Beyond Indian Point: History and Archaeology of the Northeast Arm of Red Indian Lake, Part 4

This final post dealing with the history and archaeology of Red Indian Lake will deal with the archaeology sites that have been found based on the historic documentation discussed in the previous post.

The Archaeology of the northeast arm
The archaeology of Red Indian Lake I or Indian Point was already covered in two previous blog posts, here and here. Unfortunately the knowledge we have gathered through archaeology for the rest of the northeast arm is even more limited than that of Indian Point. Once again this lack of knowledge is because of the industrialization of the lake which has altered it’s topography and destroyed some of the sites in the process. The area (outside of Indian Point) has also suffered from a lack of formal archaeology conducted on those sites.

Despite this, artifacts have been recovered, mainly along the eastern shore, but also at one location on the western shore. Again, as with Indian Point, their discoverer was Don Locke, the avocational archaeologist from Grand Falls. The following is what we know of the four sites discovered by Locke.

 Don Locke sketch.
Don Locke sketch of sites found on the northeast arm.

Red Indian Lake II (DeBd-02)
Red Indian Lake II and Site “A” Indian Point are two names given to this site by Don Locke. Its official name in the Provincial Archaeology Office database is the Three Wigwam site, so named by Callum Thomson and Don Locke in 1987.

Mr. Locke stated that on a field trip in 1968 further east of Indian Point he came across a tractor route to the lake from which he collected large quantities of caribou bone, a clay pipe stem, a stone scraper and a few parts of a large trap from the surface. On the beach he collected trap parts. He also dug two test pits in the area of the track. In the first he found part of a hearth, fire-cracked rocks, and pockets of charcoal, a folded tin bowl and a stone arrowhead. In the second test pit he uncovered a metal button and large fragments of well-preserved caribou bones. His book Beothuk Artifacts illustrates two iron axes from this site. He stated that the site had been disturbed by logging activities and concluded that this site was a small outpost of the main Indian Point site. On an early edition topographic map of the area Locke located this site at about 1km northeast of Indian Point. This would place it in the general area of a brook locally named One Mile Brook. However, Locke makes no mention of a brook in his short report on the site.

Axe head recovered from DeBd-02 by Locke.
Axe head recovered from Red Indian Lake II (DeBd-02) by Locke.
Button recovered from DeBd-02 by Locke.
Button recovered from Red Indian Lake II (DeBd-02) by Locke.

In 1981 during Jane Sproull Thomson’s field season at Indian Point she searched for Red Indian Lake II. It was relocated when crew members surveying the shoreline east of Indian Point found fire-cracked rock and charcoal in one test pit, burnt bone and a small core fragment of opaque grey chert in a second. Later a 1m² unit was tried in an area full of caribou bone seen at the surface. The bone extended to a depth of 11cm, and fire-cracked rock, burnt bone, some charcoal and one glass fragment were recorded. When Don Locke visited this dig he confirmed that they had found his Red Indian Lake II site and he also showed them the location of his Red Indian Lake III (to be discussed below). Sproull Thomson estimated that Red Indian Lake II was located 500 metres northeast of Indian Point.

JST DeBd-02 test sq. showing depth of caribou bone
Jane Sproull Thomson test unit at DeBd-02 test unit showing caribou bone scatter (Sproull Thomson).

In 2011 Gerald Penney undertook an historic resources impact assessment on a large-sized multi-cabin development project whose western boundary was approximately 900 metres east of Indian Point. A field investigation of the project area was undertaken because the possibility existed that Red Indian Lake II, as well as other sites, including the three wigwam site as shown in Shawnadithit’s sketches 1 and 3 (see the previous post), may have been in the cabin development boundaries. However, no historic resources were found. Penney surmised that DeBd-02, Red Indian Lake II, lay just outside the project area to the southwest. In respect to Shawnadithit’s three wigwam site where Beothuk were surprised by Buchan in 1811 it was either at the northeast extremity of the project area and now destroyed by rising lake levels or just outside the project area nearer to Millertown.

An earlier survey from Indian Point to Millertown in 1980 conducted by Jane Sproull Thomson, Callum Thomson and Dr. Ralph Pastore also failed to locate any historic resources relating to Red Indian Lake II.

Red Indian Lake III (DeBd-03)

Don Locke sketch of Red Indian Lake III.
Don Locke sketch of Red Indian Lake III.

