge)

The Abitibi-Temiscaming region sits on some of the oldest rocks in the world (about 3.5 to 4 billion years old).
The Canadian Shield was formed when ancient mountain chains were eroded by great glaciers into the plateaus, hills and low mountains to be seen today. Folds and faults enabled magma to intrude, leading to the formation of rich mineral deposits.

PLANT COVER:
Boreal forest (spruce and fir stands) Deciduous forest (maple stands mixed with yellow birch)

PRESENT CLIMATE:
Subarctic, cold continental

Mean annual temperature between 0 and 2°C

Cool summers, mean temperature for the three warmest months between 13.6°C and 15.7°C

Winter very cold, mean temperature for the three coldest months between –17.5°C and –13.6°C

Length of average growing season between 163 and 182 days

 

RESEARCH

The Abitibi-Temiscaming territory was visited by only a few archaeologists, such as Frank Ridley and Thomas Lee, until around 1970. It was then that the first systematic scientific excavations in the regions were undertaken by archaeologist Roger Marois. Working for the National Museum of Man (now the Canadian Museum of Civilization), he explored the area around Duparquet Lake and Lake Abitibi. In 1985, Corporation Archéo-08 was founded. This corporation was a local initiative, aimed at developing knowledge of the region’s heritage. Archaeologist Marc Côté was hired in 1986 and he began field work the same year.

Since its founding, Corporation Archéo-08 has carried out projects throughout practically the entire Abitibi-Temiscaming region. The some 15 sites dug so far are scattered between Duparquet Lake and Lake Abitibi (Abitibi-West), Simon Lake (in the Val d’Or sector), Opasatica Lake (Rouyn-Noranda sector) and Chicobi Lake (Amos sector). Research to date has revealed that human beings have occupied this territory for 8 000 years.

 

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