The Tŝilhqot’in National Government (TNG) is seeking to better protect Indigenous heritage sites throughout its territory. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

The Tŝilhqot’in National Government (TNG) is seeking to better protect Indigenous heritage sites throughout its territory. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

Tŝilhqot’in chiefs lean on government to better protect Indigenous heritage sites

“These sensitive issues require time and care to address properly.”

A heritage strategy has been released by the Tŝilhqot’in National Government (TNG) to advance cultural protection, education, research and issues of jurisdiction.

“When damages are done, there is virtually no penalties,” said TNG tribal chair Chief Joe Alphonse of why the nation is implementing the strategy. “We are putting the pressure on the government.”

The plan takes a holistic approach to heritage that recognizes the inter-connectedness of physical spaces and objects with spiritual and mental well being, Alphonse added, noting some of the nation’s most significant sites are on ranches in the region, for example.

“Pit houses have been trampled by logging activity and we don’t have recourse which isn’t fair. Sites existed long before there was third party interest on the land.”

The TNG is calling on the B.C. government to gut and revamp the heritage act, he added.

The Archaeological Branch of the Ministry of Forests noted in an email response to the Tribune it has been engaging in talks with the Tŝilhqot’in, in regards to the application of the Heritage Conservation Act.

“These sensitive issues require time and care to address properly, and the Province will continue to work with the Tŝilhqot’in in these efforts,” a ministry spokesperson stated. “Branch and regional staff have been working with the Tŝilhqot’in and we appreciate their patience as we learn about their concerns and collaborate on solutions.”

Additionally, the ministry spokesperson stated the Heritage Conservation Act provides protection to all registered archaeological sites, as well as protection to as yet undiscovered sites.

“We will continue to engage with Indigenous communities to better understand how we can work together to support the protection of areas of cultural and archaeological significance.”

Alphonse said during the Tsilhqot’in rights and title case, when the judge looked at it “he couldn’t help but believe how much heritage value was all along the Chilko River right down to Siwash Bridge.”

“For us our culture is not based on writing so our library system is actually on the land. When you find a heritage site in the middle of nowhere, it actually has a lot more meaning because it qualifies our stories and our legends.”

READ MORE: Tsilhqot’in chief awarded Order of British Columbia for work as an Indigenous leader



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