WP_Error Object
    [errors] => Array
            [invalid_taxonomy] => Array
                    [0] => Invalid taxonomy.


    [error_data] => Array

    [additional_data:protected] => Array






Temporary Exhibit on Manitoba’s Fur Trade

For the past year Amelia Fay, Curator of HBC and I have worked on the development of a temporary exhibit on Manitoba’s Fur Trade. Although our collections are quite different, they certainly complement each other and each shed light on the Fur Trade. The archaeological material is generally things that were discarded or lost. The ethnographic materials from the HBC collection are the things kept and cherished. This exhibit compares and contrasts these two types of collections, showing how items were used, reused and repurposed.

Modified material culture

Modified material culture

A guiding theme we tried to focus on was that the Fur Trade was not a one way street of ideas and materials. The process of cultural exchange was complicated. The idea European materials were vastly superior is not supported by what we see archaeologically or ethnographically. A number of First Nation technologies were quickly adopted by Europeans that are still with us today including the birch bark canoe and snowshoes.

Changes to material culture over time

Changes to material culture over time

In school we are often told that clay pots were almost immediately abandoned for the more superior copper kettles. Simple, right? Copper kettles are certainly lighter and more durable than clay pots but are they better? Having cooked a meal in a clay pot on an open fire I would argue that the performance of a clay pot is superior to the copper kettle. The food does not burn or stick to the inside of the pot and they sit nicely on the coals of a fire. In comparison, a flat bottomed copper kettle is unstable on campfires and food often burns and sticks. So what is best? In weighing the positives and negatives of each technology ultimately the copper kettle won out and the clay pot fell out of use. The advantage of stackable, light and durable cooking vessels won out over taste and performance. With recent trends around food maybe it is time to bring back the pots.

Wild rice and moose stew simmers on an open fire

Wild rice and moose stew simmers on an open fire

Come visit the museum and see this new exhibit. Learn how ideas and materials were borrowed, adapted and modified. See what technologies are still with us today!


Public Archaeology Follow Friday

Hope you have enjoyed my blogs this week. Check out the videos and links on projects I have worked.

The making of my birch bark canoe


Navigating a New World Teaching Material – Engineering Access Program


Where Engineering, Science and Art meet – The Birch Bark Canoe


Videos in the Archaeology Lab with me

December 2014


November 2011



Public Archaeology Press

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 TMM 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 http://manitobamuseum.ca/visit/museum-shop/

Rivermouth Cover final

The second publication is an academic journal article on quartz characterization which examines artefacts from TMM 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 www.crytc.uwinnipeg.ca the authors on the guide were Margaret Dumas and Deborah Schnitzer. The teachers guide was for the book Pisim Finds Her Miskanow and written for the grade 5 Manitoba Curriculum.



Upcoming Events – Public Archaeology

This year I was selected to be part of the Archaeological Institute of America’s (AIA) Lecutre Series. In October I travelled to Bozeman Montana to deliver a talk at the Museum of the Rockies. Next week February 23, 2015 I will be in Appleton Wisconsin giving a lecture called Don’t Let This Die with You: Pass This On to Others: Perspectives on First Nation Heritage and Archaeology. My lecture will be at Lawrence University at 7:30 in the Wriston Auditorium, if you are in the area come by.

AIA lecture

There will be a book launch on March 4, 2015 at the Sagkeeng First Nation Heritage Centre for the new book: Stories of the Old Ones from the Lee River, Southeastern Manitoba: The Owl Inini, Carver Inini and Dancer Ikwe, published by The Manitoba Museum. The event will start at 11:00 AM and will be held at the Sagkeeng Heritage Centre, located on the second floor of the arena multiplex on the reserve. Join Chief and Council, Elders, youth, museum representatives, including the author E. Leigh Syms, civil servants and funding agencies.

Rivermouth Cover final


Public Archaeology – What Should have been in The News

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 Pisim Finds her Miskanow.

Educational resources now available for Pisim 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 (www.crytc.uwinnipeg.ca). 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.

Untitled-1 copy

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

Pisim pages


Noteworthy Public Archaeology

A number of events have occurred this past year that are noteworthy. The book Pisim finds her Misknaow won a public commnunications award from the Canadian Archaeological Association in May 2014. This national award recognizes archaeology publications that engage the general public.
Untitled-1 copy

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

Two Eagles Display d

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

Rivermouth Display a

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


Society of American Archaeology Public Education Committee

For the week of February 16 – 21st the Society of American Archaeology has selected Manitoba as the featured province on their Public Education Committee outreach. I will be posting blogs each day on the themes.

Monday is Noteworthy Public Archaeology – successful event

Tuesday is Public Archaeology in the News – what got reported on in the news or what should have been

Wednesday is Public Archaeology Events – upcoming events

Thursday is Public Archaeology Press – recent publications

Friday is Public Archaeology Follow Friday – links to facebook groups

Stay tuned!


A short video featuring our collection

A few weeks ago the museum produced a short video featuring some key aspects of our archeological collection. It has been recently published in our YouTube channel:


Mini-Diorama Opens

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.

Travelling low res

Mini-diorama Anishnaabe Camp moves (mid 1200 CE)

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

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…

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.

Kayaskochi Kikawenow: Our Mother from Long Ago

Kayaskochi Kikawenow: Our Mother from Long Ago

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.

Pisim Cover

Kevin Brownlee and Councilor Esther Dysart at book launch

Kevin Brownlee and Councilor Esther Dysart at book launch

 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.


Kevin Brownlee

Curator of Archaeology

See Full Biography

Kevin Brownlee obtained his Master’s Degree in Anthropology from the University of Manitoba. He was hired as the Curator of Archaeology at the Manitoba Museum in 2003. His research focuses on the archaeology of Manitoba’s boreal forest and the emerging filed of indigenous archaeology.