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Construction underway at Tse’K’wa heritage site

Interpretive signage and more to be unveiled to the public this summer.
tamara-taylor (1)
Prophet River First Nation member Tamara St. Pierre and UNBC student Taylor Orton carefully sift through soil to look for flakes and fragments of bones and stone tools during last year's field school.

Development and preservation of the Tse’K’wa national historic cave site at Charlie Lake is continuing to grow with the installation of new interpretive signage and more. 

Tse’K’wa Heritage Society Executive Director Alyssa Currie says she’s excited to share the signage and is aiming to reopen to the public sometime in June. The signs will act as a self-guided tour for patrons. 

“Each sign encapsulates a different Dunne-za teaching, as well as an archaeological artifact found at the site. So, it gives our visitors a chance to walk the landscape that has been occupied by the ancestors of the Dunne-za and to hear about the significance of that landscape from their perspective,” said Currie. 

An amphitheatre, dome, picnic area, and interpretive centre are all being constructed as part of the site’s cultural centre envisioned by the Doig River, Prophet River and West Moberly First Nations to tell their ancestors’ story. 

“I think people are going to be so excited to see the new trail to the cave, it’s brand-new signage and it’s going to give people the opportunity to get acquainted or reacquainted with the site through a local indigenous lens,” Currie added. 

The signage was made possible with knowledge from local elders, said Currie, noting they’re also thankful for the grants and support from the First Peoples’ Council. A professional illustrator was also hired to create the signs, bringing to life artifacts from the site in their historical context. 

“We’ve been really busy bringing the site up to accessible public standards, we’re not quite ready yet, but we’re nearly ready to welcome the public back to the site,” said Currie. 

Tse’K’wa means rock house, and though well-known to local residents and First Nations, the cave was only discovered by archaeologists in 1974 and then excavated in the early 1980s. 

All told, the site contains 12,000 years of history, spanning from the ice age to modern day. The first new dig in 30 years was held last summer, picking up where Simon Fraser University (SFU) professor and bone expert Dr. Jon Driver left off in the 1990s.  

A brief second field school was completed this past May with UNBC and SFU, however, no digging was involved this time, noted Currie. Instead, the focus was artifact analysis and surveying. 

“The geophysical survey was our way of identifying areas of high impact for next year’s archaeology dig, using both ground radar and magnetometry,” said Currie. 

Tom Summer, Alaska Highway News, Local Journalism Initiative. Have a story idea or an opinion? Email

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