This site was found by Locke in 1974 during a low water event. It was rediscovered in 1981 by Alfred and Ingeborg Marshall during a visit to the Sproull Thomson excavations at Indian Point. Their survey, which took in most of the eastern shoreline towards Millertown, located Locke’s Red Indian Lake III about halfway between Indian Point and Red Indian Lake II. They concluded that the site was partly destroyed through the collapsing of the bank. However, some caribou bone and a piece of iron material were found, probably in situ at the site’s eastern portion. Sproull Thomson shows this site, as well as Red Indian Lake II, on a sketch in her field notebook. The site is labeled “Kill’ site due to the amount of caribou bone uncovered in a test pit dug by the Marshalls.

Erosion of the bank at Red Indian Lake III.
Erosion of the bank at Red Indian Lake III.
Iron deer spear recovered from Red Indian Lake III.
Iron deer spear recovered from Red Indian Lake III (DeBd-03) by Locke.
Iron artifacts recovered from Red Indian Lake III.
Iron artifacts recovered from Red Indian Lake III (DeBd-03) by Locke.

In 1987 Don Locke revisited the lake with Callum Thomson and showed him Red Indian Lake III, which they renamed June’s Cove. As we have seen earlier (in the previous post) John Cartwright’s maps place June’s Cove at the head of the northeast arm at present day Millertown. So why did Thomson and Locke think that the site Locke had found was Cartwright’s June’s Cove? In the opening of Locke’s report on Indian Point (Red Indian Lake I) and Red Indian Lake II he writes “John Cartwright’s report on his trip to Red Indian Lake was some help to me in locating the Indian Point site“.

Looking at Red Indian Lake III (right side of photo) from Indian Point showing erosion of the shoreline (Thomson).
Looking at Red Indian Lake III (right side of photo) from Indian Point showing erosion of the shoreline (Thomson).

The following paragraph from Cartwright’s journal most likely convinced them of its location.

The morning following, having left another man behind to mend his shoes, the rest of us, being only five of the original fourteen went to view the lake; and walked about halfway to the bottom of June’s Cove which was found to answer the description of such a place given by the Indian boy June, where he said his father dwelt. By his account it was the residence also of a great part of his tribe which might have been very true for, reaching about a quarter of a mile within the beach, that was cleared of timber, and covered with old marks of an Indian settlement, now gone entirely to decay, and almost hid with young woods and high weeds which flourish here in great luxuriance, the soil being fruitful. From the circumstances of its large extent; being well filled with habitations; being cleared of wood and thrown open to the north west winds, as if for air and coolness; I should be inclined to think that it might have been a settlement for all seasons; the studded houses making it sufficiently warm in winter, without the shelter of the woods, could a method be assigned whereby the Indians might be able to procure their summers subsistence in such a place. But that appears improbable except that the lake abounds in fish and fowl; the latter of which from appearances must I believe be very scarce.”

Obviously then time didn’t allow Cartwright to walk to the bottom of the northeast arm, as he stated that they left the lake around noon and started their trek back down the river to the coast. If he had explored more of the lake shore he would have reached Mary March Point and would have drawn the brook entering the lake on the north side, not the south. We hypothesize that June’s Cove was the area formed by Indian Point jutting out into the lake and running to the bottom of the arm. Indian Point is nearly halfway between the outflow of the Exploits and Millertown where the lake ended until 1925. This is the distance Cartwright said he traveled. So we believe that Locke and Thomson were correct when they concluded that the area visited by Cartwright in 1768 was the same location that contained the archaeological sites Indian Point (DeBd-01), June’s Cove (DeBd-03) and likely the Three Wigwam site (DeBd-04).

Six photos stitched together showing Indian Point in 1985 after the leveling of the site in 1982. This photo is taken from the same general area as the Sproull-Thomson photo in 1981. Completely gone are the small bushes, trees and small hills on the right side that held Devereux's various site localities (Thomson 1985).
Six photos stitched together showing Indian Point (on the right) and Red Indian Lake III (June’s Cove, on the left) in 1985. The two sites are currently separated by the dirt road but essentially they were one large site (Thomson 1985).

Sketches drawn by Mr. Locke place this site in the cove formed by the sand spit that is Indian Point. Basically, as shown by Locke, June’s Cove and Indian Point was one continuous site (see sketches above). Though in his publication, Beothuk Artifacts, Locke shows Red Indian Lake III a short distance past Indian Point.

While Locke never wrote about Red Indian Lake III others did. In 1987 after visiting the site with Locke, Thomson wrote the following in a memo.

