It’s believed the ancestral remains of at least five people were unearthed in a Cawston orchard late last month.
According to a press release issued by the Lower Similkameen Indian Band last week, the remains range in age at time of death from infancy to adulthood.
“We need to keep that in mind these are our grandparents, great, great, great grandparents and we need to make sure they are taken care of properly,” said LSIB Chief Keith Crow.
Smәlqmix culture needs to be protected and taught to others said Chief Crow.
“Smәlqmix have a responsibility to take care of the land and all living things which includes our ancestors as they are a part of our lives and having them unearthed affects the entire community. It is critical to rejoin and repatriate our ancestors back to the land,” he said.
The remains were initially uncovered on Feb. 29. The skulls of two individuals were discovered on Feb. 29 during the excavation of a portion of the orchard. The contractor ceased all operations and notified RCMP immediately. All disturbed soil remained on site.
Crow attended the scene on March 1 after being notified along with an archeologist whose role was to determine the next steps for the band and property owner under the B.C. Heritage Conservation Act.
Under the guidance of the elders and Chief Crow, exposed remains thus far have been collected for safekeeping and are being kept under temperature controlled conditions to prevent further damage until their repatriation to the land.
A Heritage Conservation Act permit is required to complete any additional land altering or soil removal, including the completion of an Archaeological Impact Assessment. The Okanagan Nation Alliance member bands have been contacted to support the expedition of the permit to complete to assessment.
With the co-operation of the property owner, Lower Similkameen Indian Band and the B.C. Archeology Branch are working together to ensure next steps are taken to respect, honour and protect the ancestral remains according to the press release issued by the Band.