First Footprints 13 Thousand Years ago

The 29 footprints are pressed into soft clay that once surrounded a fire pit or primitive hearth. There are three distinct sizes, including one child and two adults.

They were discovered several feet below a sandy beach on Calvert Island, a small island 100 km (62 miles) north of Port Hardy on Vancouver Island. The footprints were found by a research team from Hakai Institute and the University of Victoria and were reported in 2018 in the journal PLOS One. It was estimated the clay-preserved prints were 13,000 years old.

(PLOS One is an inclusive journal community that published research in more than two hundred subject areas across science, engineering, medicine, and the related social sciences and humanities.)

The human footprints are the oldest so far to be found in North America. The researchers ascertained the age by carbon-dating preserved wood embedded in the tracks that the PLOS One article describes as “two side-by-side left and right foot footprints (which give) a picture of a figure standing with feet slightly apart and facing inland with his or her back to the wind.’’

It adds: “The footprints were impressed into the soil just above the paleo-shoreline, possibly by a group of people just disembarking from a watercraft and moving toward a drier central activity area.”

Lead archeologist on the UVIC-Hakai team, Duncan McLaren, had discovered a dozen single footprints on Calvert Island in 2012. The later discovery revealed three different shapes and sizes, including at least one child and two adults. They appear to be left by bare feet gathered around a focal point, possibly a fire pit or hearth where the small group had paused after leaving the canoe or raft they had been travelling on.

At the time of the discovery, McLaren wrote that it would be added “to the growing body of evidence that people who used watercraft were able to thrive on the Pacific Coast of Canada at the end of the last ice age. It also provides new information to those who subscribe to the theory that migration from Europe to North America was made via the then still ice-bound Bering Strait linking East Asia with what is now Alaska and Northern BC.”

A recent New York Times article presented the argument of a body of archeologists supporting the claim that the founding Indigenous people of North America began their occupation some 36,000 years ago.

It is a theory rejected by distinguished archeologist Dr. Paulettte Steeves, of Cree and Metis descent, who grew up in Lillooet and is an associate professor at Mount Allison University. She doesn’t disagree that some migration between Siberia and North America took place, but in a CBC TV interview, she said, “that was likely only one of many migrations. The Bering Strait theory is often presented as the only way the Americas were peopled, and that can be damaging.”

In the same TV program Nisga’a elder Willard Martin dismissed the Bering Strait theory because it challenges Nisga’a oral history told over centuries of the Raven that brought the Nisga’a from a world of darkness to where they have always lived and still live. Elder Martin says bluntly: “We don’t agree that we came from another continent.”

It is not surprising that other Indigenous leaders like Tahltan Oscar Dennis, a language conservationist who keyed his research to Tahltan oral history, had a personal DNA test to check his lineage. Parts of his bloodline led to Siberia, and he believes now in the migration of his ancestors via the Bering Strait and possibly by watercraft. He also notes the Nisga’a legend of the Raven making light is basically the story of the Nisga’a migrating as the Arctic’s six-month night ended and the Ravens returned at the start of summer.

The home page of Canada’s First Peoples informs us: “Less than 500 years ago, the only people living in Canada were the aboriginal people. ‘Aboriginal’ means the original inhabitants, the people who were here first spoke different tribal languages, held different social values, believed in different creators and held the nature of things in great reverence.

It is sad that we newcomers spent so much time and evil energy demanding our Indigenous people speak the way we speak, worship the Gods we worship or face the fires of Hell – and so little time listening to what THEY have to say.

Is it too late to start?

One comment

  1. Certainly the New World Aboriginals were here a long time before Europeans arrived, but the Bering Strait theory we were taught in school is now competing with several others.

    A few years ago I was writing a curriculum guide which included a section on Aboriginals. I stated that they were also immigrants, but beat Europeans by thousands of years.

    Not so, said my editorial committee: “They say they were always here and that’s what your guide must say.”

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