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Laxnuganaks Archaeology Update

The Gitga’at First Nation, Simon Fraser University, and Kitasoo Xai’Xais Nation are collaborating on a research partnership for Moore Islands (Laxnuganaks) archaeology.

Over the past three summers the Gitga’at Guardians and a small team of archaeologists have been examining the environmental history and archaeology of the area.

What Has Been Found

The work has revealed some information about how people lived on Moore Islands (Laxnuganaks) as well as changes in sea level and shorelines since the end of the last ice age. Research into addax for the Gitnuganaks people has also been examined.

Here are some of the highlights about what has been found so far.

Islands Were Ice-Free

First, the sea level has not changed much in the past 16,000 years. What this means is that the islands could have been open for living while the mainland was still covered in ice. This increases the likelihood that ancestors were living on the islands at that time.

More Excavations

In the summer of 2021, additional sites were examined and test excavations occurred on some of them. Archaeological artifacts were found which enabled the research partnership to learn new information about how people lived their lives on the Islands.

Artifacts that were found include: stone fish traps, culturally modified trees, smaller campsites, and ancient village sites.

At one location on Gander Island, stone and bone tools were found including knives and spear tips. One of the tools was made from obsidian that was determined using scientific methods to be from over 300 km away in the interior of BC. This is clear evidence that people were living on the islands for thousands of years and using tools, but also likely trading with other people nearby.

11,000 Years of Occupancy

One of the sites dates back to between 5,000 to 11,000 years ago, and another between 9,000 to 11,000 years ago. This means the Islands were likely occupied from at least 11,000 years ago until fairly recently.

Research Challenges

One challenge with doing archaeology research is that sites and artifacts can be buried over time – either with sand and seashells on beaches, or with soil in forests. Future research aims to uncover some of these sites as the technology to find them improves.

Successful Collaboration

All in all, the collaboration between the Gitga’at Nation, Simon Fraser University, and Kitasoo Xai’Xais Nation has resulted in a large amount of field work completed to date. The Gitga’at Guardians and community members have played an important role in getting the field work done.


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