Expressing Identity

Hebron Family Archaeology Project

Research Team

Michelle Davies
Beverly Hunter
Rutie Lampe


This project celebrates the stories and the lived experiences of Labrador Inuit from the relocated community of Hebron. It also provides an opportunity to deliver land-based programming through the support of Nunatsiavut Government’s Department of Health and Social Development (DHSD), which helps to address some of the inter-generational trauma caused by the relocation of the residents. The Hebron Family Archaeology Project has seen many changes since it first began in 2016. The original goals of the project have largely remained the same: to record the stories and memories of Hebronimiut before they are lost, and to provide opportunities for relocatees and descendants of Hebron to return home. However, the project methods around archaeological research and the way that information is shared have changed based on feedback from the community.

In 2016, the first year of the project, we prioritized mapping the locations of family houses with John Jararuse and Elias (Jerry) Tuglavina. From this foundational work, we hoped to grow a living memory map of significant areas and practices to Hebronimiut – and to perhaps excavate a family home with people who had personal ties to the property. The project was organized with the help of a selection committee made up of people from Hebron (or their descendants) in each Nunatsiavut community who voted for participants via blind vote. There was great feedback on the map of Hebron houses that we created, and during a series of community meetings we tweaked the map to include some missed names and conducted further interviews.

In 2017, the Hebron selection committee voted for Maggie and Billy Jararuse from Hopedale. The committee recognized the value in sharing the experience of Hebron with a generation that has never been there. Even though they had not retained family stories to share with the project, Maggie and Billy eagerly absorbed the experience and the landscape, and they were particularly moved by the experience of standing in the physical locations of their family homes and fishing camps. As they considered exactly how many people had ties to their family home, many of whom had equal claim and personal meaning tied to the property, they decided it was too heavy an emotional burden to decide to disturb the land. The family exercised their right to withdraw consent for excavation. Instead, they took part in familiar cultural practices: fishing for char, picking mussels, making pitsik (dried char), as well as living, walking, and connecting through the landscape. We spent the week recording the locations of fishing camps in the greater region, and examined artifacts on the land, at the houses, and in the church.

During the 2018 community engagement sessions, I directly asked if people were interested in seeing artifacts from the church at Hebron brought back for conservation and community-led interpretation. A few Elders saw them as having negative, or haunted associations from the old community. Though there is interest in protecting artifacts from Hebron, many would like to see them remain there rather than be disturbed. The research interests and concerns which truly stem from the Hebron community are increasingly moving away from removing artifacts and more towards a form of repatriation and protection. The third year of research therefore focused on a family identifying objects which may be of interest for photography, conservation, and analysis. There was also expressed interest in continuing to record family fishing camps, local place names, and family interviews.

In 2018, a family of four was selected by the committee: John Jararuse and his nephew Martin R. Jararuse, as well as his wife Josephine and her daughter Susie. Rutie and Bev may both remember the sight of me during the first few years, juggling my GPS, tapes, cameras, and notebooks as I tried to record every aspect of the project myself. That year, having established the shared goals of capturing stories, places and memories of Hebron, I relinquished my control over aspects of data collection and placed the video camera in the hands of the family. Susie and Josephine were both full of questions, with or without me, in the community, in the church, and in the fishing camps. John and Martin were naturally more comfortable to share information with family members, and interviews flowed in Inuktitut. The family selected artifacts in the church that may be of interest for analysis and helped design a case for artifacts made of old church windows. It was a highly successful year in regard to the valuable information we captured as a team.

The Hebron Family Archaeology Project owes a huge thanks to the Mental Health Workers who have supported participant families before, during, and after research has taken place. Rutie Lampe and Beverly Hunter, both descendants of Hebron, have been instrumental to the success of the project, and have provided steady guidance and support to families returning to their homeland. Rutie Lampe has been actively engaged in the project since the very first community meetings and has consistently drawn attention to the healing opportunities that family visits to Hebron provide. Her knowledge, experience, and spirit have been invaluable to the success of the project. Beverly Hunter carries that same spark of joy which carries you through a hard day. She uplifted research participants and crew members throughout the research process, has the best attitude when faced with the unexpected, and always has a smile and a hug for those that need it. Both Bev and Rutie showed tremendous support and sensitivity to participants in Hebron, and their contributions are highly appreciated by all involved in the project.

On Hebron

Rutie Lampe

Hebron is a very important place for Labrador Inuit and has been an Inuit homeland for centuries. It is a former Inuit community and a national historic site in Northern Labrador. The community was greatly influenced by the Moravian Church, which established a mission there in 1831.

