Scubby’s Point protected archeological site again under scrutiny

In March, 2010, excavation began on the north side of the Saugeen River in Saugeen Shores for the new proposed sewer installation when a potential Anishinaabe First Nation’s archeological site was discovered at what is known locally as ‘Scubby’s Point’ overlooking the mouth of the Saugeen River at Lake Huron.

(Wikipedia — “Saugeen” is the corrupted form of the word Zaagiing in the language of the Chippewas of Saugeen Ojibway Territory, meaning “at the river’s outlet” or “at the mouth of the river”.)

  Scubby’s Point at sunset – Photo by Saugeen                           Times March, 2010

When bones were discovered at the site, archeologists were called in to examine the finding and, once discovered, elders of the First Nations elected to provide round-the-clock security to ensure that the findings were protected until it was determined if, in fact, it was an archeological site.

Photos by Saugeen Times (2010)

First Nations had known through their oral history that there had been indigenous peoples at the mouth of the river for thousands of years and wanted to ensure that any history, if possible, would be preserved.

The Town of Saugeen Shores engineering department, then under Dave Burnside, worked with SON to immediately suspend digging until an excavation of the area could be conducted under the direction of Archaeologist, Bill Fitzgerald.  Fencing was put in place, Rankin Street was closed to traffic and a sacred Ojibway fire was maintained around the clock.

Fitzgerald said at the time that the archaeological dig was “… an opportunity for the Municipality and Saugeen First Nation to work together to reveal 2,000 years of history.  The mouth of the River has a very long history.”

The long historical background includes a battle between the Ojibway and Iroquois peoples and extensive fur trade with the Europeans and voyageurs.

Before major excavation started, the town began to dig a small trench and at five feet below surface artifacts began to be discovered. On March 23rd, (2010), the Saugeen Shores and Saugeen First Nation signed an official agreement that would deal with how the project could affect Aboriginal interests, including archaeological concerns.  The agreement also included an archaeology protocol to deal with any areas where an Aboriginal cultural or burial site would be encountered.

Fitzgerald pointed out that this (agreement) was a “… true collaborative effort between the Municipality of Saugeen Shores and the Ojibway peoples.”

[Saugeen Times News Article, April 9, 2010]

New archaeological discovery puts into action agreement between First Nations and the Town of  Saugeen Shores

The Mayor of the Town of Saugeen Shores and the Chiefs of the Saugeen First Nation and Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation met on Thursday, April 1, 2010 to discuss measures to protect an archaeological site. The site was discovered during construction for a new sewer project on March 29, 2010. 

On April 8, 2010, the Town and the First Nations signed an agreement dealing with how the proposed project could affect Aboriginal interests, including archaeology concerns. Part of the agreement includes a detailed archaeology protocol to deal with any situations where an Aboriginal cultural or burial site is encountered.

Agreement  April 8, 2010

Southampton and Saugeen First Nation:  

“We are working together to ensure the site is protected,” said Mayor Mike Smith. “The Town and the Bands have an agreement in place to deal with exactly this type of situation. This is our first opportunity to make it work in a way that meets the needs of both the Town and the First Nations.”

Chief Randall Kahgee of Saugeen First Nation and Chief Ralph Akiwenzie of Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation agreed that the Town and the Bands can rely on the agreement they recently reached. “Any archaeological site is a critical record of Aboriginal history in the area, so of course we are concerned when a site is found. We are pleased that a good process is in place, so we can properly document and protect the site,” said Chief Kahgee. 

Then, on May 17th, 2010, site. field work began.  Between May 17th and September 17th, archaeologists, under the direction of Fitzgerald, meticulously excavated the site working with tools as simple as wooden chopsticks. “Every object found in archaeology is meticulously measured and recorded in detail,” said Fitzgerald.

According to Fitzgerald, the site revealed an credible history with approximately 100,000 items revealed.  The dirt that was removed was carefully screened uncovering articles from the 16th and 17th centuries. Digging down one to one and a half meters below ground surface, each layer contained different items, some dating back to 890 A.D. and many others in excess of 2,000 years.  “There were ceramic shards that dated to 1,000 A.D. and several from the 1700s.”

Several of the artifacts reside today in the Bruce County Museum and Cultural Centre in Southampton (Saugeen Shores) and were presented in an exhibit, ‘The River Mouth Speaks’ (2011).

(L) Nawash Interim Chief Scott Lee, Saugeen Shores & Bruce County Warden, Mike Smith and Saugeen (SON) Chief Randall Kahgee

At the opening of the exhibit at the Museum on July 19 (2011), then Saugeen First Nation Chief Randall Kahgee said, “Our two communities have learned they have much in common.  Sometimes we forget to take the time to listen and to talk.  I am proud of the agreement we have reached with the Town of Saugeen Shores and it is something other communities should support.  Within hours of the archaeology discovery, the town and our people were mobilized and began to talk about how we could move forward together.”

Mike Smith, Saugeen Shores Mayor and Bruce County Warden at the time, said that it was “… an historic night and the exhibit tells a story of the people who were, and are, here.  The friendships and co-operation that we have forged, I will always cherish.”

Scubby’s Point, that overlooks Southampton Harbour and the mouth of the Saugeen River, is now considered a protected archeological site.

Recently, however, the empty house at 6 Rankin street was in the process of being demolished and, as the demolition began, Saugeen First Nation was advised by elders and immediately contacted the Town of Saugeen Shores to place a stop-work order on the site.

Demolition started on November 10th and, according to sources, there were no proper archeological permit protections in place or, possibly, a permit for demolition. In addition, again according to sources, the heavy demolition equipment travelled over the protected Rankin Street site in order to access the property.  Saugeen elders are concerned that any remaining fragile artefacts beneath the ‘protected’ road surface may have been damaged.

Demolition Nov. 10 (2022) – Saugeen Times

According to a source, the house was located on the spot where there was the original trading post started by fur trader Pierre Piché.

About 1818, Piché married a woman of the Chippewas (Ojibwas) of Sauging (Saugeen).  The Piché(s) were given a treasured wampum (beaded ‘belt’) officially welcoming them into the Ojibway Saugeen First Nation.  *[The gift of these beads (wampum) from one tribe to another, or an individual to another, was regarded as very solemn and binding, and a compact made that was never broken. cited-Historic Saugeen Metis]. When Pierre Piché died, his widow was cared by Marguerite Granville, the daughter of Joseph Longe and a Cree woman, until Mrs. Piché died.  The Granville family were there for a few generations after the Piché(s) until approximately 60 years ago.

As of printing, it is undetermined as to the status of the current situation regarding demolition and whether permits required were, or are being, issued.