Coastal GasLink has suspended work at its site south of Houston while claims of the discovery of artifacts on the site are investigated.
The company has started work on constructing a natural gas pipeline through the area. The pipeline has faced stiff opposition from the Unist’ot’en, one of the Wet’suwet’en clans, whose traditional territory the pipeline will pass through. Last week two Unist’ot’en supporters conducted a survey of about about a quarter of the worksite. They say a complete biface stone tool was recovered alongside a partial base fragment of a stem point. According to the Unist’ot’en Camp website, archaeologists from the Smithsonian Institution, Dr. Chelsey G. Armstrong and her colleagues as well as Dr. Chris Springer estimate that the stem point is likely 2,400-3,500 years old.
On being notified of the find, Coastal GasLink says, in a statement on its website, that it cordoned off and protected the area and requested that a qualified archeologist visit the site. The Oil and Gas Commission (OGC) will also visit the site to further investigate the claims.
Coastal GasLink has implemented an approved Heritage Resource Discovery Contingency Plan while notifying the responsible regulatory authorities. As part of the permitting requirements, an Archeological Impact Assessment (AIA) was completed for the site and nearby area, it says.
During the regulatory and permitting process, Coastal GasLink and its archaeologists were not able to access the 9A site due to road access issues and were therefore unable to conduct onsite fieldwork. as a result, experienced licensed archeologists from northern B.C. assessed the potential for artifacts at the site. The assessment determined low potential and no further work was required. The AIA was approved by the BC Archeology Branch in 2016.
There are no known archeological sites registered within 2,000 metres of the site, according to Coastal GasLink, which was selected because of it being a previously disturbed area. The site in question was previously cleared and used as part of forestry work.
“The discovery of these stone tools reaffirms Unist’ot’en knowledge and oral history, which indicate this site as being one of prior significant occupancy,” according to a statement on the Unist’ot’en Camp website. “Further testing and research must be done to determine the density of artifacts and features in proximity of the proposed CGL development. Such research could reveal the temporality of occupancy, size of potential settlements and/or hunting camps, types of activities associated with the site, possibility of being a burial site containing human remains as well as numerous other potential findings.”