Princes and princesses of ragged fame: Innu archaeology and ethnohistory in Labrador
The last 2000 years of Indian occupation of the central Labrador coast and adjacent interior regions is the focus of archaeological and ethnohistorical research. Recognition of the primacy of social mechanisms, including the perceptions and strategies that are used to construct and maintain a sense of group identity, are perceived as the means by which the small dispersed Indian populations throughout the region were linked together by social, economic and information networks.
Research and excavations at more than twenty-five sites along the central and northern Labrador coast supports the recognition of a cultural continuity between the contemporary Innu cultures of Quebec-Labrador with the Naskapi-Montagnais of the exploration and ethnohistorical record, and the preceding protohistoric and late prehistoric period Indian occupations. Excavations at two sites, at Daniel Rattle-1 and at Kamarsuk greatly extend the duration of the late prehistoric period and provide the recognition of the Daniel Rattle complex (circa A.D. 200 to A.D. 1000) which is antecedent to the Pt. Revenge complex (circa A.D. 1000 to European Contact in the sixteenth century). Survey in the adjacent interior and excavation at coastal sites demonstrate a mixed economy for late prehistoric period Indian cultures in Labrador based on both terrestrial and marine mammal resources; an economy quite different from the specialized interior caribou hunting adaptation pursued by the nineteenth-century Naskapi.
The cultural preference for production of a chipped stone tool assemblage relying nearly exclusively on Ramah chert is an especially visible aspect of social reaffirmation. The mechanisms that facilitated the movement of the distinctive raw material from the quarry sites in northern Labrador, down the Labrador coast and throughout the Far Northeast are a reflection of pervasive social networks that provided access to raw materials, information and relationships that united dispersed, low-density, populations of northern hunter-gatherers.
The results of the research demonstrates the fallacy in relying too heavily on ethnographic accounts for modeling prehistoric social dynamics and reveals that the Innu are heirs of a cultural tradition which shows a remarkable propensity for taking advantage of the wide array of social strategies and resource options available to them.
0326: Cultural anthropology