Description of Historic Place
Ossossané National Historic Site of Canada is located on the shore of Nottawasaga Bay, in the Georgian Bay on Lake Huron, Ontario. Composed of two different sites 1.6 km apart, the former village covers an area of approximately 2.5 hectares on a defensible peninsula of land. Protected on three sides by steep topography this Ossossané village was the principal village of the Attignaouantan or Bear Clan of the Hurons from 1632-1636 A.D. The site includes an ossuary, located a short distance away covering less than 0.5 hectares, created when the clan abandoned the village in 1636. Seven meters in circumference and 2 meters deep the ossuary is situated on former agricultural land in a field amongst scattered pine trees. The two sites are separated by fields, pasture and a swamp. Official recognition refers to the site of the village, the site of the ossuary and any archaeological evidence relating to it.
The Ossossané sites were designated as a national historic site of Canada in 1982 because:
- the Ossossané I village was the principal village of the Bear nation of the Huron-Wendat, in the 1630s until 1636;
- the Ossossané ossuary was the setting for the Huron-Wendat Feast of the Dead ceremony in 1636, described by
Father Jean de Brebeuf;
- the Ossossané village and its associated ossuary are significant for their contribution to our understanding of the
Huron-Wendat of this time period, their daily life, and their ritual activities.
The heritage value of the Ossossané sites derives from their historical and physical significance. Both sites have been accurately dated, belong to a known population, and contribute to the knowledge of daily life and rituals of the historic Huron people. The designated site comprises two distinct areas of archaeological interest, Ossossané Village and the Ossossané ossuary. It was the main village of the Attignaouantan or Bear Clan in the latter part of the Jesuit era and was on the southern edge of the territory.Missionaries’ records describe the Ossossané village and its ossuary. The principal village of the Bear Clan of the Hurons from A.D. 1632-1636, it was likely inhabited before 1632, and for perhaps twelve years prior to the smallpox epidemic that swept Huronia in A.D. 1639. Visiting French missionaries included Father Jean de Brebeuf and Father Lalemant. It was also the location of the Recollect Friar’s mission of La Rochelle and of the Jesuit’s mission of La Conception. A large village, Ossosané comprised approximately 40 longhouses with a population of 1,500 people belonging to the Attignaouantan or Bear Clan. The village lay on a main trail system, the connecting point on the trail between Huronia and the Petun. Excavations yielded pottery, pipes, beads, ironwork, arrowheads and fragments of copper vessels. The Huron people would live in a village for ten or twenty years then move on after exhausting local resources. The village is located in a former agricultural field now in use as a horse pasture.
Before leaving the Ossossané village site in 1636 the Huron created an ossuary 1.6 km away, a ritual witnessed by French missionary Father Jean de Brebeuf. Marked only by a broad, saucer shaped depression in the ground before excavation the ossuary was 7 meters in diameter and 2 meters deep. The only site of its kind described by eye-witness accounts the ossuary was the first such location excavated by modern means in 1954. Excavations here yielded grave goods of both aboriginal and European origin including: shell beads, projectile points, textiles, pipes, bone pendants, red ochre, beaver skins, beech nuts, glass beads, copper kettles, iron knives, iron scissors, iron awls, bracelets, a key, and copper rings, copper beads and copper bangles. The Ossossané ossuary is located on a sandy plain. When it was first excavated in the late 1940s, the area was in an open field but it has since grown up in secondary forest. The ossuary component of the historic site is owned by the Huron-Wendat of Wendake First Nation.
Source: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada Minutes, June 1980; 1982
Key elements contributing to the heritage value of this site include:
- its location on the high Algonquin beach ridge on a defensible peninsula of land defined by a steep
gulley and the bluff situated on what was once the main trail system and was the connecting point on
the trail between Huronia and the Petun;
- its setting protected on three sides by steep topography overlooking on the shore of Nottawasaga Bay
overlooking the Blue Mountains;
- its proximity to the ossuary created by the Huron inhabitants of the village when they abandoned the
village in 1636;
- the integrity and materials of the surviving or, as yet unidentified, archaeological remains which may
be found within the site in their original placement and extent, including the in situ vestiges, and various
discrete archaeological features that date to the period of occupation;
- the retention of the knowledge associated with all period artifacts relating to the Bear Clan of the Huron
associated with the site;
- viewscapes from the site to the Nottawasaga Bay and the Blue Mountains.
- its setting in an open field of coarse grass and scattered pine trees;
- the integrity of its form saucer shaped, 7 meters and 2 meters deep;
- integrity and broad range of any surviving or as yet unidentified archaeological remains which may be
found within the site in their original placement and extent;
- the retention of the knowledge associated with all period artifacts relating to the Bear Clan of the
Huron associated with the site;
- its proximity to the remains of the Ossossané village abandoned by the Huron people in 1636;
- viewscapes from the site towards the Ossossané Village.