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Indigenous Culture

History, Photos, and Artifacts Found in the Region

Several cultural traditions are represented in the prehistory of Northwestern Ontario, extending from about 10,000 years ago until present. The following is a brief outline of the history of the people in the area.

Paleo-Indian Period (10, 000 BCE – 7,000 BCE)

These people were the first inhabitants of the area. They most likely arrived by following herds of caribou across the tundra/parkland environment of the newly opened lands left by the retreating glaciers.

Within a few hundred years, the encroachment of the Boreal Forest led to an adaptation to a forest environment and a concentration of people on the lakes and river systems. Several types of spear points indicate that different groups of these early hunters moved in at various times.

Archaic Period (7,000 BCE – 2,500 BCE)

A change in the environment to warmer, drier conditions around 7,000BCE brought about a change in plant and animal communities which resulted in a change in the survival patterns of humans in the area. In response to the hunting of small game, large spear points were replaced by smaller notched projectile points and smaller stone knives. A new technology involving the production of stone tools by grinding rather than chipping was also utilized.

One of the most complete copper artifact assemblages for Northwestern Ontario was found at a burial site south of Lake Nipigon that dated to about 3,500 years ago.

About 5,000 years ago, people started making use of copper, whish was cold hammered to form spear points, knives and gaff hooks. Lac Seul has produced an abundance of copper artifacts reflecting many tool types. These people of the Archaic Period are the first know known group to have lived in the Ear Falls area.

Initial Woodland Period (2,500 BCE – 900 AD)

This time period is marked by the introduction of fired clay pottery vessels. These were made by using the coil method and had conical bases. The vessels were smooth with the exception of the neck and rim, which were decorated with distinctive toothed or sinuous edged tools.

The makers of the vessels are known as the Laurel people. Their way of life was similar to the region’s archaic people. There are two major theories concerning the origin of the Laurel culture in this area. One is that it arose out of an archaic base differing only by the adoption of pottery. The other is that the people of the Laurel culture moved into the area following the expansion of wild rice into the area about 2,500 BCE.

Terminal Woodland Period (900 AD – 1600 AD)

Two distinctive cultures, both of which appear to have developed from a Laurel cultural base are present in this period.

One of these is the Black Duck culture. This culture is characterized by globular pottery vessels. The body of the vessels is textured by cord wrapped paddle and the rim is decorated with cord wrapped paddle and the rim is decorated with the cord wrapped object impressions.

Most archeologists believe them to be related to the modern day Ojibwa or Anishnabeg Aboriginal Peoples and First Nations.

Another culture is the Selkirk tradition with fabric-impressed globular vessels that are found farther north. These people are thought to be related to the Cree Aboriginal Peoples and First Nations.

Contact Period (1650 AD to Present)

This tradition starts with the arrival of non aboriginal settlers into the area; first French, and then English traders bringing with them trade goods such as axes, guns, beads and metal goods.

The Aishnabek (Saulteaux-Ojibway) Aboriginal Peoples of Lac Seul (1650-1900)

It is a matter of debate as to the extent and magnitude of the expansion of Anishnabek (Ojibway) people into the northwest during the years following the Iroquois Wars 1649-50 which caused the destruction of the Huron-Petun Iroquois.

The conflict moved these people together with the southern Algonkians (Nippissings, Ottawas) to the north and Northwest (i.e. specifically to the Lake Nipigon area), replacing the Cree peoples.

The major political and social group at the time for the Anishnabek people was the band consisting of several families. Most of the year, especially the winter months, was spent in family groups in order to best procure foods ad game resources. However, during the summer, each band or group of several related families gathered together at a traditional camping spot on one of the larger lakes.

In the early 1800s, big game, namely Caribou, became scarce and Moose virtually disappeared in the Lac Seul area. For the next 100 years, aboriginal people in the area had to rely largely on fish and hares.

Present Day First Nations in the Lac Seul Area

Lac Seul First Nation

Lac Seul First Nation is located approximately 38 km North West of Sioux Lookout. The reserve has a large base, which is bounded to the north and east by Lac Seul Lake and is made up of three communities, Kejick Bay, Whitefish Bay, and Frenchman’s Head.

The Lac Seul Reserve is the oldest reserve in the Sioux Lookout District. The lake was the main transportation route and an important source of food.

Lac Seul is one of the largest reserves in northwestern Ontario. The general membership consists of about 2,700 people, two thirds of which live off reserve.

Follow the link to learn more about Lac Seul First Nation:

Wabauskang First Nation

Wabauskang First Nation is a relatively small community, with 269 registered members as of 2010. The community is Ear Falls’ closest neighbour.

Wabauskang people are related to the Grassy Narrows First Nation. Following the devastating flu epidemic of 1917-1920, which killed millions of people worldwide, including many at Wabauskang, surviving band members returned to Grassy Narrows and were subsequently relocated further in 1963 by the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs.