Cummins Pre-contact Site National Historic Site of Canada

Thunder Bay, Ontario
Address : Thunder Bay, Ontario

Recognition Statute: Historic Sites and Monuments Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. H-4)
Designation Date: 1981-11-13

Event, Person, Organization:
  • G.I. Quimby  (Person)
  • Plano culture of the Paleo-Indian period  (People, group)
Other Name(s):
  • Cummins Pre-contact Site  (Designation Name)
  • Cummins  (Other Name)
  • Cummins Site  (Other Name)
Research Report Number: 1975-023, 1981-SUB, 2007-CED/SDC-030


Existing plaque:  Hillcrest Park, Thunder Bay, Ontario

At least 9,000 years old, the Cummins site is one of the most significant of several Palaeo-Indian archaeological sites that form the Lakehead Complex. Many of these early seasonal camps were located on the shoreline of ancient Lake Minong, at a similar elevation to this plaque, along a broad bay that covered much of the present-day city of Thunder Bay. Aboriginal peoples took advantage of caribou migration routes, freshwater resources, and especially the Cummins site’s taconite outcrops that they quarried to make tools. As such, the sites of the Lakehead Complex represent a unique adaptation to an early post-glacial environment.

Description of Historic Place

Cummins Pre-contact Site National Historic Site of Canada is located on the outskirts of Thunder Bay, Ontario, north of Lake Superior. Set on a treed landscape, the fenced-in site includes Cummins Pond and Minong beach ridge, which was once the shoreline of glacial Lake Minong. The site is part of a complex regional pattern of Paleo-Indian sites, collectively known as the Lakehead Complex, that is associated with taconic lithic assemblages, Gunflint formation outcrops, and proglacial lake strandlines. Tactonite debitage and stone tools lie scattered along the strandline and the surrounding area. Official recognition refers to the 7.3-hectare property owned by the Province of Ontario.

Heritage Value

Cummins Pre-contact Site was designated a national historic site of Canada in 1981. It is designated because: it is the most significant and representative littoral site of the Lakehead Complex.

Cummins Pre-contact Site, as part of the Lakehead Complex, is one of the most significant and representative examples of Plano cultural occupations, which existed during the late stages of the Paleo-Indian period (7000 B.C.E. – 3000 B.C.E). The Lakehead Complex developed according to the availability of raw lithic materials in the area, specifically from the Gunflint Formation that was rich in taconite, a flint-like pre-cambrian rock rich in iron and silica that was used by the Plano to make tools. Like most sites in the Lakehead Complex, Cummins Pre-Contact Site was developed because it was located near water supplies, it was along caribou migration routes and it provided access to fish, small game, and waterfowl. The site is at the core area of archaeological intensity, directly on the taconite, and served as a major quarry, workshop and habitation area in the Lakehead Complex. While surrounding portions of the site suffer ongoing disturbances as a result of gravel extraction, urban expansion, recreational vehicle traffic and road construction, the 7.3 hectares owned by the Province of Ontario remain intact.

Source: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, October 2007.

Character-Defining Elements

Key elements contributing to the heritage value of this site include: its location on the outskirts of Thunder Bay, Ontario, north of Lake Superior; its siting along the ridge known as Minong beach ridge that once formed the shore of Glacial Lake Minong; the varying landscape features of the site, including beach ridges, wave terraces, and gravel pits; its spatial relationship with other littoral sites within the Lakehead Complex; the exposed section of the taconite Gunflint Formation along the Minong Shoreline, the site of the Plano lithic quarry; the extensive archaeological remains found within the site, including stone tools and taconite debitage dating from the Plano culture Paleo-Indian period; the integrity of any surviving or as yet unidentified archaeological remains associated with Plano culture, which may be found within the site in their original placement and extent; the viewscapes along the Minong beach ridge.