Loa and Tipler were tired and hungry! Not only did they drink the Museum man’s tea, they ate most of his crackers and jam. All the while, he laughed and asked many questions as they sat next to his tent, around a small fire.
Once in a while, he shared a piece of information about himself. It was 1912…not 1870! Mr. W. worked for the Victoria Memorial Museum in Ottawa. He was exploring the remains of an early village built by Canada’s first inhabitants.
He believed there could have been as many as 40 homes. There were pottery sherds to account for, midden (his word for garbage), and lots of old bones. He wasn’t going to get all the work done before the onset of winter, but he hoped he could come back.
Loa didn’t understand everything he said. She told him about the two men she’d seen digging up lost treasure and how it had disappeared with a brightly lit ghost driver and two oxen. Mr. W. reached for the notebook and pencil he kept in the pocket of his trousers, and wrote down her exact words.
Back to the spinning cave, Loa and Tipler went. Once again, Tipler barked twice. Once again, there were lots of shiny, flashing lights as everything whirled round and round. Where were they going now?
This time, the land looked quite familiar.
There was, again, a methodical digging sound, but there were more diggers, not just one or two. The diggers wore bright short-sleeved shirts that clung to their bodies and some had funny cloth hats on their heads.
There were crowds watching, and a woman in trousers was talking to a group of youngsters who couldn’t have been older than Loa. The woman welcomed the group to the archaeological site, and described an early 1500s Village of at least 23 homes. Over a period of years, the Village had expanded several times. One could tell because there was evidence that the walls of the Village ‒ the palisade ‒ had been altered.
The Villagers were part of a larger group that archaeologists recognized as the St Lawrence Iroquoians. They were farmers who moved and rebuilt their Villages every 20 years or so. Members of this group living in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence area were more closely related with each other than they were with other Iroquoians like the Huron-Wendats or the Five Nation Iroquois.
They had grown corn, beans, and squash ‒ Three Sisters Gardens ‒ hunted in the nearby forest, and fished in the creeks and rivers. They had fashioned many things of clay: cooking pots, pipes, beads, game pieces, and other highly decorated items.
They had lived in longhouses ‒ many the length of 2 railcars. The longhouses were built of bent wood poles and covered with bark. There were openings in the ceilings for the smoke from the fires that burned inside. Sometimes, 40-50 people lived in one longhouse.
Even Loa could guess that almost 1,000 people had lived in this abandoned Village next to the family farm she had known all her life. She was in shock! Her home! She found it hard to keep listening!
As she bent to scoop up Tipler, she spotted some footprints in the sand that led to a small circle of men and women. They spoke in low voices and burned a bundle of dried herbs. The sound of their voices and the sweet smoke helped calm Loa.
Someone in the group had lost a small, copper piece. Loa would have given it back, but she was still troubled by all she’d seen.
Notes: William J. Wintemberg’s Roebuck Site report is available online: http://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/000664897.
In 1998, the Canadian Museum of Civilization (now Canadian Museum of History), returned the Iroquoian remains dug up from the Roebuck site. They have been buried at the Akwesasne reserve.