Overwhelmed with respect for enduring people – Patricia Allen

Posted on September 16, 2007
Filed Under Metepenagiag | Leave a Comment

oxbow-crew-1978-or-79.jpg  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Oxbow Crew from either 1978 or 1979. 

Back row, left to right: Gilbert Matchett, Scott Finley, Howard Augustine, Patrick Levi, Edward Levi;

Center row: Carmella Levi, Adele Emin, Rhonda Dunnett, Glenda McAllister, Madeline Augustine,Pat Allen;

Front Row: Toni Paul, Tommy Haddad, Mary Louise Cloud, Albert Ferguson. 

                                           delbert-ward-at-oxbow-excavation.jpg                                                                                                                                                                                        Delbert Ward, as a student, worked on the Oxbow excavation. At the official opening of Metepenagiag Heritage Park, he was a member of Metepenagiag band council                                                                                                                              

            “Metepenagiag lucked out having the same lands assigned to them that were their natural history,” says Patricia Allen, one of the two Province of New Brunswick archaeologists who worked extensively with the community. “That was quite uncommon.”

            She says there are dozens of sites in the Metepenagiag region while most Mi’kmaq communities on the coast have disappeared as coast lines erode and move.

            About Metepenagiag Heritage Park, about to open this month, Allen says, “This is Joe’s dream. He wanted his people to know and everyone to benefit.”

            Chris Turnbull was the first archaeologist hired by the province. Allen was his student for an archaeology course at the University of New Brunswick. She worked for him as a summer student field assistant at Metepenagiag. She eventually became the second employee of the department.

            Turnbull was the lead archaeologist at the Augustine Mound. Allen led the Oxbow exploration.

            Allen says she was very privileged to be able to work with wonderful people in the community. She says Joe Mike Augustine, who started it all, was “an incredible gentleman,” a wise and very funny man who delighted in teasing her and students on the digs.

            She says Madeline Augustine had the same regal serenity about her at 25 as she does now.

            “Working six days a week in the community, I didn’t often leave for my one day off,” she says. “One night I was at a ball game with Madeline. A group of boys was getting rowdy to the point they were interfering with the game. Madeline just leaned over and looked at them without saying a word. They immediately quieted down and just walked away.”

            Allen says she and Turnbull were also privileged to be in at the beginning of provincial involvement in archaeology.

            “There was no history so we were able to go out into the field and get involved,” she says. “Our deputy minister, Dr. George MacBeath, was a historian and very supportive. He would bring cabinet ministers out to the sites. The ministers seemed to be gratified that their department was involved in such unique projects.”

            Now retired, Allen was 21 years old when she began to lead teams at Metepenagiag.  She spent about 8 to 10 years of her career primarily at Metepenagiag.

            She remembers the day when the connection between the archaeological facts and the present day people of the community overwhelmed her.

            It was a very hot day in 1975. Madeline Augustine, Howard Augustine and Yvonne Ward were three of the team of eight working on a dig on private property.

            “The owner was very nice,” she says. “He gave us permission to dig and did not ask that we turn over artifacts we found as was his legal right. His daughter was part of the team.  Still, I was struck by the irony that this was their history we were digging up but we had to ask permission.

            “I watched Madeline, Howard and Yvonne down sifting in the dirt and was suddenly overwhelmed with respect for these enduring people!”

            Allen emphasizes that archaeology is fact based. “We find more sturgeon bones than salmon bones,” she says, “but that is probably because sturgeon bones are more durable and last longer.”

            She says the research reveals various changes and influences to and from other areas at different times over the millennia. Types of projectile points change and there are population fluctuations. She says she cannot estimate a peak population in the region but there were peaks and valleys.

            “Something happened just about the time of the first European contact,” she says. “We don’t know what it was but there was sudden decrease in the activity at Oxbow.”

            About 2,000 years ago a type of spearhead also common to the southern Atlantic seaboard turned up here. About 3,000 years ago there was pottery at Metepenagiag that was also found in the Great Lakes region.

            The idea that community involvement and public awareness can be beneficial, not only to the discipline of archaeology, but also to the public is a relatively new one to archaeologists. Patricia Allen is pleased to be able to say that, thanks to the people of Metepenagiag, it isn’t new to her or Chris Turnbull. She says the entire Metepenagiag experience has enriched her personal life and guided her professional development.

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