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Before the 17th Century:

First Nations Presence

Based on discoveries made in archaeological digs, it is estimated that First Nations occupied this site as much as 2,500 years ago. But by 1642, when the religious mission of Ville-Marie was founded on the island of Montréal, the native settlement earlier described by Jacques Cartier apparently had disappeared. A few years later, in 1667, the Sulpician priests who ran the mission granted the southern part of the island, a fiefdom called Côte Saint-Sulpice, to the explorer René- Robert Cavelier de La Salle.

The notion of property ownership and the rules of territorial usage applied by the Europeans settling in America were vastly different from those prac- ticed by the indigenous nations. These divergent concepts often gave rise to tense situations.

The Iroquoian peoples that inhabited this site between 500 BCE and 1000 CE fashioned pottery from clay. The eventual analysis of the found fragments will reveal details of the life of these early occupants and their use of the site as a stopover point, a seasonal camping ground or

a permanent home.

1. Mortar and pestle

Wood and metal. Crafted and used by First Nations to grind corn. Hand-forged nails on the working end of the pestle. Very rare. The sedentary Iroquois relied heavily on agriculture, growing extensive crops that included several sorts of corn. Gift of Robert Picard RB-1980-L6-6-1.2

2. Reproduction of a St. Lawrence Iroquois vessel

Reproduced by Michel Cadieux based on a fragment (see No. 3). Modeled after early Middle Woodland (500 BCE-500 CE) vessels decorated with rippling grooves. AR-2002-009

3. Vessel fragment

Baked clay, between 500 BCE and 1000 CE. Rim decorated with rippling grooves. See reproduction (No. 2).


4. Charred kernel of corn and fragments (2)

Natives in Central America began cultivating corn around 5000 BCE. This practice later spread throughout the continent. AR-2000-358

5. Quahog clam shells from the Atlantic (2)

Found in abundance along the New England shore, these shells were the sole source of the mother- of-pearl used to make rare and valuable violet wampum. White beads could be made from them as well but were usually cut from the columella (central column) of gastropods.

6. Shell beads (wampum) (5)

Wampum designates both the white and violet beads made from shells and the “belts” into which they were strung.

The belt motifs often symbolized key events of a tribe’s history and thus served as a sort of archives. Wampum belts were exchanged at Native peace ceremonies and treaty signings. The beads were also used as currency.

AR-2000-252-1.3, AR-2000-251-1.2

Prehistoric Objects made by First Nations

7. Elbow pipe fragment

Baked clay, around 1600. Smooth exterior face, interior face decorated with two lengthwise grooves and oblique hatching on both sides. Pattern common among the Seneca, Erie and Neutral peoples in the early 17th century. The air hole of the stem was formed by wrap- ping clay around a stick, which was then removed with a screwing motion. AR-2000-072

8. Pipe bowl

Baked clay, before 17th century. Decorated with three rings of shallow indentations. Native peoples credited tobacco with great healing powers. In terms of spiritual significance, smoking was believed to raise consciousness and enable communication with the spirits. First Nations used smoking to seal peace negotiations, tribal alliances and trade agreements. AR-1999-005

9. Biface

Albanel chert, before 17th century. Irregular leaflike shape, thick edges abraded. May have been used for reaming bored holes in hard materials, possibly to ream pipe bowls. AR-2000-089

10. Pendent

Sandstone, between 1000 and 1600. Small stone pierced at one end. Originally covered with ochre pigment, traces of which are still visible near the hole and in other spots.