Lheidli T’enneh Memorial Park dig finds remains of 11 people

Lheidli T'enneh Chief Dominic Federick and Prince George Mayor Lyn Hall announce they will work towards finding a permanent home for remains found in Lheidli T'enneh Memorial Park. Bill Phillips photo
Lheidli T’enneh Chief Dominic Federick and Prince George Mayor Lyn Hall announce they will work towards finding a permanent home for remains found in Lheidli T’enneh Memorial Park. Bill Phillips photo

BY BILL PHILLIPS

bill@pgdailynews.ca

When construction began on a new pavilion in Lheidli T’enneh Memorial Park, the city suspected that artifacts and/or remains might be unearthed.

Part of what is now the park had been the site of a Lheidli T’enneh village near the Hudson’s Bay Company fort, established in the 1820s, and the Lheidli T’enneh burial ground, which had originally been adjacent to the village, is still actively used by the Lheidli T’enneh so the possibility of unearthing remains was there.

Construction was halted earlier this summer when bones were discovered at the pavilion site. An archaeological dig unearthed the remains of 11 humans along with other artifacts.

“The next step is to work together to place the remains somewhere and place something up,” said Lheidli T’enneh Chief Dominic Frederick. “The remains should be somewhere and protected, not just put in the museum. We have to show some respect for the ancestors.”

The remains are currently being kept at The Exploration Place. The city will work with the Lheidli T’enneh to find a permanent resting place for the remains, likely somewhere within the park.

“Our primary focus now is to take a look at where a natural resting place may be for those remains,” said Mayor Lyn Hall. “It’s important to respect those remains that have been found.”

Hall said they may look at some sort of mausoleum for the remains. Frederick said it would be “proper” to have the final resting place somewhere within the park, likely within the existing cemetery.

While the 11 sets of remains were found within the very small area where the pavilion is being built, there is no push to examine other areas of the park for remains.

“We’d like them to not dig any more, or build, in the park,” said Frederick. “The more you dig, the more you’re going to find.”

The city and the Lheidli T’enneh developed the idea of a pavilion in the park that would be an expression of the partnership between the two governments. Along with the new permanent Lheidli T’enneh exhibition at The Exploration Place, the pavilion will be provide public education regarding the history of the Lheidli T’enneh. Public art to be displayed within the pavilion will depict Lheidli T’enneh culture, language, and history.

Viking Construction of Prince George is building the pavilion. The concrete pout for the main structure columns is happening today and other elements will be installed over the summer. Complete is expected later this fall. The budget for the pavilion is $809,000.

  • Jo G

    Has anyone considered extracting DNA samples from the bones as well as teeth?

    I understand that the found conditions and subsequent handling with respect to the environment in which they are kept post excavation would impact the ability to extract samples for DNA examination.

    An attempt by forensic experts should be done, however, to at least determine whether the remains are from indigenous humans or those from other parts of the world.

    The park was the site of the trading post as well as the village as built to be close to the trading post.

    It is, for instance, known that one of the overlanders coming by way of the Fraser, died at the trading post and was buried in a folded canoe. It was considered at one time by the PG Heritage Advisory Commission to put up a memorial for that individual.

    It was never done.

    It is never too late to do so. The area is the burial ground of both First Nations as well as explorers/settlers from other parts of the world.