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

Interior Health nurses were administering COVID-19 vaccines to seniors and care aides in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 16. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Kelowna martial arts gym refusing patrons who have been vaccinated, wear masks

Interior Health previously issued a ticket to Flow Academy in February for non-compliance with public health orders

A worker is seen dismantling the damaged crane on April 13. (Aaron Hemens - Kelowna Capital News)
Crews dismantle crane damaged in Glenmore Construction fire

The crane expected to be removed by the end of the day

The Okanagan Forest Task Force’s only means of getting garbage out of the backcountry broke down on Tuesday, April 6. (Kane Blake - Okanagan Forest Task Force)
Okanagan forest cleanup group’s truck repaired free of charge

Okanagan Forest Task Force uses the truck to haul garbage out of the backcountry

Lime e-scooters will soon be offered in Kelowna. (Photo: Kris Krug)
E-scooters now allowed on Kelowna roadways under provincial pilot program

‘Rather than a novelty, this change will enable e-scooters to be used for more utilitarian transportation purposes’

(Aaron Hemens - Kelowna Capital News)
Man found tangled in barbed wire on trail near UBC Okanagan

Man’s friend claims he’d been drinking when he went missing Monday afternoon

Burnaby MLA Raj Chouhan presides as Speaker of the B.C. legislature, which opened it spring session April 12 with a speech from the throne. THE CANADIAN PRESS
B.C. NDP promises more health care spending, business support in 2021 budget

John Horgan government to ‘carefully return to balanced budgets’

A five-storey, 60-unit building has been proposed for 8709 Jubilee Rd. E., Summerland. The proposal will be the subject of a public hearing on March 22. (Image by GTA Architecture)
Zoning, OCP amendments adopted for Summerland housing development

Additional variances will be needed for controversial five-storey, 60-unit housing development

Guinevere, lovingly referred to by Jackee Sullivan and her family as Gwenny, is in need of a gynecological surgery. The family is raising money to help offset the cost of the procedure. (Jackee Sullivan/Special to Langley Advance Times)
Langley lizard’s owners raise funds for gynecological surgery

The young reptile is scheduled for operation on Tuesday

Facebook screenshot of the sea lion on Holberg Road. (Greg Clarke Facebook video)
VIDEO: Sea lion randomly spotted on remote B.C. logging road

Greg Clarke was driving home on the Holberg Road April 12, when he saw a large sea lion.

Defence counsel for the accused entered two not guilty pleas by phone to Grand Forks Provincial Court Tuesday, Jan. 12. File photo
B.C. seafood company owner fined $25K for eating receipt, obstructing DFO inspection

Richmond company Tenshi Seafood is facing $75,000 in fines as decided March 4 by a provincial court judge

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson speaks in the B.C. legislature, March 2, 2021. (Hansard TV)
B.C. NDP ministers defend ‘air tax,’ latest COVID-19 business aid

Empty home tax doesn’t apply to businesses, but space above them

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Sheila Derbyshire surprised her daughter, Talyn, at Len Wood Middle School in Armstrong April 12, 2021, for her 13th birthday with 13 clowns carrying 13 red balloons. (Sheila Derbyshire - Contributed)
Armstrong mom sends in the clowns

‘Halloween freak’ celebrates daughter’s 13th birthday in style

Air Canada cancelled service to and from Penticton Jan. 11, 2021. After receving $5.9 billion in federal aid the airline is now set to renew service on the route in June, 2021. (Mark Brett - Western News file)
Air Canada flights set to return to the South Okanagan

Federal aid could have the Vancouver/Penticton route back to pre-pandemic service

Most Read