A home demolition ran into an unexpected hurdle when human remains believed to be an ancient First Nations burial site were found on the property. (photo/Tim Collins)

Human bones found on B.C. construction site

Construction halted on a Vancouver Island property near where other First Nations remains had been found

The demolition of a home in Greater Victoria has uncovered what are believed to be the remains of an ancestral burial, in an area known to have long been occupied by First Nations people in the past.

The home had been torn down to make way for new construction and in the process of clearing the site, the remains were discovered. Police were contacted, as were the B.C. Coroners Service, but it was soon discovered that the find was not a modern burial site and the situation was turned over to the Provincial Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, who are responsible for the archaeological services provided by the government.

When remains are found, that government agency investigates the site, catalogues the find and works with the First Nations communities to ensure that the remains are dealt with in a respectful manner.

According to ministry spokesperson Jermy Uppenborn, it is a common occurrence. The ministry said that there are currently 54,000 burial places registered under the Heritage Protection Act and about 1,450 new sites are added annually.

It’s no surprise then that the discovery of First Nations burial sites is nothing new for the Cadboro Bay neighbourhood.

In late 2016 Carl Foght began a major renovation on his home, situated within a hundred meters of the Killarney Road property.

“It was March when we came across human remains on the site. I’d been warned that it might happen, but I didn’t really think it would be the case. It was a sort of ‘told you so’ moment,” said Foght.

“When we discovered the remains, we had Stantec (engineering consultants) on site and they made sure we did everything to be respectful to the First Nations and making sure we did everything right.”

Doing “everything right” was not an easy or inexpensive proposition for Foght.

“The whole process set us back about two months. They actually sifted the soil to make certain that nothing was missed and found not only the remains but harpoons, combs, and all manner of decorative artifacts with the remains,” he said.

“It added some cost for us, for sure. We had an archaeologist on site for the whole process at $100 an hour and for the re-internment ceremony we were charged an additional $600. But it’s a cost that you have to be prepared to absorb any time you do a renovation in this area.”

In the end, the remains of 13 people were found on the site, and at the request of the First Nations representatives the remains were re-interred in a different location at the far end of the same property.

“They had a ceremony to re-inter the bones and we agreed to have it done on our property out of respect for the First Nations community,” explained Foght. “We wanted to do it all the right way.”

Foght added that at no time in the entire process did he get the sense that the First Nations representatives were inclined to be anything but co-operative.

According to information provided by the Lkwungen Tung’exw First Nation, eight distinct family groups lived, fished, hunted and harvested the region’s coastal lands for as many as 8,000 years. A series of temporary settlements joined larger permanent villages at McNeil Bay and Willows Beach and formed a significant presence in the area prior to the coming of European settlers.

While the provincial government has developed a map of the area in which likely archaeological sites may exist, the fact is that residents don’t really know what may lie under their property until they put a spade in the ground.

“There’s a fellow across the street who is planning to put in a new driveway, and I’ve already warned him of what might be there and how it might become more complicated for him,” said Foght.

“As a homeowner you knew there is a possibility so you prepare yourself, but of course you’re not looking for it to happen.”

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

CN train derailment cleared between Terrace and Prince Rupert

The CN mainline is now open, following a train derailment mid-way between… Continue reading

State of local financial crisis declared in Fort St. James

The District will have a job fair on July 31 to help workers find transitioning jobs

Multiple-unit structure fire in Fort St. James

The fire is believed to be electrical in nature, Fire Chief said

Northern B.C.’s Ridley coal terminal sold, Canada divests, First Nations to own portion

Ten per cent of shares transferred to the Lax Kw’alaams Band and the Metlakatla First Nation

Skeena mainstem closed to recreational sockeye

Escapements expected to be below 800,000 threshold

VIDEO: Young couple found dead in northern B.C. had been shot, police say

Chynna Noelle Deese of the U.S. and Lucas Robertson Fowler of Australia were found along Highway 97

VIDEO: Man found dead near B.C. teens’ truck could be linked to a double homicide

RCMP said they are looking for Kam McLeod, 19, and Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, of Port Alberni

Latest plan is to fly trapped fish by helicopter over Big Bar slide

Multi-pronged plan set in motion to freesalmon blocked by landslide in the Fraser River

Family of missing B.C. senior with dementia frustrated with situation, heartened by community support

Nine days since Grace was last seen the question remains: ‘How can an 86-year-old just disappear?’

Unsealed record suggests U.S. man convicted of murdering Vancouver Island couple left DNA on zip tie in 1987

William Talbott is set to be sentenced Wednesday in the murders of Jay Cook and Tanya Van Cuylenborg

Coast Tsimshian sign historic stewardship agreement

Lax Kw’alaams and Metlakatla plan to work as one to preserve traditional lands

Okanagan Air Cadet challenges gender-exclusive haircut policy

Haircut regulation inspires challenge around gender identity

VIDEO: Bystander training gains traction as tool to prevent sexual harassment, violence

Julia Gartley was sexually assaulted after an event, and no one stepped in to help

Two brands of ice cream sandwiches recalled due to presence of metal

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency issued a recall on Iceberg and Originale Augustin brands

Most Read