Pieces of history from thousands of years ago tumbled to the surface as excavators dug a trench for a new sewer pipe on Sechelt Indian Band (SIB) lands recently.
Archeologist Kenzie Jessome said he had a local crew on scene before the digging began on Chelpi Road because he was certain cultural remains lay hidden beneath the ground. Most of the waterfront and many interior areas of Sechelt contain First Nation artifacts, as Native people lived here long before English settlers arrived.
The trench for the sewer line was about 2.5 metres deep, Jessome said, adding the channel (about 45 metres long) produced 2,391 bone artifacts and 1,070 rock artifacts.
There were many pieces of jewelry collected, made from whale teeth and eagle claws, as well as arrowheads and other sensitive cultural remains dating back about 4,000 years ago.
One exciting discovery was evidence of a once thriving longhouse in the area.
“When we got right down to the base level, what we got was a huge black stain that extended at least 20 metres up the trench. That suggests to me that was an early longhouse because house floors are notoriously clean of artifacts,” Jessome said.
“So it shows that area, which now has a Catholic Church on it, has been a spiritually significant place for the Sechelt Nation for many, many, many centuries. We’re talking 50 to 75 generations back. This is an extremely old deposit.”
Crews also found evidence of the previous Catholic Church in the trench, dating back to the late 1800s.
“We have fragments of wood down there that have been burnt and they’re milled so they’re part of the old church that burned down in 1897,” Jessome said. “We’ve also got historic machine-punched nails before the industrial revolution suggesting they’re probably part of the church. We also have some broken glass and ceramics that are probably associated with the church because they’ve been burnt.”
The church remnants and the cultural artifacts were taken to the tems swiya Museum to be cleaned, catalogued and eventually put on display.
For the first time, Sechelt Nation members were involved in every aspect of the archeology dig and preserving what was found.
Jessome has been training a group of men in archeology for some time and said he was pleased to be able to call on them.
“It’s all come full circle now,” Jessome said, noting two young women, Erika Vader and Corinna Julius, will soon receive more training in curation from the Museum of Civilization in Ottawa. “They’ll be going on a four-week course to learn more skills.”
SIB Coun. Jordan Louie said council is proud to have local members trained to help preserve their shared history.
“Having that work experience will go a long way. We only have one Kenzie here and we have a very, very large territory, so the more we can spread it around the faster response we can have,” Louie said.
He noted that anyone in Sechelt who’s planning a renovation or build that requires digging should contact the SIB at 604-740-5600 to ensure artifacts can be checked for, extracted and preserved if present.