Huron pipe – same pipe the other side 1600s

I was lucky enough to get asked to photograph a family farm collection of artifacts from the French contact period with the Hurons, therefore the first half of the 16th century. This was part of about thirty artifacts collected from the mid 1960s to the 1980s.

side view of pipe
Huron pipe one side 1600s

Sutton talks about Joseph Taché’s work in Huronia

At the June meeting of the Huronia Chapter of the Ontario Archaeological Society, Catherine Sutton spoke about Joseph Charles Taché, a 19th century polymath who included in his mass of work, archaeological excavation in Huronia. Sutton is involved in HARN, Histories of Archaeology Research Network. She is currently working on a PhD in the Dept. of Anthropology at York University on the archaeological interest in Simcoe County in the nineteenth century.

Taché’s work in Simcoe County was in the period 1859-1864. He was a doctor, member of parliament, social activist and was interested in vitaculture, which he studied in France, bringing this knowledge to help the burgeoning wine industry in southwest Ontario. He graduated with his medical degree in1849. He was also a novelist writing about the French, English and aboriginals. Sutton pointed out that we must remind ourselves that before the 20th century there were no professional historians. Writing by French-Canadian priests looked to support the Quebec history/political situation. Taché was an ultra-Catholic and French-Canadian nationalist. It is valuable to keep in mind his point of view.

In 1842 the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) were invited back to Quebec. Fr. Felix Martin was one of the first Jesuits to return to Canada. Another priest Fr. Chazelle along with Martin worked hurriedly in order to impress their superiors back in Europe and gain greater support for the Jesuits efforts Huronia. In 1855 Fr. Martin comes to Huronia, develops a map and digs at the site of Ste. Marie. His focus was on the Jesuit period and the efforts to convert the Hurons to Catholicism. During Martin’s time, local artist Mary Hallen painted watercolours of pipe artifacts. These watercolours are in the Jesuit Archives in Montreal. (The Huronia Museum has a collection of watercolours and drawings by Hallen. These are landscapes and farmscapes.)

A new edition of the Jesuit Relations was published in 1858. Taché used the descriptions of Huronia found in The Relations to help him with his work. Around that time Taché sent information to American, Francis Parkman, who was writing a historical novel about the Jesuits in North America and wished to base his story in historical records and documents. Among his letters to Parkman, Taché speaks of his miserably busy life and his desire to publish a book about Huronia. Sadly, he never found time to write that book.

During his time in Huronia, Taché is reported to have dug at 16 ossuaries (ref F Parkman – Jesuits in North America 1893) and sent the remains to Laval University in Quebec. Taché’s collection of artifacts have “travelled” several times. During the 19th century a lot of research was done in studying skulls from different races. Skulls found by Taché were part of this “trading” of specimens: some to the United States, some to the United Kingdom. The Wendat want these remains returned so proper respect goes to their ancestors.

For a period of time Taché’s excavated artifacts were dismissed as unimportant but later these artifacts were re-examined and the opinion of their value increased (during the 1980s). They now are part of the collection in the Quebec Museum of Civilization. Some are unlabelled, while some are not reliably known to be part of Taché’s work. Sadly Taché’s field notes and maps have not been located. At least not yet. But once again the trail may have stopped with another archive fire.

Sutton spoke at a conference in Quebec about Taché and found that French Canadians were unaware of Taché’s work in Ontario. He is considered to be a Quebec hero and is revered.

(adapted from an article in The Pot, June 2011 issue, newsletter of the Huronia Chapter of the Ontario Archaeological Society which I edit and for which I wrote the original article)

my Friday overfloweth

Lots on my plate today.


  1. visited the Ellery Site, sw of Waverley, Ontario, on provincially owned land where Laurentian University Department of Anthropology held an archaeology field school.  Two Huron villages, one dated to the 1400s based on distinctive pottery style, and one to the contact (French trade and occupation in Huronia) roughly 1600 (trade goods coming up from Quebec and eastern shore of Canada) and 1650 (the year after the catstrophic war with the Iroquois when the Hurons abandoned the area).  Thanks to Robert Brown who guided me around.
  2. Dialysis, almost late. Went smooth enough until the very end when my blood pressure dropped. I felt lightheaded  when I stood up at the end of the run. They had to hand me several cups of cranberry juice.  Took almost 20 minutes to get it back up to 124 over 70. It had dipped to 88 over something or other when I stood up.  We conclude that we got too aggressive and took off too much fluid. Not a big concern.  I felt bad for taking so long on a Friday to get out after the run.  But not my fault.
  3. Attended an art show opening at the Huronia Museum, Alethia  photographs by Nick Anest, amateur photographer – Nick Anest was born in Midland in 1929 to Greek immigrant parents who ran The Midland Candy Works.  The people of Midland knew Nick Anest as the proprietor of “Uptown Billiards”.  Parking lot was packed, huge turnout.  Show celebrates community, family, multiculturalism.

walking over area of a Huron site with a 21st century Ontario Hydro cut

This is south of HWY 12 between Victoria Harbour and Waubashene. The village site has not been excavated. It is reported to be contact era which means roughly 1600-1650. Europeans walked this area after 1613. Some trade goods might have been brought here by Hurons or other native traders before the Europeans arrived locally. Those Europeans were Etienne Brule and then Samuel Champlain, then Gabriel Sagard, then the Jesuits. With the ground scraped clear of brush any artifacts “churned up” to the surface would be easy to spot. Much preferable to heavy wooded and brush laden and poison ivy laden ground.

I had an enormous deja vu moment as I walked this ground with a friend of mine who is also involved with the OAS Huronia Chapter. The bulldozed ground, with dozer tracks in the wet soft ground, and the tree line of mature trees pulled me back to my memories of 1974-75 when I spent two summers working north of Edmonton on the Syncrude Project, oil sands mining development near Fort McMurray. The Hydro towers spoiled the look a little but other than that it felt just about right as if I was standing out in the mining area, a scraped natural area. The actual plant site which was being built then, was completely treeless and was full of structures and piping corridors and many many men and machines. Out in mining I baby sat a water pump for two weeks and saw no one except at the beginning and end of my shift.