Construction of the contentious Coastal GasLink pipeline was suspended late last week after members of the Unist’ot’en Clan of the Wet’suwet’en Nation found two Indigenous artifacts on the site where the company is currently building a work camp near Houston, British Columbia.
“It’s scientific confirmation of what Wet’suwet’en and Unist’ot’en people already know, which is that this is a spiritually and culturally important site,” said Anne Spice, a spokesperson for the Unist’ot’en protest camp and healing centre. “We’re just really concerned that that clearing will continue to happen and that they might damage more artifacts in that area.”
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Coastal GasLink maintains it adhered to the letter of the law when it first sought project approval, meeting B.C. Oil and Gas Commission requirements by having “experienced, licensed archeologists from Northern B.C.” conduct an archeological impact assessment using “regulator approved methods”, CBC reports.
But “the Unist’ot’en clan has been combing Site 9A for evidence of cultural use,” the community reports in an online update. “This is made possible by the heavy machinery turning up the forest floor and exposing potential archaeological features and artifacts.”
And all it took was “two Unist’ot’en supporters with limited archaeological knowledge” conducting a “pedestrian survey” of about one-quarter of the site to turn up the two artifacts, a complete biface stone tool, and a partial base fragment of a stem point. Archaeologists estimate the stem point is 2,400 to 3,500 years old, the Unist’ot’en camp states.
“Additional stone tools at the site were observed and recorded, but the scale and scope of the necessary archaeological work requires the assistance of professional archaeologists,” the community adds. Even so, “the discovery of these stone tools reaffirms Unist’ot’en knowledge and oral history, which indicate this site as being one of prior significant occupancy.”
The experience demonstrates that Coastal GasLink’s previous desktop study “has been completed remotely and does not involve the gathering of any archaeological information on the ground,” the web update contends. “This is not synonymous with an Archaeological Impact Assessment, and CGL has relied on the lack of clear definitions around AIA requirements to sidestep responsible archaeological practices.”
While Coastal GasLink has paused work at the man camp site, the community is calling for an immediate halt, insisting that “any further industrial activity would constitute a clear violation of both Wet’suwet’en and Canadian law.”