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Important historical artifacts found at Sandy Beach

By Nick Zacharias


Archeologist and Hudson resident Adrian Burke said this iron axe, found by detectorist Anthony Gillis, is possibly a trade axe but the rust makes it impossible to see any makers’ marks. The items, including the fragment of copper alloy below the axe, possibly date back to the 17th or 18th century.

Aboriginal artifacts found around the high-water line of the Sandy Beach area in Hudson are being held up as a possible reason to put the brakes on the impending development of over 200 housing units. A submission has been made to the Ministère de la Culture et des Communications du Québec (MCC) to register Sandy Beach as an archeological site, and the MCC has added an ‘area of archaeological interest’ to its geographic database for the location, according to archeologist Adrian Burke. Hudson resident Trevor Smith has sent requests to the offices of Quebec Minister of Culture and Communications Nathalie Roy, Federal Minister of Canadian Heritage Steven Guilbeault, Chief of the Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador Ghislain Picard, and Member of Parliament for Vaudreuil-Soulanges Peter Schiefke asking for their intervention to “…stop this development for at least the time being to review and investigate the archeological and First Nations cultural significance of this land.”

Artifacts up to 4000 years old

Burke, a professional archeologist who resides in Hudson and who specializes in pre-European contact aboriginal artifacts, identified the items and in particular assessed one – a white Mistassini quartzite biface (knife or arrowhead) - as coming from Northern Quebec in the Late Archaic period of 3000-4000 years ago. Said Burke, “The site was brought to my attention in 2016 by a detectorist who regularly finds artifacts in the area, Anthony Gillis.” Burke described how he walked the area with Gillis, then proceeded to the home of Jamie Nicholls (before he became Mayor of Hudson) to discuss and photograph the items. Nicholls couldn’t be reached for comment by press time, but Burke said they left it to Nicholls to approach current landowner Nicanco Holdings over the find, and Nicanco did not seem to be interested.

Can’t know without digging

“There is no doubt that there are prehistoric and early historic Indigenous occupations in the area … and that these should be investigated, evaluated and protected. There are also undoubtedly historic Euro-Canadian occupations that are worthy of archaeological investigation and protection,” said Burke. He has spoken with the Kanesetake people about it, and knows from extensive experience that the site is an ideal strategic spot for historical occupation, given that it’s at a narrowing of the Ottawa River, with easy canoe landing and access to fresh water from the Vivery Creek. “But we can’t know the full importance of the site without putting shovels in the ground.”

Burke suggests digging a series of test pits in the area to properly assess the significance of the find because much could potentially be learned from it. Without permission from the land owner or intervention from the government however, nothing can be done. Said Burke, “Obviously it would be a shame to just put 214 houses there and destroy a site without even learning its importance.”

Waiting game

Smith has also started a petition on Change.org to ask Hudson’s town council to reconsider the development on environmental and infrastructure grounds, and so far garnered over 300 signatures. “That’s more than twice as many people as showed up to consult on the Main Road renewal project,” he noted.

As for the requests to other levels of government, they are waiting for responses. Smith says they don’t know if there was simply hunting activity in the area, or more permanent habitation, but without intervention from the government we won’t know what valuable historical insight could be lost. He hopes responses will be forthcoming, because “…once the site is gone, it’s gone.”

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