A close-up of the lithic chip shows its flaked edges – evidence that it was made by humans.

A close-up of the lithic chip shows its flaked edges – evidence that it was made by humans.

Lithic chip stops Barriere sewer project

discovery of a First Nations artifact has halted work on a District of Barriere’s sewer project on Airfield Road

As reported in last week’s Star/Journal, the discovery of a First Nations artifact has halted work on a District of Barriere’s sewer project on Airfield Road.

According to Simpcw First Nation spokesperson Carli Pierrot, the work site had been previously identified as an area of high archaeological potential by the band’s Natural Resource Department.

However, no preliminary assessment had been completed prior to work commencing.

Many places, particularly those near water, were used in the past as hunting, fishing, gathering and habitation sites, said Pierrot.

Because of the identified high archaeological potential, Simpcw First Nation asked District of Barriere to hire a person to provide archaeological monitoring during the project.

The artifact, a small lithic chip about the size of a dime, was discovered on Dec. 19.

“Simpcw archaeological experts determined that the found item was in fact a basalt point, a sharp fragment of stone used in the production of tools and other items,” said Pierrot.

“Often, these artifacts are found in large numbers, and often near sites used for preparing and cooking food. This means that the artifact found is likely just one of many pieces that are hidden beneath the soil and asphalt of the airstrip. It is vital that this site is thoroughly examined in order to find any other significant items or sites in the area,” she said.

Unfortunately, winter conditions challenge completing the required assessment as the snow presently obscures the ground.

The Simpcw spokesperson noted that archaeological artifacts, as well as areas of known archaeological potential, are protected under the Heritage Conservation Act (HCA), which requires individuals and organizations to complete archaeological studies and obtain necessary permits before work begins.

This legislation applies on both public and private land, and is in place to preserve and protect the culture and history of Canada’s past. Failure to comply with the guidelines set out in the HCA carries many serious penalties, such as jail time and fines up to $1 million. It is important that any individual or organization that does any project or task that could pose a threat to archaeological data practice due diligence in order to avoid these consequences.

District of Barriere is now working together with Simpcw First Nation and Terra Archaeology to obtain the required permits from the Archaeology Branch, develop a work plan, and complete the project with minimal disturbance to the artifacts that may still be contained within the site.

If you require more information about this issue or have questions about the permit and assessment process for your own project, contact Steven Patterson at Simpcw First Nation, (250) 672-9995 or steven.patterson@simpcw.com.

Simpcwemc (Simpcw People) have lived in Simpcwul’ecw (Simpcw Territory), the North Thompson and Robson Valley region since the end of the last Ice Age, about 10,000 years ago. Their territory includes the North Thompson drainage basin from McLure northward, as well as the Robson Valley area from McBride to Jasper, including the upper reaches of the Fraser watershed.

The western boundary of Simpcw territory borders on the Bowron Lakes in the north and takes in part of the Bonaparte Plateau in the south, while the eastern boundary includes parts of the Columbia and Peace River drainage systems. Originally the Simpcw had active villages and a network of trails throughout this vast territory.

During the 19th Century, however, many Simpcw villages were virtually wiped out by epidemics of smallpox, measles and influenza. The survivors re-grouped at Chu Chua, the main Simpcw reserve community of today, but Simpcw people continue to travel throughout their territory and continue using their cultural resources through a seasonal round of hunting, fishing and gathering activities.

Barriere Mayor Bill Humphreys is putting a positive spin to the work stoppage.

“As one resident said, there is always an upside,” the mayor commented. “It may be that we may uncover an important archeological site and it will be a drawing point for many people that are interested in the heritage of our area.”

The mayor added that the District of Barriere could move the sewer pipe if it has to.

“That would involve finding the funding to do so,” he said. “Not an easy task but it is possible if needed.”