The Community of Fort Severn, Ontario
As part of the archaeological research project I’m conducting this summer in Fort Severn, I thought it might be useful to share some information about the region to give readers some context before getting into the heart of the research project itself.
The Cree community of Fort Severn — Ontario’s most northerly settlement — only obtained reserve status in 1980. However, this First Nation, which numbers more than 400 people, has lived in Fort Severn for several decades. Previously, the “official” reserve was located more than 150 kilometres to the south, at the junction of the Severn and Sachigo rivers, in a place known as Rocksands.
Since I first visited this community in 1981, the town has undergone many changes. Among other things, its population has more than doubled. As a result, there was a pressing need to provide basic services to a growing population, which was increasingly integrating into the world beyond the Hudson Bay Lowlands.
This fall, Fort Severn will open a brand-new school for children from kindergarten through Grade 8. For those who wish to remain in the community to complete high school, there is an online learning programme. All households are hooked up to the electric grid and have good running water.
The town only has one general store, the Northern Store. It offers community members just about everything they need, from food and hardware to clothing and fuel. That being said, everything costs a lot more than you’re used to in this remote region, because goods are brought in by air freight, by annual barge or by trucks that can only travel along winter roads.
Hunting, fishing and fur trapping are still economically important to Fort Severn’s residents. It is a community that’s certainly connected to its traditions, while also having an eye on the future.
The next post in this series will look at the Fort Severn site where the archaeological digs are being conducted and will provide an overview of previous finds.