CHARLIE LAKE, B.C. – Delegates of the Northern Local Government AGM & Conference took a tour of the Tse’k’wa caves and National Historic Site.

During a tour on Tuesday, participants viewed the caves after gathering around a fire on the property, listening to traditional songs and elders speaking about the history and cultural significance of the site.

Garry Oker, a councillor with Doig River, told delegates about the plans for the Tse’K’wa site, including plans to make the site more accessible to visitors, a future amphitheatre, and an upcoming archeological dig set to commence on Monday.

“We’re collecting all the stories to say what happened, and it’s really exciting,” Oker told the delegates.

One delegate, Laxgalts’ap Councilor Peter Leeson, said some of the Tse’K’wa stories reminded him of some of the stories the Nisga’a people have.

“Some were in line with some of the stories we have, how we travelled for fishing, hunting, moving from site to site,” Leeson said.

“It just reminded me of some of the stories I heard, how they built camps and this one’s permanent, you can tell that it’s permanent and they used it for shelter when they fished and hunted in the are. I was quite impressed with that,” Leeson continued.

Another delegate, Maureen LeBourdais, Caribou Regional District director of Electoral Area F, also found the tour informative.

“I didn’t have too much of a preconception of what it was going to be, but I’ve visited other places in BC and North America that have that depth of time and history attached to them. It’s certainly interesting to see that right in here in B.C.,” Le Bourdais said.

“I appreciate the work and the interest of the community, both in reinvigorating their connection to their own culture but also educating their own community around them, as well as those of us that are from farther away, about how long the history of this area and human settlement really is,” Le Bourdais continued.

The archeological dig at Tse’K’wa will last for approximately six weeks. It will have representatives from UNBC and Treaty 8 community members, including Doig River, West Moberly, and Prophet River.

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.

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.

The cave was first 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.

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

Spencer Hall is a news reporter for energeticcity.ca and a recent graduate of the British Columbia Institute of Technology’s Radio Arts & Entertainment program. Growing up in Northwest B.C. made Spencer aware of the importance of local journalism, independent media, and reconciliation. In his spare time, you can find Spencer reading, playing video games, or at the FSJ dog park with his dog, Teddy.