At the east end of the site, i.e. between Indian Point and Millertown there used to be a massive extension of the habitation area. This used to be a shallow bay known as June’s Cove, and was occupied during Buchans’ visit in 1811 (Thomson field sketches show June’s Cove at the same location as Locke’s). Locke showed me several areas of firecracked rocks and artifact deposits where wigwams or outdoor hearths were situated, and pointed out where other housepits had been on a now-eroded bank. There remains great potential in June’s Cove for future excavation. Although lake action has moved much of the surface material about there will probably be in situ deposits below the surface. A small crew of 4-6 people could map this 1-2 hectare area out with surveying instruments, pinpoint activity areas, and excavate the remains over the course of a summer if the water level remains low next year. The site may produce as much information again as we now have from this most significant area. Apart from Beothuk material Locke has also obtained prehistoric Little Passage and Beaches, Micmac and European artifacts from the surface of the site.

William Gilbert who reevaluated the material culture found on Recent Indian sites in the Exploits River-Red Indian Lake area stated “The surprising thing about June’s Cove is the large amount of historic material recovered from the site. A total of 281 artifacts of European manufacture were recovered from June’s Cove (McLean 1990) compared to 31 from Indian Point. Clearly, of the two sites, June’s Cove contains the more substantial late historic Beothuk occupation.” The reference to McLean refers to the cataloging of Don Locke’s artifact collection done by Mr. McLean and evaluated in a subsequent paper by Mr. Gilbert.

From Locke’s Red Indian Lake II (DeBd-2) to Millertown no further artifacts or sites have been found.

Don Locke sketch.
Don Locke sketch.

Red Indian Lake North (DeBd-04)
This is the final site on the lake that has conclusive evidence of past Amerindian use. Again it was found by Don Locke during a low water episode. Several archaeologists have searched for this site since Locke’s initial discovery with no luck. Locke told Sproull Thomson in 1981 that the site had been between 90 to 125 metres east of Warford’s Brook but was now eroded and drowned by the lake (see Locke sketch above). This would have placed the site very near Mary March Point at the end of the arm. Locke collected five iron artifacts and two stone artifacts indicating that the site was both precontact and historic in nature.

Iron axe head recovered from Red Indian Lake North.
Iron axe head recovered from Red Indian Lake North.

Several surveys, starting with Sproull Thomson in 1981 (see also McLean 2013 and McAleese 2013-2014), involved searching the northern shoreline of the northeast arm from Warford’s Brook to Miller’s Point without success. This is likely due to the flooding of the lake in 1925 when the sites shown on Shawnadithit’s sketches, including Demasduit’s and Nonosabasut’s campsite and burial ground, were drowned. Whatever sites were on Mary March Point, Red Indian Lake North and much of what has been discovered on the south of the lake has suffered the same fate. However, we do now have a better understanding of the importance of the shoreline around Indian Point. It seems conclusive that this area was the location of June’s Cove and a strong case could be made that its shoreline also contained the three wigwams shown in Shawnadithit’s sketches as well.

Gilbert, William

1996 The Recent Indian Occupation of the Exploits River/Red Indian Lake Region: A Reevaluation of the Archaeological Evidence.

Howley, James P.
1980 The Beothuk or Red Indians.

Locke, Donald
1974 Beothuk Artifacts.
1975 Historic And Prehistoric Site Indian Point Site #1.

Marshall, Alfred and Ingeborg
1981 Report on a survey of part of the shore of Red Indian Lake.

Marshall, Ingeborg
1997 A History and Ethnography of the Beothuk.

McAleese, Kevin
2013 Red Indian Lake Survey – Final Report.
2014 Preliminary Report DeBd-07 Andersen Point.

McLean, Laurie
1990 Inventory of Artifacts, Obtained By Newfoundland Museum From Don Locke Jr.
2013 An Archaeological Survey of the Northeast Shore of Red Indian Lake, Newfoundland.

Penney, Gerald
2010 Red Indian Lake Cabin Development Historic Resources Impact Assessment.

Sproull Thomson, Jane
1980 Red Indian Lake – Indian Point Survey – June 20-21, 1980.
1981 Field Notes.
1981 Investigations at Red Indian Lake.

Thomson, Callum
1987 Field Notes from First Locke Survey October 1987.
1987 Memo: Archaeological Survey of Red Indian Lake and Exploits River with D. Locke 1987 10 27-29.


