Province stepping in to protect ancestral remains

The province plans to make an application to the courts under the Heritage Conservation Act

For the first time in history, the B.C. government is using the court system to ensure remains of First Nations people are protected.

The announcement came Thursday from the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development regarding ancestral remains unearthed in an orchard near Keremeos.

The ancestral remains of at least seven people were unearthed near Keremeos on Feb., 29, 2016 when contractors started to flatten a small hill in an orchard so more apple trees could be planted.

Chief Keith Crow of the Lower Similkameen Indian Band, descendants of those unearthed, gave the news to more than 100 people including his members and those of the Okanagan Nation and from across the province at a Day of Action event held near the site Thursday morning.

Those at the rally held signs with slogans including, “No More Grave Desecration,” “Province of B.C. We Ask For a Peaceful Solution,” and “Would You Dig Up Your Grandma?”

Crow found out about the province’s plans during an interview with the CBC earlier Thursday morning.

“This is a positive. But we are still moving ahead with our plan. On Sept. 11 we are going to go on that site with or without a permit and start doing the archeological work and start recovering the rest of the bones that are there so we can rebury on that site,” he said.

The province plans to make an application to the courts under the Heritage Conservation Act, if approved it will force the property owners to restore the site and undertake the required conservation work. No timelines were given by the province as to when they might file to the court or how long the process might take.

“This section of the Heritage Conservation Act has never been used, but is required in this case to ensure the intent of the Heritage Conservation Act is met,” the ministry stated in an email to Black Press. “We thank the Band and the Okanagan Nation for their patience and willingness to work with the province and land owners during this process.”

Crow said the LSIB was able to access the site over a two-day period in November 2016 to remove about 500 bone fragments. The remains are being kept safely off-site but a permit to allow repatriation from archeology branch has not been issued because the landowner has not signed off.

Only a thin clear plastic tarp loosely secured is in place to protect the remains that are still on site.

“We know for sure there are remains of one of our ancestors just four inches beneath the soil there and not all of him is covered by the soil because he was disturbed. There are remains in the piles of the dirt that were placed on the side that we need to sift through,” he said.

Crow said the property owner’s lawyer has cancelled meetings with provincial employees and the LSIB over the last 18 months.

“I’m disappointed with the lawyer and the landowner. This has all weighed heavy on our hearts,” Crow said.

During the Day of Action several chiefs from across the province spoke about their own struggles with repatriating remains when unearthed.

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip listed a number of sites in recent history where remains were unearthed including at Haynes Point in Osoyoos, Lightning Rock where a mass grave dating back to the small pox epidemic was threatened by development, a development on Vancouver Island where a condominium was being built and one where a private mansion was planned.

“This is not a new issue,” he said to the crowd, noting all the different governments he has worked with over the years to protect the land and his people.

“Now the Horgan government gives public platitudes about their intent to respect the UN declaration on the rights of Indigenous Peoples and to follow through on the Truth and Reconciliation recommendations and the 94 calls to action. But public platitudes are not good enough. We need the good intentions to translate into the necessary legislative reform, policy reform to enable us to respect our own laws and our own teachings in terms of what we need to do in respecting our own lands and our own people.”

The Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development issued this as a statement to Black Press.

“We respect the significant impact this issue has had on the Lower Similkameen Indian Band community. We also recognize how important it is for them to repatriate their ancestors in a culturally appropriate way.

Under the Heritage Conservation Act, we will be making an application to the court to pursue a restoration order so the human remains can be protected. If approved by the courts, it will direct the property owners to restore the site and undertake the required conservation work. This section of the Heritage Conservation Act has never been used, but is required in this case to ensure the intent of the Heritage Conservation Act is met.

We thank the Band and the Okanagan Nation for their patience and willingness to work with the Province and land owners during this process.”

Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation stated in response to questions from Black Press:

“It is time for a change in how the Province works with First Nations and all Indigenous peoples. B.C. is committed to building relationships founded on the recognition of rights, respect, co-operation and partnership, guided by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action, and court rulings such as the Tsilhqot’in decision. We’ve made reconciliation a cross-government priority, and are working collaboratively and respectfully with First Nations to deliver a better future for everyone.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Just Posted

BC Ferries’ Northern Expedition holding in Port Hardy while technicians repair the S-radar. The sailing was delayed by two days, leaving passengers stranded. (Zoe Ducklow photo)
Northern Expedition rescheduled to sail for Bella Bella, Prince Rupert after mechanical issues

The S-radar malfunctioned twice, causing a two-day delay in Port Hardy

The River Forecast Centre is maintaining a flood watch for the area, including the Bella Coola River and tributaries, Kingcome River, Owikeeno-Rivers Inlet, and surrounding areas.
Wuikinuxv under evacuation order, more rain in forecast

Bella Coola’s Hill has re-opened but road conditions are muddy and wet

One person was killed in a two-vehicle crash south of Williams Lake on Highway 97 Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020. (Photo submitted)
Highway 97 crash south of Williams Lake claims one life

Road conditions at the time were slippery and covered with slush: RCMP

Highway 20 is closed from the top Avalanche gate to the bottom Avalanche gate as of 19:30 on Tuesday October 27, 2020 (WL Tribune photo)
Rockslide closes the Hill as rain pours down in Bella Coola

Bad weather has resulted in rockfall on the Hill on Highway 20

The River Forecast Centre is issuing a Flood Watch for the Central Coast including Bella Coola River (file photo)
Flood watch issued for Bella Coola River

The River Forecast Centre is issuing a Flood Watch for the Bella Coola River

Over the years, Janice Blackie-Goodine’s home in Summerland has featured elaborate Halloween displays and decorations each October. (File photo)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about Halloween?

Oct. 31 is a night of frights. How much do you know about Halloween customs and traditions?

FILE - In this Jan. 23, 1987 file photo, actor Sean Connery holds a rose in his hand as he talks about his new movie “The Name of the Rose” at a news conference in London. Scottish actor Sean Connery, considered by many to have been the best James Bond, has died aged 90, according to an announcement from his family. (AP Photo/Gerald Penny, File)
Actor Sean Connery, the ‘original’ James Bond, dies at 90

Oscar-winner was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2000

This house at 414 Royal Ave. became notorious for its residents’ and visitors’ penchant for attracting police. It was also the site of a gruesome torture in August 2018. It was demolished in 2019. KTW
6-year sentence for Kamloops man who helped carve ‘rat’ into flesh of fellow gang member

Ricky Dennis was one of three men involved in the August 2018 attack

Cpl. Nathan Berze, media officer for the Mission RCMP, giving an update on the investigation at 11:30 a.m., Oct. 30. Patrick Penner photo.
VIDEO: Prisoner convicted of first-degree murder still at large from Mission Institution

When 10 p.m. count was conducted, staff discovered Roderick Muchikekwanape had disappeared

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

BC Ferries lower car deck. (Zoe Ducklow photo)
Northern Expedition ferry holding in Port Hardy

Radar issues caused the ferry to turn around

Among the pumpkin carvings created this year by Rick Chong of Abbotsford is this tribute to fallen officer Cont. Allan Young.
Abbotsford pumpkin carver’s creations include fallen police officer

Rick Chong carves and displays 30 pumpkins every year

An online fundraising campaign in support of the six-year-old boy, Edgar Colby, who was hit by a car on Range Road Oct. 25 has raised more than $62,000 in a day. (Submitted)
$62K raised in 1 day for boy in coma at BC Children’s after being hit by vehicle in Yukon

The boy’s aunt says the family is “very grateful” for the support they’ve received from the community

Most Read