Episode 2.2

Rudy, Jen and Jacob journey to the Serpent Mounds, an ancient and sacred burial site on the north shore of Rice Lake in Ontario. Dr. Rudy sends Jen and Jacob out on the lake to core for clues. Chief Laurie Carr welcomes the team and shares knowledge about past excavations and the Hiawatha Nation’s fight for repatriation of the ancestors and their sacred artifacts. Back at the lab, the team helps Tynan Pringle analyse the lakebed sediment with cutting edge XRF technology to help unravel the mystery of how and when the mounds were built.

Miigwech Prayer

A prayer to give thanks to the Creator, Gizhe Manidoo. Narrated in Anishinaabemowin by Mary Taylor, Curve Lake ON.

Submerged Landscapes

Rice Lake is one of the most prolific archaeological areas in Ontario, boasting an archaeological record that goes back to the earliest inhabitants 11,000 years ago through to current times.

Because of low water phases that occurred 10,000 and 6,000 years ago,archaeologists are now able to find submerged cultural landscapes — places where ancient peoples camped, fished and hunted soon after the glaciers retreated at the end of the last Ice Age.

“We used a weight to slowly lift up and hammer the core down into the lake”

– Jacob Pratt

“We’ve never done anything like this, everything has been in the dirt and this time it was in the water.”

– Jenifer Brousseau

The Serpent Mounds

The ancient serpent rests quietly in its grove of oaks. Fifty-eight meters long, it has a broad head, three well-marked mounds or zig-zags, and a tapering tail. Eight other mounds surround the serpent: low oval structures with diameters up to 14.6m and heights of up to 1.0m. The major axes of the mounds, all parallel, run east and west, as does the centerline of the serpent.

Seven Grandfathers

On a journey of personal reclamation, Jen meets with Mississaugi women of the Hiawatha First Nation to learn about the Seven Grandfather Teachings, given by the Creator to help the people live a good life, or Mino Bimaadizin.

Percussion Coring

The team joins Dr. Lisa Sonnenburg and graduate student Tynan Pringle out on the water to assist with percussion coring – non-invasive and respectful science that allows us to learn more about the Serpent Mounds without disturbing the remains of the ancestors buried beneath them.

Driving a core deep into the lakebed with a 20-pound slide hammer, Jen and Jacob collect sediment samples representing thousands of years of history. This sediment contains clues that may help unravel the mystery of how and when the Serpent Mounds were constructed. Accompanying Ty back to his lab at McMaster University, the team helps analyse the sediment core using XRF scans to identify magnetic susceptibility, looking for evidence of the mound builders.

Restoring Wild Rice

Covering approximately 5,000 acres, wild rice (manomin) was once abundant on Rice Lake. Thick enough to test a canoeist’s strength while paddling through the rice beds, manomin thrived here until just a few generations ago.

Wild rice requires very specific growing conditions: mucky soil, full sunlight, and flowing waters of a depth of two to four feet. Water levels in Rice Lake have risen dramatically since the 1800s with the construction of the Hastings dam and the Trent-Severn Waterway. The few rice beds to survive rising water levels were devastated by the introduction of carp in the 1870s, who uprooted wetland vegetation in their search for food. Muskrat, mink, beaver, eel and waterfowl populations have all declined with the disappearance of manomin from Rice Lake.

Wild rice preservationist Jeff Beaver of the Alderville First Nation is playing a pivotal role restoring the rice beds. Carefully saving wild rice seeds and sowing them by hand, manomin is returning to remote beaver ponds, shallow lakes, and small streams across Treaty 20 territory.

VR: Wild Rice

The only cereal grain native to North America, wild rice, or manomin has been a dietary staple of the Anishinaabe and other indigenous nations for over 5,000 years. Wild rice preservationist Jeff Beaver walks the team through the steps needed to process wild rice for cooking. Join Rudy, Jen and Jacob while they learn to winnow and rice dance with members of the Alderville First Nation.

Grass Dance

The first to arrive for ceremony on the plains, Grass Dancers bless the ground and flatten the tall prairie grass as they dance. Jacob teaches Noah Thompson about the Grass Dance, while James Brooks sings and drums.