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Vikings Uncovered

Photography by David Coventry, National GeographicUnearthing what she believes to be a Viking outpost
Photography by David Coventry, National GeographicUnearthing what she believes to be a Viking outpost

The findings of Pat Sutherland's "Helluland" research on Baffin Island has recently come to my attention. A story first broke in 2008 or 2009 in Canadian Geographic that a research team led by Pat Sutherland had discovered a second Viking site in North America (the first being L'Anse-aux-Meadows in Newfoundland).

Well out of curiosity I decided to check up on the story, and it turns out in late 2012 much more information started coming out. More information about the site, more research, more discussion, more pictures, etc. You can read about it here:

Evidence of Viking Outpost Found in Canada

Interview with CBC Radio (sort of the "TLDR" version):

Sutherland seems to be pretty confident the artifacts (including stone ruins, woven yarn, and whetstones) are Norse as opposed to native. This is a huge discovery for two reasons. First, it sheds light on the extent of Norse exploration in North America, which we could only speculate on before. Second, the Baffin Island site dates to the 14th century, which contradicts the widely held belief that the Vikings disappeared from Greenland and North America by then (for comparison, the site at L'Anse-aux-Meadows, thought to be "Hop" or "Leifsbudir" from the Vinland sagas, dates to c. 1000).

This amazing news has been marred by news that Sutherland was fired from her post as curator of Arctic archeology at the Canadian Museum of Civilization and her husband was stripped of his emeritus status. There are rumors that she was fired because her findings were not consistent with a certain historical narrative the Canadian government wants to tell.

... a statement by this Professors working colleague, TV Director Andrew Gregg: "Gregg suggests Sutherland’s dismissal may be linked to the museum’s impending transformation into the Canadian Museum of History. “It’s a complete shift in ideology,” he says. “The narrative that’s coming out through this government and our institutions has no room for a new story about the Norse. So who in the Canadian Government and which Canadian institutions are allowing no room for a new story about the Norse? In fact the story is not new. The oldest North American history was created 660 years ago. It is now Online as LENAPE LAND.

The most up-to-date information I can find on the situation is from Silence of The Labs

The following is an excerpt,

What don’t we know about Canada’s earliest history?

Dr Pat Sutherland spent years on Baffin Island, uncovering ground-breaking evidence that Norse explorers had been in the Arctic earlier and for longer than anyone had previously thought. Her research made headlines in scientific circles, and garnered media attention including a feature in the National Geographic and a documentary on CBC’s The Nature of Things. “I had expected that they would be pleased because this kind of media attention is rare for archaeologists, in Canada anyway,” she said. “I had hoped that it would be seen as beneficial to the museum and that it would certainly help promote continuation of the research.”

But if Sutherland expected celebration over media publicity from her employer, the Museum of Civilization, she was in for a disappointment. The federal government planned to rebrand the museum to the Museum of Canadian History. And it seemed her archaeology project didn’t fit the new identity. “Whereas the Museum of Civilization’s mandate was to increase Canadians and the world’s critical understanding of cultural events in history, we’re now reversing that,” said Turk, with the Canadian Association of University Teachers. “They’re turning it into a glorified Madame Tussauds wax museum, or a Canadian Hockey Hall of Fame view of history.”

In 2012, Sutherland was dismissed by her employer after investigators prepared a report for the museum outlining a litany of complaints from former colleagues. Her research project was shut down. Since then, she has not been able to access her decades of scholarly work by the museum. “What’s even more troubling is not only is she let go, but she’s denied access to the material she needs to continue her work,” Turk said. “I think her case illustrates pretty dramatically some of the problems with the politicization of science, the politicization of these kinds of matters.”

There is a facebook page to Bring Back Dr. Sutherland and you can sign Change.orgs Petition. It is vital to ensure that Dr. Patricia Sutherland can continue her research on the history of Arctic Canada.

Sutherland wants the issue resolved. She needs access to her research files to publish her latest findings, which, at the very least, would allow her to take on her skeptics. “I’ve spent 13 years working on this project,” she says. “We want to do more work and we want to be able to bring this new knowledge to the people of Canada.”

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