Human remains have been found on a Cawston-area apple orchard.
The remains were found Monday, February 29, when contractors hired by an orchardist at a farm on Upper Bench Road near the intersection of Daly Drive removed old apple trees and were levelling the land.
Members of the RCMP and the BC Coroner’s office attended the scene first and determined the remains were not part of a recent death and were most likely of Syilx descent.
The Lower Similkameen Indian Band (LSIB) was then contacted.
The site, about 25-feet wide and 200-feet long can be seen from the roadway behind a fence and is taped off with police tape.
LSIB Chief Keith Crow has attended the site several times over the last few days and met with the coroner’s office.
Crow said the area is known to LSIB members as an old burial ground.
Previously burial grounds were often located on raised hill areas similar to the recently found burial site.
Not far from the orchard there is a marked burial site and there are several other known burial sites within a kilometre of where the most recent remains were found. Years ago the remains of a first Nations Baby from the area were released to the LSIB from a museum and were repatriated to a site nearby.
The LSIB has done extensive work on locating burial grounds in recent decades.
“We know there are burials through this area. We never marked grave sites it wasn’t our practice,” Crow said.
At this point Crow was not able to release the number of bodies that were unearthed at the site or that might be in the area.
“We have an estimate but we’re not ready to release it yet,” he said.
He was also not able to estimate the age of the bones but rather referred to them as “ancient.”
“We’ve been told the quality and consistency of them is that they are old. We haven’t carbon dated them yet. But we know they’re old,” he said.
Crow’s hope is that an agreement can be made with the farmer to leave the remains on site.
“We need to quit moving our people when they are dug up. They are there for a reason they should stay there,” Crow said.
He urged anyone that might be doing any digging in the area to first contact the LSIB.
“There’s definitely emotions behind it,” Crow said of how he and fellow band members were feeling knowing their ancestors’ remains were disturbed. “It’s really unfortunate that it’s happened but we’re working with the orchardist and it’s been going well.”
In April 2014 remains about 1,400 years old were unearthed at Haynes Point in Osoyoos.
Most recently in the Similkameen the remains of young native girl were unearthed in a development site in Keremeos in 2006. The girl’s remains were moved to a site in Ashnola.