M’Chigeeng interment planned for pre-contact skulls found in 2016

Unearthed in Mindemoya

MINDEMOYA – Pre-contact remains discovered in 2016 at Wagg’s Wood by a young photographer two years ago will soon find their resting place with the M’Chigeeng First Nation, the nearest Indigenous community to where the bones were found. Until the ceremonies to inter the remains they are being hosted at the Ojibwe Cultural Foundation.

“There is a lot that has to take place before we can move ahead,” said M’Chigeeng Ogimaa-kwe Linda Debassige, who had picked up the remains from the Central Manitoulin Municipal office where they had been shipped following the investigation by the Ontario Forensics Centre.

The bones were determined to be of ancient origin, the last time the individuals they belonged to last walked Turtle Island some 800 to 900 years ago. 

It was in 2016 that a moss-encrusted human skull rolled down a hill and through the forest debris lining a Mindemoya path to land wedged against a tree where it was first discovered by Mindemoya nature photographer Jamie Pyette. In the ensuing police and forensic investigation, nine fragments from a second skull were discovered near the same location as the first.

Subsequent analysis determined that skull likely belonged to a young adult male but it was also determined that the skull’s original resting place was very unlikely to have been where it was eventually discovered. The plant life on the skull and the fact of its survival through the near-millennium since the death of its owner mitigate against the remains having been exposed to the elements for any significant period of time.

Ogimaa-kwe Debassige noted that the process of re-interring the remains became something of a teaching moment for the municipal staff. “They wanted us to go and pick them up right away,” she said. “They didn’t understand that there are ceremonies and preparations that have to be done in order for me to be able to escort the remains to our community.”

The OCF is currently acting as the chaperone for the remains until arrangements with local elders can be completed for the ceremony to re-inter the remains, likely to take place following improvements in the weather.

It has been a long and unexpected journey for some of the Island’s early residents who began their spirit journey nearly a millennium ago, but their latest ordeal will soon be over and they will once again be properly laid to rest.