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Section 9.1 Small Number and the Old Arrowhead

Written by: Veselin Jungic and Mark MacLean

Illustrated by: Simon Roy

Small Number is a young boy who gets into a lot of mischief. He lives with his parents in a small village on their Nation’s traditional territory while his sister Perfect Number lives in the city where she attends university.

It is summer time and Small Number and his friend Big Circle spend every day playing and exploring the surroundings of their village. A few days ago, they tripped over an old canoe buried in the sand; yesterday they found the biggest cedar tree that they had ever seen; and today they discovered a beach with an ancient totem pole in the middle of it.

“I wonder how many more discoveries we will make this summer!” said Small Number to Big Circle while the boys rode their bikes towards the village.

“Just in time for dinner,” said Small Number’s Mother, smiling. “Hurry up, wash your hands, and come to the table. Your sister has just arrived and we are all eager to hear what she is going to do over the next few weeks.”

“I’ll be joining a group of my professors and friends from school who are digging on Straight Line Beach. We will look for artifacts that will help us better understand how our culture has changed through time. We are interested in what our ancestors ate, where they harvested food, and how they prepared their food. We would like to know more about what tools our ancestors used and what those tools were made from.”

Small Number looked puzzled: “How can you tell if something is a hundred or two hundred years old?” Perfect Number smiled, “We measure and calculate. Those artifacts are precious and belong to all of our people, so you and Big Circle shouldn’t start digging around!”

The next morning, Small Number rode to Big Circle’s house.

“There are people digging on Straight Line Beach. Let’s hide in the bushes on the hill above the beach and watch what they are doing!”

“These bushes are too thick,” whispered Small Number. “Let me try to get a bit closer.”

He squeezed between the two bushes, tripped over a stone, and suddenly found himself rolling down the hill!

When he finally stopped spinning, Small Number opened his eyes and yelped.

He was looking into the eyes of a man’s face that appeared stuck in the ground!

Then he heard the voice of a very angry Perfect Number, “Small Number, how did you get here? When mom and dad hear about this you will be in real trouble!”

“Wait, Perfect Number,” said the man who was kneeling in the huge hole and whose eyes reached just above its edge. “Check if Small Number is OK and then show him around. Maybe you can show him the old bone and stone tools that we found this morning.”

“We learned that a long time ago our ancestors hunted seals and sea lions,” Perfect Number told her brother while they walked towards a tent.

“I've seen seals and sea lions.” Small Number quietly replied, still feeling a bit dizzy from rolling down the hill. “They are such large animals and it must have been very hard to catch them.”

“Yes, but when you catch one you get a lot of meat. In any case, we think that our ancestors at one point switched to eating shellfish and fish.”

Once under the tent, Perfect Number pointed to something on the table that looked like a polished stone. “This is a ground slate point. It was probably used as the head of an arrow.”

She took the stone and very gently started rotating it in her hand. “Very few people can say that they have held an object that was used by our ancestors thousands of years ago.”

Small Number barely heard his sister’s voice as he looked at the spinning arrow head with his eyes wide open.

“Big Circle must be still hiding in that bush,” Small Number, slapping his forehead. “I have to run. See you at home!”

He hugged his sister tightly and started running towards the hill.

Perfect Number shook her head smiling and whispered, “I love you too, my little brother…”

Question: How can an artifact reveal its age?