BCOGC public statement on archaeological findings show ‘clear lack of understanding’ of Wet’suwet’en history: Unist’ot’en Camp

RCMP breach a barrier put up by demonstrators last year in what could be considered a boiling point between the gas company and those protecting their traditional lands. (Micheal Toledano photo)

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WET’SUWET’EN TRADITIONAL TERRITORY / BURNS LAKE — Months following the tense encounter between demonstrators at Unist’ot’en Camp and the RCMP, the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission (BCOGC) responded to archeological findings that have so far halted developments of proposed Coastal GasLink (CGL) Camp 9A.

Unist’ot’en Camp demonstrators stated in a press release March 11 that a recent BCOGC information bulletin may contain misleading or unsubstantiated claims. BCOGC does, in fact, confirm stone tools were removed from the nation’s traditional territories. In addition, BCOGC stated in the bulletin that while they may not know the original location from where the stone tools were removed, they are not able to make “a definitive determination on their exact location of origin.” Many demonstrators are clear that the tools were removed without consent.

A demonstrator holds up a feather as a symbol of peace while police monitor the situation, which resulted in arresting an Elder and a few of the camp’s leaders. (Micheal Toledano photo)

Now waiting on independent archeologists to assess the tools and site from which they were found, the BCOGC’s bulletin claims that an initial archaeological site visit had taken place after the company workers had stopped developments at Camp 9A on Feb. 14. So far, archaeologists have not yet completed assessments within the Unist’ot’en section of the pipeline. Other sections have already undergone assessments, in which a number of records indicate multiple archaeological sites along the right of way.

In the press release the demonstrators note that there may be “high archaeological potential (at the site) as it sits near the confluence of three major rivers, countless Wet’suwet’en place names, major trail networks, and that Camp 9A itself bisects a well-known prehistoric trade trail.”

“BCOGC’s bulletin is disappointing given the lack of proper communication with Unist’ot’en on this issue. No attempt has been made to include us in the archaeological work conducted on our own territory. Wet’suwet’en cultural artifacts cannot be properly identified and analyzed without the input of Wet’suwet’en people,” the press release stated.

“A Cultural Mission,” Unist’ot’en Camp video on the importance of cultural resurgence, reconnecting the nation back to the traditional lands.

Demonstrators are now calling for the archaeology branch of the BCOGC to take the camp’s considerations into account and show respect to the Unist’ot’en people and their ancestors by conducting an assessment, rather than continue on with “destruction and erasure” of the nation’s culture, the press release continued.

Sources indicate that RCMP officers from across the province are still being sent in to the camp to monitor the situation as of March 2019. This comes months after what could be considered a boiling point between the demonstrators – protectors of their traditional lands – and the gas company who is still going ahead with the developments.

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