The stories from many “Hebronimiut” are of happy and abundant lives in their homeland. The sustenance of wild food, which is natural and rich, helped people to have a healthy diet, warm clothing, and a healthy way of life, where they shared hunting and camping grounds. They lived a nomadic lifestyle, traveling by foot, dog teams, or Kajak, and were happy living in their own homeland. As the missionaries brought Christianity, and they became familiar with this, they started coming into the community of Hebron from their home camp sites to celebrate Easter and Christmas. The community was full of people and were happy to be all together in one place.

In 1959, families were forced to “dislocate” from their homeland and move to communities south of Hebron, including my family – my Grandfather, parents and older siblings, cousins and relatives with many other families were born there. They were asked to meet in the church, a place where people didn’t speak and therefore the people did not have a voice to disagree or argue the move.

They were brought into unknown territories and an unknown way of life; with new people and new hunting grounds, they were given no choice but to adjust to the new environment they were forced to go to. Some were not welcome and were treated with lateral, physical, emotional, mental violence and abuse. The intergenerational trauma continues into the new generations to many survivors and their families. Dislocation is one piece of the social and economic inequality we see in our society today.

The Elders are dying out who were children, adolescents, or adults when they were moved. It has been 60 years since Hebron was forced to close, and for the remaining survivors there have been several events to address the impacts of dislocation and to provide opportunities for healing. In 1999, there was a Hebron Reunion of all survivors and people originally from Hebron. One or two healing circles were held with the help of FNIHB, and more recently with the Hebron Family Archaeology Project.

I hope that there will be more programs to begin healing from this very tragic time in history, not only for direct survivors but also for the current and new generations, the descendants. It is very important to begin this healing journey, so that the invisible and intergenerational trauma can stop in its tracks and we can begin to move forward in our lives. Our forefathers and mothers didn’t have a chance for healing, but we can begin healing their spirits also.

Family History and Healing

Bev Hunter

Although each year the Hebron Archaeology Project brought many different highlights, the fourth and final year topped it all off. Andrew Piercy (who is one of the oldest living survivors of the Hebron relocation) was accompanied by three of his family members to take part in this project.

Uncle Andrew, as I like many other refer to him, requested he hold a special church service during the Sunday we were there. Once word of mouth spread, many survivors and descendants as well as others wanted to attend his service at Hebron. Speed boats, helicopters, long liners and Zodiacs came in from Saglek, Nain, and Hopedale to attend the service that Uncle Andrew held. The church was packed tight with the congregation. We also had the honor of having two musicians from Nain come in with their trumpets to perform before and after this special service. There was not one dry eye in the room while Uncle Andrew performed the service - It was powerful to say the least.

I have to mention as well that Uncle Andrew was diagnosed with lung cancer well before he took part in this project. Although he was sickly, he longed to head back home to Hebron during his lifetime. He repeated and echoed thankfulness and gratitude to the Hebron Family Archaeology Project Coordinator, Michelle Davies, and everyone that took part in making his wish come true. While in Hebron one wouldn’t be able to tell that Uncle Andrew was sickly. Each morning he greeted us with his smile and was ready to meet the day. His energy was heightened it seemed as the days went by in Hebron despite the sickness he had.

After returning from his trip to Hebron his sister mentioned that Uncle Andrew’s physical health improved tremendously. He was now walking around town and not having such labored breathing due to his illness. He spoke to residents of Hopedale about his experience of going back home with pride, joy, and enthusiasm.

To witness him, as well as others, that took part in this healing journey of heading back to Hebron for a week were memories I know I will never forget. In my heart, I hope one day that every person from Hebron or who is connected to Hebron will take part in the same healing journey in their own way. It was more than just a trip, it was a gift for all that were involved in heading back home and in some cases, sadly, for the last time.


As the Tradition and Transition project wraps up, we gratefully reflect on the opportunities that this project has provided for Labrador Inuit, and Inuit of Hebron in particular. The Hebron Family Archaeology Project would have been difficult to initiate without the support of T&T, the mental health support of the Department of Health and Social Development, and the co-management structure between the Nunatsiavut Government and Memorial University. While the project goals have changed significantly over the last few years, a relationship of trust has been developed between researcher and community, one that is maintained through ongoing community meetings and workshops in Nain, Hopedale, Makkovik and Goose Bay. To date, the project has provided the means for four families to return to Hebron, to share the experiences and stories of this place with each other, and to take part in the opportunity to heal. While much has been recorded and preserved through archaeological surveys, interviews, and the everyday encounters as we travel through the landscape, there is still more work to be done. It is our hope that this project will continue with the support of the Nunatsiavut Government for years to come.