On September 2009, Archeological Services, Inc. (ASI), a firm owned by de-licensed archeologist Ron Williamson, presented a 19-page report to the City of Toronto Parks & Forestry Department concerning a contested mound site in High Park known as the Snake Mounds — a site that the Iroquois community holds is an ancient burial ground dating back 3,000 years or more.
The archeological report containing obscure, abstract jargon among its litany of big words, for which a glossary of terms was conveniently omitted, was prepared by Brian Narhi, Project Historian and David Robertson, Senior Archeologist and Project Manager, Debbie Steiss (Ron Williamson’s wife), Senior Archeologist & Partner, and Andrea Carnevale, Staff Archeologist. It claims that no evidence of any artifacts were found during ASI’s field investigation of Picnic Area 7 and the Snake Mounds portion of the park commonly referred to as the “Bike Pit” where BMX dirt bike ramps were built on the contested site. The executive summary reads as follows:
“The Stage 1-2 Archeological Resources Assessment of the High Park “Bike Pit” and Picnic Area 7 has been carried out in advance of any park management activities that may result in landscape alteration in either area. The Stage 1 assessment entailed consideration of the proximity of the previously registered archeological sites, the original environmental setting of the park, and its 19th and 20th century development history. The Stage 2 assessment involved completion of test pit surveys within both areas. No archeological remains were encountered during the field investigations. Accordingly, this report recommends that the Bike Pit and Picnic Area 7 may be cleared of any further archeological concern, with the proviso that the appropriate authorities must be notified should deeply buried archeological or human remains be encountered during any future work on the property.”
There are a few major problems with this report. First, there is only the say-so of ASI that 40 test pits of a depth of 6”-10” deep each were dug throughout the site on Friday September 4th 2009 before Labor Day weekend. Curiously, the team did all of this test-pit digging within a span of three to four hours, quitting before noon — as normal for archeological field work on a Friday. What an amazing feat when you consider that no automation or machinery was employed to aid in their expedition.
Moreover, standard industry practice is that you dig until you hit clay. You don’t hit clay at 6”- 10” in Ontario, Canada. Further, no pictures document this “work.” There is only a picture of one test pit, and that one was dug on the outer perimeter of the Snake Mound in a location where nobody goes because it not conveniently accessible and it is overgrown with poison ivy.
Why would these “professionals” with their $64 million dollar vocabularies and their ability to compose lofty, intimidating word salads that merely serve to baffle the public, fail to use their impressive educations — signified by their fancy degrees commensurate with the intellectual prowess they claim to possess — choose the wrong area for their one and only test pit that was shown in the report?
Why choose the poison ivy patch on the outer region that is in a remote area where it is unlikely that anything would turn up? That leaves one wondering whether these “professionals” are really as smart and competent as they say they are. Or did they purposely choose an area for their test pit that was unlikely to support the Iroquois community’s claims of a burial site, knowing that they should have instead dug in the middle while deliberately misleading the public with their word salad that amounts to verbal fertilizer?
In their report they use terms like “Stage 1”, “Stage 2”, “flutings”, and “drumlinized” without defining them for lay people to be able to understand, even if they read it with an Oxford dictionary on hand to look up half of the jargon they used. There can be only two possible reasons for doing that. Either they want to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes to get away with something, or they want to puff themselves up with self-importance like peacocks showing off their plumage with the specific intent of belittling and disparaging the Iroquois First Nations community who advanced the claim of a historical burial site just to make the Native community look bad.
Yet, it is precisely these types of highly educated and economically successful professionals that always seem to float to the top of the socio-economic pool — just like excrement.
It takes an enormous amount of ego and shameless narcissism for privileged people to knowingly, consciously, and deliberately use their social class privileges, prestige, and advanced educations to get over on others — especially others who overwhelmingly rank among the most downtrodden in society — without any regard for their human rights; including their right to culture.
Stage 1 means doing a cursory walk-about, looking on the surface for any archeological remains on the ground. Stage 2 means doing a small, shallow test pit, digging only 6”-10” deep. Had ASI done a Stage 1 in the mounds area itself, the area where the BMX bike ramps were built, they would have found what I, myself, a volunteer, a parks department worker, and those in the First Nations community found during the week of the peace and restoration camp this past May. They would have found the large chunks of obsidian, arrowheads, the large amounts of red and yellow ochre (which are not commonly found in such large quantities as natural deposits in this area as this had to be harvested and transported from elsewhere), the bone fragment; or the marine sea shells (these were also used in some funerary rites) that are consistent with a salian coastal plane environment — not consistent with downtown Toronto, or the shores of fresh water bodies such as Lake Ontario or Lake Erie. [See more about the artifacts on the Taiaiako'n Historical Preservation Society website.]
ASI’s report refutes the claim that the Snake Mounds is an ancient burial site because, in their collective “expert” opinion, ASI’s team of archeologists think that the Snake Mound site in High Park was formed naturally by wind, water, and glacier retreat; using the term “drumlinized” to describe that.
But that doesn’t square with what others have found at the Snake Mound site. You would not find obsidian, mica, white clay, marine animal shells, or an arrowhead or a bone fragment or a piece of an ancient stone plate (commonly used in these sorts of burial mounds as a marker) in a drumlin. Nor would a drumlin have hollowed out subterranean chambers, which you can tell by walking over. Any rock or other substance left by glacial retreat in a drumlin would be consistent with those typically found in an area of glacial retreat.
So how did they miss all that?
Had these highly educated “professionals” chosen their test pit another 3-4 feet in towards the center from the outer-most rim, they would have found what we found: The first arrowhead, followed by the second arrowhead that was uncovered in the middle of the mound during the peace camp’s deconstruction of the BMX dirt bike ramps. So how did ASI’s team of “experts” miss all that? Did they deliberately want to miss it, and if so, whose interests are being served?
Owing to environmental assessments and policy, archeologists are only required to test 10% of any given site under question. How convenient that ASI picked the most obscure, outer-most region to do their test pit where you’re not likely to find anything. Coincidence?
The executive summary of their report clears the City of Toronto of any responsibility to protect the Snake Mound site, and gives the city the green light to develop that portion of the park in any way they want — including perhaps even selling off that portion of the park to wealthy private real estate developers. Who stands to benefit under that scenario, and at whose loss and expense?
Let’s be honest, shall we. It is no secret that government and a phalanx of upper-middle class highly credentialed experts serve the interests of those who have been the most enriched and who have received the most societal benefits from an entire system of unearned privileges — the sine qua non of colonialism, feudalism, and capitalism.
And it is also no secret that the winners of this same system conveniently created the rules to favor the most privileged, dismissing aboriginal people’s oral histories by only recognizing documentation including confusing and intimidating word salads that really don’t say anything or serve any function other than to uphold and perpetuate a system of unearned privileges designed to enrich a few at the expense of the many under the habiliments of “democracy.”