February 19, 2015

Public Archaeology Press

Public Archaeology Press

By Kevin Brownlee
Past Curator of Archaeology

Over the course of the past year I have been involved with a few publications highlighting Archaeology. Each is quite different, from public outreach to academic article to education online resources.

The first is a book published by the Manitoba Museum called Stories of the Old Ones from the Lee River, Southeastern Manitoba: The Owl Inini, Carver Inini and Dancer Ikwe (2014). The publication is the result of many years of work by the Museum and our community partner Sagkeeng First Nation. The lead author E. Leigh Syms retired Curator of Archaeology along with a diverse group of contributors including the late Elder Mark Thompson. The book is publically written and includes over 150 images, maps, drawings and paintings. I was the project manager for the publication.

Buy a copy from the Manitoba Museum Gift Shop.


The second publication is an academic journal article on quartz characterization which examines artifacts from the Manitoba Museum collection in relation to quartz quarries documented in northern Manitoba. The article was published in the prestigious journal Archaeometry vol 56, issue 6 pages 913-926 (December 2014). The results indicate quartz from quarries on Granville Lake were transported up to 200km away. The lead author is a brilliant young PhD, Rachel ten Bruggencate who worked on the Granville Lake Social Science and Humanities Research Council Project that was run through the Museum. Read the abstract online.

The last publication was an online resource put together by the Centre for Research in Young People’s Texts and Cultures the authors on the guide were Margaret Dumas and Deborah Schnitzer. The teachers guide was for the book Pīsim Finds Her Miskanow and written for the Grade 5 Manitoba Curriculum. Find the guide here.

Public Archaeology – What Should have been in The News

By Kevin Brownlee
Past Curator of Archaeology 

Open pages of the book Pīsim Finds her Miskanow showing text with diagrams, and artistic illustrations.

Today’s post is a bit of a stretch for the theme public archaeology in the news, since media did not pick up on our recent work. The project most deserving of media attention would be the teaching resources recently released for the book Pīsim Finds her Miskanow. 

Educational resources now available for Pīsim Finds her Miskanow, a nationally awarded publication. The centre for research in young people’s texts and cultures (CRYTC) at the University of Winnipeg has released an 80 page teachers guide available for download on their website. The guide is written for Grade 5 in the Manitoba curriculum. You can also listen to two of the songs from the book, the Paddling Song and the Lullaby. 

Image: Highly illustrated book brings Rocky Cree history to life, now easier to use in the classroom.

Noteworthy Public Archaeology

By Kevin Brownlee
Past Curator of Archaeology 

Open pages of the book Pīsim Finds her Miskanow showing text with diagrams, and artistic illustrations.A number of events have occurred this past year that are noteworthy. The book Pīsim finds her Misknaow won a public communications award from the Canadian Archaeological Association in May 2014. This national award recognizes archaeology publications that engage the general public. 

Two display cases were produced for the Sagkeeng First Nation Heritage Centre. The exhibits were unveiled at the Heritage Centre on May 12, 2014.

Looking into a blue display case shadow box with photographs and illustrations of artifacts as well as descriptive text.

Two Eagles Cache Education Exhibit showcases replica artifacts found with a 4,000 year old ancestor.

Looking into a green display case shadow box with photographs and illustrations of artifacts as well as descriptive text.

Rivermouth Cache Education Exhibit showcases replica artifacts found with two ancestors dating to 450 years ago.

Mini-Diorama Opens

By Kevin Brownlee
Past Curator of Archaeology 

Yesterday the Museum launched a spectacular new mini-diorama in the Grasslands/Mixed Woods Gallery. The exhibit highlights the incredible talent of diorama artist Betsy Thorsteinson. Betsy along with Debbie Thompson, Ruth Dowse and countless volunteers worked on the project. The diorama highlights four separate scenes: a mid winter camp in Duck Mountain, moving camp in late winter, early spring maple sugar camp and fishing camp in late spring. These scenes represent an Anishnaabe family as they move across the landscape about 800 years ago. 

Close-up of a Museum diorama featuring members of an Anishnaabe family moving camp on snowshoes and sleds through a snowy forest.

Two of the scenes are based on archaeological excavations. The mid winter camp is representing a site on Child’s Lake in Duck Mountain. The spring fish weir is representing the Aschkibokahn Site at the mouth of the Duck and Drake Rivers on Lake Winnipegosis. The use of a mini-dioramas to depict the past is an exceptional way of communicating the results of archaeological research. There is no better way of bringing the past alive.

I have had the pleasure of assisting Betsy on this exhibit. I provided the colour of fish both before and after it was smoked, how bear paw snowshoes are worn and how the internal organs of fish were prepared. In other circumstances I related stories and experiences to Betsy and these would appear in the diorama. Grey Jays or Whiskey Jacks are called Grandmother by many First Nation people, who will feed these birds when they visit camps. Feeding these birds shows respect to the visiting grandmothers. When you visit the diorama find the Grandmother.

Pīsim finds her Miskanow 

By Kevin Brownlee
Past Curator of Archaeology 

I have to share with you about the results of a wonderful project that I have been working on for the past 6 years… actually more like 20…

Open pages of the book Pīsim Finds her Miskanow showing text with diagrams, and artistic illustrations.In 1993, the remains of a woman were found at Nagami Bay (Onākaāmihk) west shore of Southern Indian Lake. The following year, community members from South Indian Lake and archaeologists worked together to recover our ancestor in a respectful and honourable way. The story of her miskanow, life journey, was pieced together from her remains and her belongings and told in the book Kayasochi Kikawenow, Our Mother from Long Ago, which I co-authored with E. Leigh Syms.

After Kayasochi Kikawenow shared her teachings, she was respectfully brought home for reburial in the community of South Indian Lake in 1997. Now, 16 years after her reburial, her story is being retold in a new way for young people. Using historical fiction, William Dumas brings Kayasochi Kikawenow to life as the main character, Pīsim, in Pīsim Finds Her Miskanow. This book shares a week in the life of Pīsim as a 13-year-old living on Southern Indian Lake during the mid 1600s just before Europeans arrived into the region. The book was reviewed by renowned archaeologist Brian Fagan, Emeritus Professor of Anthropology, University of California) who states the book is the result of brilliant teamwork between archaeologists, the Cree, and an accomplished storyteller… the book promises to be a classic of Canadian history. 

Councilor Esther Dysart speaking into a microphne at a podium. Kevin Browlee stands to the side.

In September the Museum hosted a book launch that brought together the research team, members from O-Pipon-Na-Piwin Cree Nation (South Indian Lake) including youth, the author and illustrator and many dignitaries including a councilor from the community. It is rare to have over 200 people attend a book launch but this is no ordinary book. Buy your own copy from the Manitoba Museum gift shop.

Image: Kevin Brownlee and Councilor Esther Dysart at book launch.