Tuesday 16 June 2009

Gail Asper and the Temple of Gloom: drilling holes

I was wondering about this ... The site of the future Canadian Museum for Human Rights was sitting idle for years, and then one day they moved in cranes and started drilling big holes in the ground. "Gee, that seems like an odd way to do an archaeological exploration of a site" I thought to myself. Everybody was so concerned about what might be in the ground under the proposed apartment building near the Upper Fort Garry site, yet here at the Forks we're just punching holes in the ground like a kid in a sandbox with a stick in his hand.

Apparently I wasn't the only one wondering why they're not bothering to do a proper archaeological assessment of the site. According to the Free Press story today, some archaeologists are asking similar questions. Maybe the museum folks are rushing to get construction past the point of no return before the whole project falls apart because of cost overruns. Or maybe the tedious process of digging up artifacts is simply too time consuming.

I also wondered why First Nations leaders were not up in arms about giant holes being punched in a site that may very well contain important Indian artifacts or even remains of their ancestors. Perhaps they are just very anxious to have their woeful story of abuses and neglect told in the museum for all to see. I suspect that story will not include anything about the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs giving $1,000,000 to one of the richest families in Canada rather than fixing the dilapidated houses and infrastructure in their communities.

update: I wrote that the site "was sitting idle" but that's not quite accurate. There was in fact a dig last year that found a few things. Still I wonder how much was really know about what's laying in the ground under this site with that limited study. If this were a privately-funded development instead of the museum, I suspect there would be more concern about it.


The Rise and Sprawl said...

Too bad Winnipeg's biggest sacred ground defender was busy writing about how some woman "likes Winnipeg... kind of"

The site of the museum, "the Hudson's Bay Flats" or simply "the Flats" may have been part of an Aboriginal burial ground that existed in that vicinity until well into the 19th century. It was definately where Aboriginals camped when trading at the HBC. Later, in the first half of the 1880s, it was the site of the first immigrant slum in the city, a rudimentary shanty town where the newly-arrived Jews, Iclanders, Irish and Scots would squat.

cherenkov said...

Interesting bit about the immigrant shanty town that I had not heard before. Thx ..

Anonymous said...

"There was in fact a dig last year that found a few things. "

The dig was long and extensive. They found many, many things. No, they didn't find large items like intact pottery or pull carts, but there was a lengthy dig. Just sayin'.

Anonymous said...

Good point anonymous. CMHR bashers aren't too interested in the truth or in balance.

I'm glad the footnote to this blog entry was provided but I'm curious why a footnote? The Free Press story was in the 2nd paragraph yet the mention about a proper dig was an afterthought?

The archeological dig was well reported in the MSM at the time as well.

Hmmmm. I guess including that fact in the main body of this blog post hurts the tone eh???

cherenkov said...

Ya .. it would take some of the punch away from the opening paragraph. I'm not shooting for a job at the Washington Post here. However I go by that site often and certainly seemed like it was sitting idle. It is a fairly large site and on the vast majority of it nothing was going on that I could see. There was a pile of old bricks, a bunch of gravel and weeds, etc.. There is a tent on one corner now that could be a dig, but I didn't see anything "extensive".

grumpy old man said...

I go by that site frequently as well. But I'm not an archeologist nor was I looking too hard. So I'm at a bit of a disadvantage in judging such things.

I do agree though that the CHRM bashers will take every opportunity to slag this development...

While we're at it we should challenge every development in Winnipeg situated on or near a riverbank to conduct as extensive an archeological dig as demanded here eh?

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