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Donaldson Site National Historic Site of Canada

Old Bridge Road, Chippawa Hill, Ontario, Canada

Formally Recognized: 1982/06/12

1960 photograph of Donaldson during the course of the excavations by James V. Wright. The photographer is looking east from the opposite bank of the river.; J.V. Wright and J.E. Anderson, “The Donaldson Site,” National Museum of Canada Bulletin 184, (1963))
Donaldson during excavations, 1960
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Other Name(s)

Donaldson Site National Historic Site of Canada
Donaldson Site
Site Donaldson
Saugeen Culture Site
Site de culture saugeenienne

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2013/03/27

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

Donaldson Site National Historic Site of Canada is located at the first major rapids upstream from Lake Huron on the northern band of the Saugeen River near Chippawa Hill, Ontario. Covering approximately 1.2 hectares, this archaeological site is comprised of three river terraces that contain the remains of a macroband settlement occupied intermittently for over 1,000 years by the Saugeen People. The site was the subject of several archaeological investigations that revealed numerous artefacts, including two house structures, various pits, deposits, depressions and assorted cultural goods. Official recognition refers to a single irregular polygon on the bank of the Saugeen River.

Heritage Value

Donaldson Site was designated a national historic site of Canada in 1982 because:
- it is the largest and best documented Saugeen Complex site known, representing many aspects of
Middle Woodland (200 BC – 900 AD) life, including habitation and mortuary practices.

Donaldson Site is the largest and best-documented known site of the Saugeen culture from the Middle Woodland Period (c. 200 BC - 900 AD). Occupied by a small macroband during the spring and summer months, the settlement served primarily as a harvesting station that exploited the abundant fish resources of the Saugeen River. Numerous cultural materials associated with these native inhabitants have been discovered through various archaeological excavations, including the remains of two residential structures, two separate burial grounds, and several hearths that lie on the middle and upper terraces. Large midden deposits, pits containing floral and faunal evidence and a large assemblage of artefacts, including ceramics, stone, metal and bone implements, provide rare insight into Saugeen Complex habitation and mortuary practices.

Sources: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, November 1975

Character-Defining Elements

Key elements that contribute to the heritage character of the site include:

- its location on the northern band of the Saugeen River in Chippawa Hill, Ontario;
- its setting on three low river terraces, each at a different level, at the first major rapids upstream from
Lake Huron;
- the integrity of any archaeological remains relating to the occupation of the site by the Saugeen culture
including house structures, cemeteries, middens, pits, hearths, ceramics, and various tools and
implements constructed of bone, stone and copper;
- the integrity of any surviving or as yet undiscovered 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 site including
those in situ, those removed for research, and those in storage and on display to the public, including
ceramic, metal, and stone fragments, and residential structures;
- viewscapes from the site to the Saugeen River and rapids.




Recognition Authority

Government of Canada

Recognition Statute

Historic Sites and Monuments Act

Recognition Type

National Historic Site of Canada

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)


Theme - Category and Type

Peopling the Land
Peopling the Land
Canada's Earliest Inhabitants

Function - Category and Type


Undetermined (archaeological site)
Buried Site



Architect / Designer




Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

National Historic Sites Directorate, Documentation Centre, 5th Floor, Room 89, 25 Eddy Street, Gatineau, Quebec

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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