Description of Historic Place
Blanc-Sablon National Historic Site of Canada is located on the western bank of the Blanc-Sablon River at its confluence with the Gulf of the St. Lawrence on the Strait of Belle Isle, in Quebec. Vegetation in the region is sparse and the area is covered by moss and a few small bodies of water. The site encompasses over 60 archaeological sites relating to its use as a centre for resource exploitation by successive cultural groups from over the past nine millennia, including, Archaic (9000 – 3500 B.C.E.), Post-Archaic (3500-400 B.C.E), Dorset 500 B.C.E. – 1500 A.D., European (1500-1900 A.D.), and French and English Canadian. Official recognition refers to the 50 hectares of land currently documented by the Province of Quebec.
Blanc-Sablon was designated a national historic site of Canada in 2007 because:
- with evidence of steady occupation for close to nine thousand years, Blanc Sablon is a trove of Aboriginal history along the coastline of the Quebec-Labrador peninsula;
- more than 60 archaeological sites reflect the changes that occurred in Aboriginal societies in this region, in particular changes in habitation, settlement and subsistence;
- the abundance and variety of wildlife remains are indicative of the importance of coastline resources - particularly seals - beginning with the Middle Post-Archaic Period, in the livelihood of the Aboriginal people who frequented the Blanc Sablon region.
The archaeological sites within Blanc-Sablon are demonstrative of the continuous occupation of the Quebec-Labrador peninsula by the Inuit for over 9000 years. The site is located on the banks of the Blanc Sablon River, which lies between the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of the St. Lawrence. The sheltered harbour into which the river flows benefits from the cold Labrador Current, which stirs up nutrients, contributes to the richness of the region’s waters and attracts a variety of marine life. The quantity and diversity of wildlife remains found at the site testify to the importance of coastal resources, particularly seals, for the diet of the area's inhabitants and explains why this area was occupied repeatedly for millennia by many aboriginal peoples, including Archaic, Post-Archaic, and Dorset.
Set against Mount Parent, a high rocky elevation, the site’s uneven terrain is made up of many marine beach terraces formed by receding water, which resemble giant steps that lead down to the ocean. Around 7000 B.C.E., Aboriginal peoples began to inhabit the region and remains of their encampments have been found on the terraces. Archaeological remains found here provide evidence of regular occupation and of Aboriginal societal evolution. Near the current shoreline, there is also evidence of first contacts between Aboriginals and Europeans, as well as a European and Euro-Canadian presence since the first half of the 16th century.
Sources: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, 2006.
Key elements that contribute to the heritage value of the site include:
- its location on the banks of the Blanc Sablon River, at the juncture of the Northern Atlantic and the Gulf of St. Lawrence, in Quebec;
- its setting on a sparsely vegetated, terraced coastal landscape on the banks of a sheltered harbour;
- the integrity of any surviving or as yet unidentified archaeological remains relating to the Archaic cultural occupation, including quartzite “chips / slivers”, triangular points, quartzite and chert, bifacial lanceolated points, projectile points made of various construction methods and materials, lithic scatter, and cultural remains;
- the integrity of any surviving or as yet unidentified archaeological remains relating to the Post-Archaic cultural occupation, including a variety of lithic scatter, bifacial points, hole-borers, scrapers, chert tools, and harpoon points;
- the integrity of any surviving or as yet unidentified archaeological remains relating to the Dorset cultural occupation, including a variety of chert tools such as microblades, chisels, scrapers, knives, and triangular points;
- the integrity of any surviving or as yet unidentified archaeological remains relating to the European contact era, including terracotta tiles, forged nails, jet beads, scraps of copper, cast iron knives, wrenches, and dyed fabric;
- the integrity of any surviving or as yet unidentified archaeological remains relating to the site’s use as a hunting ground, including whalebone, and charred bone;
- viewscapes from the site to Saint-Augustin to the southwest, and to a wide stretch of Newfoundland’s Great Northern Peninsula to the south.