Who will win this battle?
From Coast Reporter.net
SIB will fight to protect 4,000-year-old burial site
The Sechelt Nation will fight to save an ancient chieftain burial site found
at the mouth of Salmon Inlet, described as one of the most important
archeological discoveries in the province.
“We’ve proven without a shadow of a doubt this site is one of the most
important in British Columbia — one of the most important for showing the
development of chiefly status, and it’s right here,” Dr. Terence Clark of the
Canadian Museum of Civilization said during Archeology Day at the Sechelt Indian
Band (SIB) hall July 29.
He said archeologists have worked in the area every summer for the past three
years through a partnership with the Sechelt Indian Band (SIB), the museum and
the University of Toronto. Each year new burials and artifacts are found that
point to the significance of the site.
Archeologists first discovered remains at the 4,000-year-old burial site in
2010, noting that the number of hand-crafted stone beads buried with the ancient
man signalled his importance.
“With this individual, he was buried with about 350,000 stone beads, which is
more than any other burial we’ve ever found from Alaska to California for any
time period, so whoever this person was, this ancient Shishalh chief, he was
very, very important in the greater scheme of the entire northwest coast,” Clark
said, noting the beads likely adorned a chiefly robe that didn’t stand the test
The following year archeologists found a young woman, estimated to be in her
20s, buried at the site with projectile points broken and arranged around her
“We’re not exactly sure what that means just yet,” Clark said, adding the
woman also had thousands of beads with her and she wore jewelry, signifying her
status and wealth.
Two more burials were unearthed this summer, one showing a man and woman
arranged one behind the other, knees bent, found with a number of beads, and one
that featured a large pit, no remains and thousands of beads.
Gary Coupland, professor at the University of Toronto, and co-director of the
archeology project along with Clark, said the lack of remains doesn’t mean
someone wasn’t buried there.
He said bones could deteriorate and turn to dust if they are not properly
kept, which happens naturally when shells are mixed in with the
“In this pit there were no shells,” Coupland said, noting many of the sites
they have uncovered have fortunately been preserved that way.
The burial site also featured a flat centre rock covered with ash and a
canoe-shaped rock standing on its side pointing toward the pit devoid of
“It may have been pointing the way to a place where an elder was buried,”
Some SIB students have been helping with the dig this year. When they found
the rock they quickly named it “pride rock” and carefully moved it to the
Their enthusiasm and involvement in the project has been important to SIB
Chief Garry Feschuk.
“I really appreciate our guests here passing on this work to them, getting
their interest in what they’re doing because some of them have said now they
want to go into the field of archeology,” Feschuk said. “To me it’s really
important that our youth help document our history, knowing where we came from
and being able to help us document that for future generations.”
He wants future generations to be able to visit the historic site as well,
and said that although a map reserve has been placed on the area by the
province, the SIB wants ownership of the land. According to the province, a map
reserve saves an area from development for 10 years.
“We know this is a burial ground now and council’s going to meet with our
elders and determine what the next steps are,” Feschuk said. “I think our next
step is to have this area returned to us. It’s so important. To me that map
reserve just puts a Band-Aid on the situation.
“I don’t understand why the government doesn’t see it that way. We had a
response from the Minister last week and giving us an impression that you’re
protecting our rights and our title doesn’t work for us. That letter just gave
us an impression that they want to work with us.”
Sharon Pocock, communications officer for the Ministry of Aboriginal
Relations and Reconciliation, said that while reconciliation agreement
negotiations have concluded, the province “continues to engage with Sechelt on a
wide range of other operational matters, including additional protection for the
Salmon Inlet archeological site.”
That discussion doesn’t appear to be enough for the SIB.
“Our ultimate goal is to have this land protected and returned to the Band,”
Feschuk said. “I’m going to quote the premier now because I find it ironic how
the premier is front and centre in the newspaper right now quoting on the
pipeline that’s going to be going through B.C. and that B.C. should have the
final say. Well, what’s different here? Sechelt should have the final say on
what’s happening on this land right now.”