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Tse’k’wa Heritage Society receives $25,000 in honour of Truth and Reconciliation Day

Funds will help develop national historic site into year-round interpretive centre

The Tse’k’wa Heritage Society has received a $25,000 gift to support its efforts to develop and preserve the national historic cave site at Charlie Lake. 

Peace River Hydro Partners, the main civil works contractor for the Site C dam, says it made the donation in honour of the inaugural National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, and to help the society transform the volunteer-managed site into a year-round public interpretive education and cultural centre.

“We need to create cultural heritage education programs to share with the public the importance of this national historic site in our region,” said Tse’k’wa Society President Garry Oker in a release, adding, “It will be good for tourism.”

Tse’k’wa Heritage Society President Garry Oker and Executive Director Alyssa Currie in front of the Tse’k’wa national historic cave site at Charlie Lake. By Peace River Hydro Partners

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.

Among the hundreds of artifacts found were a 10,500-year-old stone bead — the oldest example of human adornment in North America — along with spear and arrow points, harpoon heads, and bones from humans and various animals including bison and raven. 

Some of the artifacts on display by the Tse’k’wa Heritage Society. By Peace River Hydro Partners

The artifacts tell stories of travel patterns and ceremonial practices, and make the cave one of the most significant sites on the continent. Parks Canada designated the cave as a national historic site in 2019.

During a recent tour of the site, PRHP staff learned about the spiritual and ceremonial significance of the cave, and were shown the educational reproductions and original artifacts recovered during excavations.

Some of the artifacts on display by the Tse’k’wa Heritage Society. By Peace River Hydro Partners

“These resources provide hands-on learning experiences for visitors” said Tse’k’wa Executive Director Alyssa Currie. “The gift from Peace River Hydro Partners is going to help us provide a better learning experience for everyone.”

“Preservation and education go hand-in-hand at Tse’k’wa. By increasing awareness of the significance of the site, we can ensure that it is preserved for current and future generations," said Tse’k’wa Executive Director Alyssa Currie in a release. 

"We are seeing a demand for Indigenous cultural heritage education, especially among schools and youth-based groups. This donation will provide a foundation to help Tse’k’wa grow and meet this need.”

Some of the artifacts on display by the Tse’k’wa Heritage Society. By Peace River Hydro Partners

Local First Nations, including Doig River, West Moberly, and Prophet River bought the land with the cave in 2012. The partnering nations all contribute to the operating costs of the non-profit society. Fundraising efforts to support the site are ongoing.

Tse’k’wa operates on private property, and visitors or donors are asked to register ahead of time before visiting the site by calling 250-224-7906 or emailing Access to the site from the bottom via Rimrock Road is not permitted.

The Tse’k’wa Heritage Society is marking the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation by hosting tours of the site from 3:30 to 5:00 p.m. on Thursday Sept. 30. Visitors to the site will follow a path of orange t-shirts that share the story of Tse’k’wa and Dane-ẕaa language, leading to the cave itself. Visitors are asked to wear masks and social distance.

The Tse’k’wa Heritage Society plans to develop its national historic cave site and private property into a year-round interpretive centre. By Peace River Hydro Partners

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