Debert, Nova Scotia, The Most North-Easterly Paleo- Indian Settlement in North America
The riding of Cumberland Colchester has many natural wonders and several important archeology sites; Beaubassin in Cumberland County, and Delbert’s Paleo-Indian site in Colchester County. Both of these archeology sites have been declared National Historic Sites and both give important glimpses into the history of our indigenous people and the European settlers that came to the area much later.
Declared a National Historic Site by the Government of Canada in 1972, the Debert site is located approximately three miles southeast of the Village of Debert. This Paleo-Indian site is also listed as a Special Place by the Nova Scotia Museum under the province’s Special Places Protection Act.
What Makes Debert Special?
Discovered as the only aboriginal and oldest archeological site in the province, Debert’s site is significant to North American archeology. It provides evidence for the earliest human settlements in North America and it the site has been dated to 10,500-11,000 years ago. The Debert site is also one of the few remaining Paleo-Indian settlements that have been identified in a region of North America that was once covered in Ice Age glaciers.
The site was first noticed in 1948 and was reported to National Museum of Canada in 1955. The chief archeologist recorded the site as one of interest for further investigation.
It had been explored by archeologists over the years but it wasn’t until 1989 that things really progressed on the area. Two new Paleo-Indian sites, which are now named Belmont I and Belmont II were discovered near the original Debert site during routine work by provincial Lands and Forest employees. Further excavations directed by Dr. Stephen Davis of Saint Mary’s University were performed at the new Belmont sites in 1990, where an undisturbed living floor was uncovered along with over 700 artifacts. These testings recovered the first fluted points found buried in Nova Scotia since 1964. Many of artifacts discovered at the Belmont sites were virtually identical to those found at the Debert site, which suggests that the sites had possibly been occupied during the same time period.
Radiocarbon dating of these artifacts determined that these distinctive stone tools existed approximately 10,600 years ago. Further excavations recovered 4,500 artifacts over 22 acres of land and found channel flutes that were consistent with the characteristics of hafted tools present on many Paleo-Indian sites.
Follow the link to the Canadian Museum of History to read about Debert and the Mi’kmaq in Nova Scotia.
Bill’s Hope For Debert’s Treasures
With its wealth of treasures dispersed to various museums in North America, including the Smithsonian in Washington, DC, and some in storage, Debert’s history is hidden from view of many Canadians, despite being a National Historic Site. It is Bills hope that these artifacts can be returned home to Debert, taken out of storage and displayed in a properly curated museum near the site. On April 20, 2016, Bill called on the Government of Canada to work with the area’s Mi’kmaq to make this a reality.
Bill’s Statement From Hansard
2016-04-20 14:07 [p.2469]
Mr. Speaker, in 1948, Paleo-Indian artifacts were discovered near the airfield in Debert, Nova Scotia. Subsequent excavations have revealed thousands of artifacts, and radiocarbon dating indicates that the community was inhabited around thirteen and a half thousand years ago. This makes Debert the oldest known human settlement in Canada.
This is a special place, a place of national significance both to Canada and to the Mi’kmaq. Unfortunately, many of those important artifacts are now in storage, including at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, unseen by Canadians. It is our goal that a properly curated museum can be created with the help of the federal government and the Mi’kmaq to ensure the story of the first settlement in Canada can be preserved and indeed celebrated.
© 2019 Bill Casey. All rights reserved.