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New archaeological dig planned at Charlie Lake cave site

Anthropological relevance of national historic site remains critically important to Northern B.C. nations
tsekwa-training
An archaeology demonstration showcasing previous excavations at the Charlie Lake cave site. The demonstration was hosted by Tse'K'wa Heritage Society last summer as part of a training program called 'Telling the Story: Culture, Archaeology, and Curation.'

An ancient cave site at Charlie Lake will go under the shovel for the first time in more than 30 years this spring. 

The Tse'K'wa Heritage Society will host an archaeology field school at the national historic site from May 2 to June 10.

Executive Director Alyssa Currie says she’s excited to partner with the University of Northern British Columbia to make the excavations happen.

“There’s a lot of excitement from the community, the number of people interested far exceeds the number of spaces available, which is a good problem to have,” said Currie. “We’re really encouraged by that and we’re excited to see how this can launch into future opportunities.”

Twelve students will be taking part — six from UNBC and six community members from Treaty 8 First Nation, including Doig River, West Moberly, and Prophet River. 

“We’ll also be bringing in local knowledge keepers, Dunne-za elders, and those in our community that we really feel can add to the education components to our field school,” said Currie. “One of our important goals for the field school is understanding the value of bringing together both academic archaeological and traditional indigenous knowledge.”

Tse’K’wa means rock house, and though well-known to local residents and First Nations, the cave was discovered by archaeologists in 1974 and excavated in the early 1980s. Among the artifacts found were a 10,500 year-old stone bead, spear and arrow points, harpoon heads, and bones from humans and various animals including bison and raven.

Students this year will camp out at Charlie Lake and take part in new excavation just behind the cave, said Currie. The anthropological relevance of the site remains critically important to Northern B.C. and the First Nations who call the region home, she said.

"It's really important as part of reclaiming the cultural heritage of the Dunne-za people, that we empower them with these skills to be able to do that work," said Currie. 

The field school also ties into the society's plans to develop a cultural centre at the site, added Currie. 

“This field school is part of a larger movement for community-led and community engaged field schools, and community engaged archaeology, which is to say that this is archaeology that is done by the community and for the community,” she said.


Tom Summer, Alaska Highway News, Local Journalism Initiative. Email Tom at tsummer@ahnfsj.ca