Chief Keith Crow of the Lower Similkameen Indian Band said the patience of the band is running thin with the province and the time it’s taking to find a solution to the unearthing of ancestral remains in an orchard near Cawston.
About four months ago, the remains of at least five people were unearthed at the Cawston orchard at the end of February and at this point there is no clear answer as to when or where the remains will be repatriated.
“Our priority is to look after our relatives and return them to their rightful resting place,” said Chief Crow in a press release.
Crow noted that the law requires that the Crown meaningfully engage with Syilx Title, Rights and Interests matters – in this case, that engagement is with the LSIB Chief and Council.
“We have been committed to working together to ensure a proper and peaceful resolution. Our patience is running thin. The Province must come out of hiding and be accountable.”
The press release from the LSIB claims that the site of the remains was reported as burial grounds to the provincial heritage branch twice, in 1952 and 1972, but it was never mapped by the branch or registered at the land title office.
“This omission and failure hast brought us to today – a painful situation that was entirely avoidable,” the press release stated.
Crow recently met with Premier Christy Clark and was told her government would engage in a “meaningful and responsive way.”
“That has not yet happened. The Province continues to delay progress, deny responsibility, and hide behind its laws,” the release stated.
Greig Bethel, a provincial spokesperson for the archeology branch provided a brief update to the Review via email late in the afternoon Tuesday.
Bethel stated there was no previously recorded archaeology site on the property located at the corner of Daly Drive and Upper Bench but he was aware of a map, “… there is some dispute as to whether a 1952 map (which was updated in 1972) of an early record of the area should have been recorded in the provincial inventory.”
“No archaeological record was made from this map as it was not feasible to locate the site based on the vagueness of the map.” he continued.
When asked what the hold up was in resolving the issue, Bethel stated the ministry shared concerns with the LSIB and is working closely with the band and the property owners on solutions to protect the remains.
“The Archaeology branch has had many conversations with members of the Lower Similkameen Indian Band and will continue to do so until a resolution if found,” the email stated, concluding with, “The Province is working with the First Nation and the landowner in a collaborative manner to try and find a solution that is both respectful and expeditious. Toward that goal, there is a meeting planned between the three parties.”