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"People Lived There a Long Time Ago": Archaeology, Ethnohistory, and Traditional Use of the Miskweyaabiziibee (Bloodvein River) in Northwestern Ontario Open Access


Other title
Selkirk Composite
traditional use
Bloodvein River
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Taylor-Hollings, Jill S.
Supervisor and department
Le Blanc, Raymond (Anthropology)
Examining committee member and department
Rankin, Lisa (Archaeology, Memorial University)
Willoughby, Pamela (Anthropology)
Garvie-Lok, Sandra (Anthropology)
Gruhn, Ruth (Anthropology)
Ives, John (Anthropology)
Forth, Gregory (Anthropology)
Department of Anthropology

Date accepted
Graduation date
2017-06:Spring 2017
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
This thesis investigates the archaeology of the Miskweyaabiziibee (Bloodvein River) within the Woodland Caribou Signature Site (WCSS) in northwestern Ontario, focusing on the Late Woodland through Postcontact Periods. The project was enhanced by the unusual availability of complementary Anishinaabe traditional knowledge, ethnographic, and ethnohistoric information to address two research questions: (1) What evidence is there of cultural and technological changes along the Bloodvein River in Ontario through time?; and (2) What evidence exists for the regional expression of the Late Woodland Selkirk Composite archaeological culture and how does that fit within the context of northwestern Ontario and the larger extent? The western range of this archaeological entity in other provinces was well understood but the eastern variations were not. To address these research problems, fieldwork in the form of site discovery, surface collection, and test excavations was completed. Ten brief community archaeological survey projects were undertaken along the Bloodvein River in the WCSS working within ongoing partnerships between Ontario Parks and Pikangikum, Lac Seul, and Little Grand Rapids Ojibwe First Nations in their traditional territories in that park. Significant new information resulted from the finding of 80 archaeological sites and 24 rarely identified quartz quarry locales along the Bloodvein River in Ontario. Results from fieldwork were combined with reanalyzed assemblages from the only other survey of the middle section of the river in the 1970s. This evidence indicated several newly identified occupations spanning the entirety of the precontact time frame including Early Period, Middle Period, Middle Woodland Laurel Configuration, Late Woodland Bird Lake Complex, as well as Plain Banded Stamp and Punctate Type. These results demonstrated that the Bloodvein River was inhabited much longer than previously thought. Additional examples of Late Woodland Blackduck Composite, Selkirk Composite, and Postcontact Period archaeological diagnostics were also discovered. Three types of Winnipeg Fabric-impressed Ware of the Selkirk Composite were identified from sites along the Bloodvein River but the Clearwater Lake Punctate Type was the most common, indicating that the existing Clearwater Lake Complex should be extended southward. An updated geographical overview was compiled for existing complexes and the eastern extent for the Selkirk Composite was determined, indicating that evidence for this archaeological culture has been found as far as northern Ontario, Quebec and Michigan. The Bloodvein River region also represented an opportunity to examine the ethnohistoric records and work together with specific Anishinaabe families who have longstanding ties there, to interpret an informed view of the more recent cultural and technological changes in this region. Archaeology, combined with ethnohistoric information such as maps, and traditional knowledge, resulted in the finding of one Fur Trade Period site, established the occupational time frame of another, and determined the location at modern Knox Lake of the enigmatic “Bad Lake” from Hudson Bay Company records. Precontact sites were often found to coincide with more recent traditional use locales. Even though the Bloodvein River region is known to have many pictographs, as a result of working with community members, three undocumented ones and a lichenoglyph were recorded. By combining the different epistemologies of WCSS staff, Anishinaabe community members, and archaeologists, a more holistic view of the ancient and recent Indigenous peoples who lived along the Bloodvein River in Ontario was discerned.
This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for the purpose of private, scholarly or scientific research. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
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