Penticton Western News

Burial site being returned to Penticton Indian Band

Workers sift through material at the site of a FortisBC sub station where a number of First Nations artifacts and remains were discovered during construction in 2011. The company is planning to hand over a portion of land to the Penticton Indian Band containing the remains.  - Shawn Talbot Photography
Workers sift through material at the site of a FortisBC sub station where a number of First Nations artifacts and remains were discovered during construction in 2011. The company is planning to hand over a portion of land to the Penticton Indian Band containing the remains.
— image credit: Shawn Talbot Photography

FortisBC is moving to return a small section of land to the Penticton Indian Band containing remains discovered in 2011 during excavation for a new substation.

Chief Jonathan Kruger said the band has been working with Fortis since the ancestral remains were discovered.

“They did the right thing and it has brought a lot of respect between ourselves and Fortis, said Kruger. The remains have already been ceremonially reburied, he continued, and transferring the section of land to the band will ensure the area will be protected.

“I don’t agree that we move a gravesite for human development,” said Kruger. “So we found a solution and it’s a very respectful solution. I think it’s important that we put a plaque there and let our future generations know that our ancestors and our people have always been here.”

Fortis will be before council next Monday, asking for a variance to subdivide their lot at the end of Huth Avenue so they can give a 20 square metre section where the remains were reinterred to the PIB.

Though the resulting lot will be unusually small, the Penticton city staff report recommends that council approve the variance. FortisBC has already talked with neighbouring landowner, Home Hardware, who have provided letters of support from both their local and national offices.

“The impact on the surrounding area is obviously negligible for the creation of this lot,” said Anthony Haddad, Penticton’s director of development services. “There are many more benefits to creating the lot that is being requested.”

Thousands of artifacts were also recovered at the site, which are now being cared for at the Penticton Museum and Archives. They won’t, however, be exhibited or become part of the museum collection.

“For the foreseeable future, they are there purely for preservation,” said curator Peter Ord. “I think the long-term goal is at some point, they (the PIB) will take that material back when they have a facility they can store it in.”

Kruger said that for the short term, this is an ideal solution. The museum is charged with preserving the items, but the band retains control of who can view the items, with permission required from band officials.

“In the short term, it’s a great partnership there. We don’t have proper storage. It’s very complex, you can’t just keep artifacts out in the open and we don’t have that capacity,” said Kruger. “We have the artifacts in a safe, protected place. But that is short term, one day we are going to build our own facility.”

Ord said a team of archaeologists sifted through and catalogued the artifacts as they were put into storage. Much of it is worked items, ranging from animal bone to stone items like arrowheads and flint chips from the manufacturing of tools and arrowheads and other lithic points, indicating the site was likely also used for the flaking and manufacturing of stone points.

“Also a really mysterious engraving on antlers. Almost like calendar markings,” said Ord. “The archaeologist that was here had never seen anything like it.”

The team of archaeologists also did an inventory of each item, which Ord can access for general questions on what was found.

“Everything from tiny pieces of animal bone, which all gets counted and put into a study so we can understand what kind of animals were being caught and processed,” he said.

Kruger said he is happy with how both the artifacts and remains were handled.

“Even though it (the burial site) has been disturbed, we found a way to do something good,” said Kruger. “I think we did this in a good way and I certainly feel pretty good about the responsibility we were handed.”

Council will review the subdivision application during their regular council meeting on Jan. 21.

 

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