CHARLIE LAKE, B.C. – The University of Northern BC-led field study taking place next month is expected to give the Tse’K’wa Heritage Society further information on the entire site’s history.

With past archeological digs focusing on the front of the cave, experts believe the findings were washed down and settled in that area.

Executive director for the Society, Alyssa Currie, says looking at the site through an Indigenous lens, the area above the cave is a convenient spot to hunt and oversee the landscape.

“Now, there’s very little evidence of people actually living in that site specifically. It’s a very small site. We haven’t done all the archeological investigations yet,” said Currie during an episode of Before The Peace.

“That seems the more likely place for there to be evidence of actual camps.”

The dig is a huge milestone for the site as the whole property will be surveyed. Currie believes this leads to identifying spots for futures excavations and areas to avoid.

” If we need to dig a hole for a pit house or an outhouse. We want to know that we’re doing that work and doing those upgrades with as few disturbances as possible.”

The study will begin in May for six weeks and have representatives from Simon Fraser University (SFU) and Treaty 8 community members, including Doig River, West Moberly, and Prophet River.

“One of our important goals for the field school is understanding the value of bringing together both academic archaeological and traditional indigenous knowledge.”

The process leading to the dig kicked off last year when the society approached the province about wanting modern excavations at the site. The study will also give Dane-zaa people a chance to learn how to conduct archeology on their own territory.

“These are the experts in this territory on this land. But they’re not necessarily equipped with the specific archeological knowledge to technical knowledge that’s needed to do this type of work.”

Through the hands-on learning experience, students and Indigenous community members will learn everything from mapping the site to identifying artifacts and what to look for in a potential archeology site.

“For example, an ancient cave is a really convenient spot to look for ancient materials, but what about the other surrounding area? How do we know what areas we should be focusing on?”

Technology has advanced leaps and bounds since the first excavation in the ’80s. Currie says the modern techniques utilized during the field study will be essential for the site’s future potential.

Dr. Mike Richards, with the department of archaeology at SFU, will join the fieldwork, and Dr. Farid Rahemtulla with UNBC will lead the study.

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.

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

Listen to the full episode of Before The Peace with Currie below: