THE TOWN OF THE BLUE MOUNTAINS, Ontario - Ted Warrow, chief of Wyandot Nation of Anderson near Detroit, has a dream.
One day he would like to see a museum and interpretive center opened in the Blue Mountains on the shores of Lake Huron in Canada to tell the story of his people.
"On one of the village sites, I don't want to see the site built upon or destroyed, but I would like to see it become Indian land," Warrow said recently after spending a week working on archaeological digs in the area at the village sites of his ancestors - the Petun.
The museum could become a home for the hundreds of artifacts unearthed from several Petun village sites over the years and could also feature a scale model of a Petun longhouse, Warrow said.
It's a dream shared by archaeologist Charles Garrad who invited Morrow and Janith English, chief of the Wyandots of Kansas, and members of the Rama reserve near Orillia, to participate in the dig.
"There's a lot of history that needs to be told," said ,Garrad who with his wife, Ella, heads up the Petun Research Institute.
Initially Warrow "came to observe" the digs. He was reluctant to participate because he believes such sites are very spiritual and he was hesitant to disturb them.
But when Garrad explained that the digs were focusing on the middens - the village garbage dumps - Warrow decided to join in.
"I have mixed feelings. I don't think we should be disturbing the actual site, but we are actually learning more about my ancestors by looking in the middens," Warrow said.
The Petuns, joined by the Hurons fleeing the Iroquois, left the Blue Mountains in 1650. Some settled near Detroit, others ended up as far away as Kansas and Oklahoma.
English said she, too, was hesitant about joining in the dig. "I've always been interested in archaeology, but there is always a concern that it will be done ethically and in the right spirit."
Garrad had such a sense of "appropriateness" about the way the dig was going to be conducted that she decided to join in, she said.
Warrow's first find was the rim of a piece of pottery, but it wasn't until the day was over and the group was heading back across the cornfield to their cars, that he had time to reflect on what he had found.
"That piece of pottery may have been held by one of my ancestors. It was very emotional to think about that, very exciting," Warrow said.
Over the week, the group found many pieces of pottery and pieces of clay pipes. One small fragment had a human face carved in intricate detail on the side.
Garrad didn't promise them they would find treasures and trophies, so they considered finding the pottery and pipe pieces a real bonus, English said.
But it was the more day-to-day artifacts that excited her, she said.
"When I found animal and fish bones or a fire-cracked rock left over from a dinner 350 years ago, it felt like I was sharing a meal with my ancestors," she said.
Canadian law prevented English and Warrow taking any artifacts home, so they left them in the care of Garrad and the Petun Research Institute.
"They will be safe there," English said.
Warrow was struck by the area's natural beauty. "The countryside is beautiful. My people must have enjoyed living here and must have been very sad to leave," he said.
Garrad took the group on a tour of the village sites in the area and, in every case, the site was in a prime location on a hill or rise, Warrow said.
"I can't get over the beauty of the area."
Garrad also took the group to the Scenic Caves near Collingwood.
"Walking there and listening to Charlie talk about my ancestors, I felt very humbled to be there, too," Warrow said.
It was an especially poignant moment when the group came around a corner and saw the famous outcrop that looks like a bear looking down over the valley, Warrow said. "It was then my feelings exploded. I thought of all my ancestors who must have stood in the same spot and looked at that same outcrop. I got goose bumps just thinking about it."
The natural beauty of the area also awed English. "We sang some of the old songs as we approached the site, I felt very much at home, I have never felt a connection so strong before."