2 thoughts on “Beyond Indian Point: History and Archaeology of the Northeast Arm of Red Indian Lake, Part 4

  1. – The site you describe as “June’s Cove” is located approx. a two minute walk (if that) from the digs done by Devereux in the late 1960’s. This “Cove” was the location where the A.N.D company would very often use to pull in their Tug Boats for many years – Before Locke, Devereux, and the others ever visited the site. It had been dug out many times by the company for years and years – hauling tugs in and pushing them back out into the water. Any findings in this particular “Cove” would have definitely have been disturbed by that activity long before any archaeologist ever arrived at the site.

    – The pictures of the Iron Spears look very similar to a Rusted Tip of a “Pike Pole” and those would very likely be found in the area as there would have been many of these on the Tug Boats because the Men on Sacking the Lake would have used them to push logs out off of shore etc… so they could be boomed up. We often used these as kids to push boomsticks and rafts around the lake as they were very common to the area.

    – The pictures of the Iron Axe Heads look very similar to the many axe heads we would find as kids all over that side of the lake from the old Town Site on the Sand Bar and particularly around the old company store (still standing – most recently used as a sawmill). We would find many of the Axe heads strewn about all over the shoreline. Further to that is the fact that they are both Single Axe Heads and those would likely be of a more recent age as most of the earlier Axe heads in use around the time of the Beothuk would likely have been Double Axe-heads with a blade at each end.

    Based on what I know of the area, those artifacts are more likely to have come from the Tug Boat / Logging operations which would have been long after the time of the Beothuk.

    – The sketch you show of the bone Fragments at the Three Wigwams Site from the test pits dug by Sproull-Thomson are interesting in the fact that they would have been done further up on the shoreline Above the Current High Water marks of the Lake given that there is vegetation shown growing around the edges of the pit in the picture. That is of interest to me in particular because it shows there was activity well above what would have been the shoreline before the flooding. If this dig by Thomson was done near the Three Wigwams site, near what I call “One Mile Brook” and were found that far up on the present day shoreline, it gives the potential of this being a much larger site as the area I located would have been at approx. 80 to 100 feet further down from that shoreline. I found large bones in that area – in September of 2012 buried in the clay but located much further down from the current high water mark – The water level at that time was what I (and other locals) described as extremely low – well below where the lake level is normally allowed to drop down to.
    In all of my time living there I had only seen the water level drop down that low on one other occasion – that being back around 1982 when work was being done on the Exploits Dam. Abitibi allowed the water to drop extremely low at that time for that work to be completed.

    As Abitibi required a good flow of water on the the Exploits throughout the year because they used that water for hydro electricity generation at their Mill in Grand Falls – they would usually not let the water level fall to extremely low levels on Red Indian Lake.

    Based on the fact that pretty much all of the exploration done at the site would likely have not been done at the time of an “Extreme” low water – where the level of the lake was allowed to drop down very close to it’s Original / Natural Level – they would not have found the area where I found the bones buried in the Clay. I did take pictures of those bones and the area where they were located. I also found what I would describe as two rings in about the dimensions you would expect to be the size of a Wigwam. Those were located down close to the water – along with the bones. Being that there has of course been much damage to the site from the flooding of the lake – it is of course not a pristine site for sure. That does not discount it’s importance however.

    I am not an archaeologist any more than Locke is one. My views are not substantiated by any more factual evidence than the level to which you give to Locke as a “Vocational Archaeologist”. I do not take anything away from Mr. Locke but he has been given an awful lot of credence by yourself and others and much of what you point to as fact come from what Mr. Locke has pointed to in his findings.

    As I stated in my previous posts – some of the earlier digs at this site were done in manners which definitely leaves question on their validity.

    I am not trying to be antagonist here either. It just seems that many have already closed their minds on this area, as the book being written and the case closed, where all there is to find and report has already been found and reported on.

    I strongly disagree on that count. I point again to the fact that this was primarily a late Fall / Winter site for the Beothuk, where they would travel to hunt the Caribou during their annual migration. These camps would have been located near a running water site as it is the only place where water would easily be had after the freeze up of the lake. Pretty near all other sites in the area (Warford’s Brook for example) are located at a running water location. In Shanawdithit’s sketches – all show sites of Beothuk Camps where running water is located.
    There is no running water source at Indian Point or at the area you / Mr. Locke describe as June’s Cove. It is just as simple as that. These people had limited ability to transport water in any quantity and the likely-hood of them carrying water over a distance of at least half a kilometre from the closest source of running water back to Indian Point or to melt snow or ice or to cut holes in the thick lake ice, just does not make sense for a camp of any substantial number of Caribou hunters. It just would have required too much effort and energy to do that. The wasting of energy for people who live off the land could be the difference of them living or dying.

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