Street Address : Belle Park Drive
Period: 300 – 900 CE
Just north of downtown Kingston resides Belle Island: a small piece of forested land surrounded by the Cataraqui River and visible from land to the east and west. For an island of its size, it serves as a rich source of history regarding Kingston’s Indigenous past. During the Middle Woodland period (AD 300 – AD 900) it was used as grounds for hunting and fishing, presumably by the Huron; a more permanent settlement was likely not established due to conflict with the Haudenosaunee. With the changing occupation of Fort Frontenac and the surrounding area, the name of the small island changed as well. For the 85 years of French occupation, the island was identified as “Isle aux Recolets”; however, when Fort Frontenac fell to the British in 1758 and was re-occupied in 1783 (by Loyalists after the American Revolutionary War), it was known as “Isle au Père”. As of 1828 it appears as Belle Island.
In 1988, staff of the City of Kingston Parks and Recreation were assigned the task of creating a man made beach along the shore of Belle Island. Mechanical equipment was employed for the project and construction commenced. Shortly after beginning, however, Indigenous human remains were discovered on the shore of the island. The following year, in 1989, an official excavation of the area was begun in an effort to salvage the remains: they were carefully and respectfully collected, dated and properly relocated to an area of the island that was better suited to burial.
In addition to the human remains discovered on Belle Island, shards of pottery, remnants of early tools and a few pipe stems were also found. The fragments of pottery were decorated with many diverse designs. There were a number of techniques used to embellish the exterior of the pots: while using various tools, the wet clay was either punctuated, stamped, cord-rolled, swept or embossed before setting, leaving subtle and somewhat crude designs.