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Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung is an Aboriginal historic site with evidence of occupation and use spanning at least 5 000 years. It contains the largest group of burial mounds and associated village sites in Canada. Because of its location, situated on the shores of the Rainy River, along a stretch known as the Long Sault rapids, its name comes from the Ojibway language meaning "place of the long rapids".

Its strategic location at the centre of major North American waterways, created a vibrant continent-wide trading network. Having direct contact with European fur traders and explorers of the 17th century, Aboriginal people continued to live in the area throughout the period of the fur trade and settlement eras. Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung permitted easy access to, and interaction with, people from other areas of the continent. It came to be known as a gathering place, where people would trade, share, celebrate and mourn. The Ojibway and their ancestors used the prominent sets of rapids along the Rainy River to fish. Because the rapids never froze, fish were in abundance during every season, thus supporting larger populations.

Archaeologists have found sites and artifacts dating to about 3 000 B.C. which they attribute to the Archaic people (hunters, fishers, gatherers with a nomadic lifestyle). Considered the first residents of Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung, the Archaic people traded goods, and presumably ideas, across large distances of the continent. Physical evidence of their way of life is consistent in many parts of North America.

The first mound-builders at Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung were the Laurel Culture (300 B.C. to A.D. 1 100). This group gathered together in villages and built large round burial mounds along the edge of the river, as monuments to their dead. The Blackduck culture (circa A.D. 800 - 1 600) followed, also building mounds along the river, which were low and linear in shape and known as the Blackduck mounds.

In addition to more than 20 archaeological sites, 15 burial mounds of the Laurel and Blackduck cultures remain at Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung. Over past generations, the mounds continued to grow in size, with some reaching more than 40 feet in height. The site has deep cultural and spiritual meaning to the Ojibway people of the Rainy River First Nations. The mounds are considered a sacred place, and appropriately named Manitou, the Ojibway word for spirit.

In 1970, an area of approximately 3 km in length, along the Rainy River, was designated a national historic site. In 1995, Parks Canada provided $1.3 million, through the National Historic Sites of Canada Cost-Sharing Program, towards site protection, trail development and construction of the Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung Historical Centre and traditional Roundhouse. Today, the Historical Centre houses a conservation lab, collection storage, gift shop and restaurant. Also used as a meeting place for Elders and an educational centre for teaching Ojibway culture, Kay-nah-Chi-Wah-Nung has remained a gathering place for thousands of years.

News Release associated with this Backgrounder.