Lakehead anthropologists tracing origins of food production in Northern Ontario

Sept. 17, 2015 – Thunder Bay, ON

Dr. Matthew Boyd and his research team are receiving $381,300 to uncover the most northern evidence of farming in the ancient Americas.

Dr. Boyd, associate professor in Anthropology at Lakehead University, and his team will spend five years tracing the origins of food production (agriculture) in the Boreal Forest by studying historic and ancient garden sites in Lake of the Woods, Ont.

Researchers will develop a deeper understanding of the function of these gardens and how they fit into First Nations societies through archival research, Elder interviews and map biographies.

Researchers will also reconstruct past food choices of early Indigenous populations in this region by analyzing organic residues preserved on artifacts. Dr. Boyd and his team will also trace subtle changes in precontact land use, including the onset of shifting cultivation, by analyzing lake sediment and conducting archaeological excavations.

“This project will significantly revise our understanding of the lives of subarctic peoples at the eve of European contact,” Dr. Boyd said.

 In total, Lakehead University researchers are receiving $637,800 from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).

Dr. Michel Beaulieu, associate professor in History, will use $74,000 over two years to help Northern Ontario communities use lessons from the past in the forestry industry.

Dr. Beaulieu will conduct a historical analysis of resource-based communities in Northern Ontario and Uruguay, examining each in light of national and international trends in the region’s primary industries. Lakehead History professor Dr. Ronald Harpelle is a co-applicant on the project.

“We will look at both sides of the hemispheric coin to better understand how communities developed and adapted to global shifts in the forest industry,” Dr. Beaulieu said.

“Our researchers are some of the best in the world,” said Dr. Andrew Dean, Vice-President, Research and Innovation. “These projects will be of great benefit to Ontario and Canada,” Dr. Dean said.

“This exceptional research couldn’t happen without SSHRC funding,” said Dr. Moira McPherson, Provost and Vice-President (Academic).


SSHRC Grants awarded in 2014-2015

Total value of awards:  $637,800

Faculty Member Grants

Insight Grant (five-year grant)

Dr. Matthew Boyd, Department of Anthropology, Garden islands and the emergence of food production in the Southern Boreal Forest of Canada, $381,300.


  • Dr.  Scott Hamilton, Department of Anthropology


Insight Development Grants (two-year grant)

Dr. Michel Beaulieu, Department of History, What's bred in the bone: developing a historical understanding of past resource and sustainable community development, $74,000.


  • Dr.  Ronald Harpelle, Department of History


Connection Grant (one-year grant)


Dr. Natalya Timoshkina, School of Social Work (Orillia campus), Summer Institute on HumanTrafficking, $25,000.



Graduate Student Awards

Canada Graduate Scholarships - Master’s Program (one-year grants worth $17,500 each)


  • Jacqueline Barry, MES - Northern Environments & Cultures, Identifying garden locations at the Martin-Bird (DbJm-5) archaeological site: an example of early food production and a hunter-gatherer mixed economy in Northwestern Ontario.


  • Tasha Hodgson, MES - Northern Environments & Cultures, Micro-analytical investigations of unifacial tool technologies at the Woodpecker II Site (DdJf-12): applications in the analysis of organic materials from the early pre-contact period.


  • Kristy Kowatch, MA Clinical Psychology.           


  • Devon Lee, Master of Education, Folk schools: slow education for fast times.


  • Wendy Leppanen, MSc Psychological Science,  Individual antecedents of cyberbullying offenders and victims in an adult community population.


  • Taylor Price, MA Sociology, Open-access publishing in Canada: social science and humanities.


  • Evan Sills, MA English, Subverting Fantasy: Deconstructing binary representations of race and morality in popular fiction.


  • Kayleigh Speirs, MES - Northern environments & cultures residue analysis of pre-contact pottery from the Northern Plains and Boreal Forest: a multi-proxy approach.
  • Elisa Trovarello, MSc Psychological Science.    



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In 2015, Lakehead University will celebrate 50 years of exceptional education. Guided by its Strategic Plan (2013-2018), Lakehead is known for providing an education focused on independent thinking, unconventional scholarship, and a close sense of community. About 9,700 full-time equivalent students and 2,000 faculty and staff learn and work in ten faculties at two campuses in Orillia and Thunder Bay, Ontario. Lakehead University is a fully comprehensive university: home to Ontario’s newest Faculty of Law in 44 years, the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, and faculties of Engineering, Business Administration, Health & Behavioural Sciences, Social Sciences & Humanities, Science & Environmental Studies, Natural Resources Management, Education, and Graduate Studies.


Maclean’s 2015 University Rankings places Lakehead University 2nd in Ontario and among Canada’s Top 10 undergraduate universities, and 1st among Ontario’s undergraduate universities for Total Research Dollars, Social Sciences & Humanities Grants, and Library Expenses. In 2014, Re$earch Infosource ranked Lakehead 2nd in Ontario and 3rd among Canada’s undergraduate universities.