UNBC led field school to conduct new archaeological dig at Tse’K’wa

CHARLIE LAKE, B.C. – The University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) will be conducting a new archaeologica…

CHARLIE LAKE, B.C. – The University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) will be conducting a new archaeological dig at Tse’K’wa next year as part of a community-based field study.

The UNBC will be the academic lead during the field school, which is expected to begin in May 2022 for six weeks. The post-secondary institution will be applying for the archaeological permit, and academic credits for the study will be distributed through the school.

Alyssa Currie, executive director for the Tse’K’wa Heritage Society, says representatives from Simon Fraser University (SFU) and community members from the surrounding Indigenous communities will also be joining the study.

“One of the things that is very exciting for us is that this is going to be community-based archaeology, which means that it’s going to be archaeology done in complete collaboration both with and for our indigenous communities,” said Currie.

Dr. Mike Richards, with the department of archaeology at SFU, will join the fieldwork, which will be led by Dr. Farid Rahemtulla with UNBC.

The cave was documented by archaeologist Knut Fladmark, with SFU, in 1974 while conducting a field investigation for the Bennett Dam. He returned with Dr. Jon Driver, another SFU professor, to excavate the discovery in 1983, 1990 and 1991.

The front of the cave was dug up during the field sessions, and several artifacts were found, including spear points, arrow points, scraping tools and grinding tools, and a harpoon head made of antler and bone. A human jawbone was also found along with the remains of multiple animals such as bison.

With what has already been discovered, experts believe this is evidence that more artifacts will be found in the nearby area of the cave.

“Particularly in the area above the cave, which is where we think, based on oral histories, is where our communities would have actually camped and been able to overlook what is now called Charlie Lake,” said Currie.

“The new digs this summer are hoping to have a baseline survey of what archaeological artifacts might be found on the entire property. Moving forward, we’ll be able to do more thorough investigations depending on what we find during that initial survey.”

The project is still in the planning stages as permits still need to be approved before the dig, and UNBC needs to work out the logistics behind the course. Currie says more information will be released in the future.

Peace River Hydro Partners recently donated $25,000 to the Tse’K’wa Heritage Society in honour of the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation. This donation will help to assist the Society as they change from a volunteer-managed site into a year-round public interpretive education and cultural centre.

Tse’K’wa was designated as a historical site by Parks Canada in 2019 and was purchased by local First Nations in 2012.

Garry Oker, president of Tse’K’wa Heritage Society, spoke about the past and future on the Before the Peace podcast, which can be heard below:

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