The area on Cordova Bay Road where ancestral human remains were discovered Feb. 22. (Submitted photo)

The area on Cordova Bay Road where ancestral human remains were discovered Feb. 22. (Submitted photo)

Human remains discovery a reminder of B.C. Indigenous culture dug up and displaced

‘These are the people who inspired and birthed the generations that we now have here’

The discovery of ancestral human remains may seem like an exciting historical find for some people, but for First Nations watching the burial grounds of their ancestors being torn up, it is often anything but.

On Feb. 22, BC Hydro crews working to install underground services for the Haro development in Greater Victoria’s Cordova Bay neighbourhood revealed what have since been confirmed to be the ancestral human remains of one person.

The area, which is the traditional territory of the WSANEC (W̱SÁNEĆ) and Lekwungen (Lək̓ʷəŋən) people, was a hub of Coast Salish life. Tsawout First Nation councillor Mavis Underwood said the area was once known for its richness of life and was where people would gather sea foods and harvest plants.

RELATED: Ancestral human remains found at Victoria construction site

RELATED: Vancouver Island history unveiled in Broken Islands dig

For centuries now, she said, as settlers have displaced First Nations off their traditional land, their artifacts have been unearthed and withheld. It’s only recently that governments began communicating with First Nations about the repatriation of stolen artifacts and consulting with them when new ones were found.

Between 1946 and 1960, as development of the area took hold, University of Victoria anthropologist Brian Thom said he believes over nine bodies were found. Now, with development once again underway, it’s possible more discoveries will be made.

“These are our ancestors,” Underwood said. “These are the people who inspired and birthed the generations that we now have here.” To have them dug up and displaced during development is offensive, she explained.

“It’s very sad and depressing to continually understand that the markers of our civilization are being taken off the land,” Underwood said. “It’s an act of extinguishment.”

While it’s become more common for developers and municipalities to have an Indigenous consultant on hand to help them navigate working on historical sites more respectfully, Underwood noted that consultant may not know the cultural practices of the First Nation being affected.

Some of these concerns are being addressed in the new Cordova Bay Local Area Plan, which is scheduled to go before Saanich council March 8. In it, for the first time ever, there is acknowledgement that Indigenous peoples lived there first.

“We have to come to terms with the fact that we’ve built this community right on top of an ancient Indigenous place,” Thom said.

The plan outlines the need to work closer with First Nations to address topics such as ancestral burial sites. It can be read at saanich.ca.

For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.

Indigenous remainsSaanich

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Photo: pixabay.com
Morning Start: Why do dogs like squeaky toys?

Your morning start for Tuesday, April 20, 2021

People are shown at a COVID-19 vaccination site in Montreal, Sunday, April 18, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
211 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health over the weekend

Currently, there are 875 active cases of the virus in the region

A nurse prepares a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 16. As of April 19, more than 230,000 doses have been administered across the Interior Health region. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press)
More than 230K doses of COVID-19 vaccine administered across Interior Health

A total of 220,216 first doses and 13,775 second doses have been given to residents across the B.C. Interior

A new non-profit after school program starts in Revelstoke. The Revelstoke Afterschool Society focuses on spending time outside. school (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)
Columbia Basin Trust doles out funds for child care providers

Sixteen Revelstoke providers received money

FILE – NDP Leader John Horgan, right, and local candidate Mike Farnworth greet one another with an elbow bump during a campaign stop in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday, September 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. won’t be using random individual road stops to enforce travel rules: Safety Minister

Minister Mike Farnworth says travel checks only being considered at major highway junctions, ferry ports

A man drowned while out swimming near the Peach and the children statue in Penticton on Monday, April 19, 2021. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Penticton man drowns swimming in Okanagan Lake

A witness brought him to shore and performed CPR but the man later died in hospital

FILE – Health-care workers wave to people clapping and yelling thank you to the frontline workers during the 7 p.m.-tribute outside the Lions Gate Hospital in North Vancouver, B.C. Wednesday, April 8, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. nurses issue plea for all to follow health orders as hospitalizations spike

Nurses worried about strain COVID-19 is having on hospital capacity, care

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

The river channel north of Osoyoos Lake where a man and his dog were rescued on April 19. (Google Maps)
Man and dog rescued from South Okanagan river channel

The man had driven his Jeep into the river off of the dike roadway near Osoyoos Lake

Jasmyn Yakura’s 2004 Chevy Aveo ended up going off Cosens Bay Road Sunday, April 18, with her behind the wheel, and coming to rest down a steep cliff. Yakura suffered only minor injuries. She was helped back to the road by a friend travelling behind her when the car left the road. (Yakura family photo)
North Okanagan driver credits seatbelt with saving life

Jasmyn Yakura, 17, survived after car went off Cosens Bay Road over a cliff, flipping ‘five or six times or more’

University of Victoria rowing coach Barney Williams is photographed in the stands during the Greater Victoria Invitational at CARSA Performance Gym at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, November 29, 2019. The University of Victoria says Williams has resigned effective immediately. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito)
University of Victoria women’s rowing coach resigns by mutual agreement

Lawsuit filed last summer accused Barney Williams of verbal abuse

Former B.C. premier Christy Clark. (Black Press Media files)
Former B.C. premier to testify at money laundering hearing today

Attorney General David Eby has been added to the witness list as well

Most Read