The area on Cordova Bay Road where ancestral human remains were discovered Feb. 22. (Submitted photo)

The area on Cordova Bay Road where ancestral human remains were discovered Feb. 22. (Submitted photo)

Human remains discovery a reminder of B.C. Indigenous culture dug up and displaced

‘These are the people who inspired and birthed the generations that we now have here’

The discovery of ancestral human remains may seem like an exciting historical find for some people, but for First Nations watching the burial grounds of their ancestors being torn up, it is often anything but.

On Feb. 22, BC Hydro crews working to install underground services for the Haro development in Greater Victoria’s Cordova Bay neighbourhood revealed what have since been confirmed to be the ancestral human remains of one person.

The area, which is the traditional territory of the WSANEC (W̱SÁNEĆ) and Lekwungen (Lək̓ʷəŋən) people, was a hub of Coast Salish life. Tsawout First Nation councillor Mavis Underwood said the area was once known for its richness of life and was where people would gather sea foods and harvest plants.

RELATED: Ancestral human remains found at Victoria construction site

RELATED: Vancouver Island history unveiled in Broken Islands dig

For centuries now, she said, as settlers have displaced First Nations off their traditional land, their artifacts have been unearthed and withheld. It’s only recently that governments began communicating with First Nations about the repatriation of stolen artifacts and consulting with them when new ones were found.

Between 1946 and 1960, as development of the area took hold, University of Victoria anthropologist Brian Thom said he believes over nine bodies were found. Now, with development once again underway, it’s possible more discoveries will be made.

“These are our ancestors,” Underwood said. “These are the people who inspired and birthed the generations that we now have here.” To have them dug up and displaced during development is offensive, she explained.

“It’s very sad and depressing to continually understand that the markers of our civilization are being taken off the land,” Underwood said. “It’s an act of extinguishment.”

While it’s become more common for developers and municipalities to have an Indigenous consultant on hand to help them navigate working on historical sites more respectfully, Underwood noted that consultant may not know the cultural practices of the First Nation being affected.

Some of these concerns are being addressed in the new Cordova Bay Local Area Plan, which is scheduled to go before Saanich council March 8. In it, for the first time ever, there is acknowledgement that Indigenous peoples lived there first.

“We have to come to terms with the fact that we’ve built this community right on top of an ancient Indigenous place,” Thom said.

The plan outlines the need to work closer with First Nations to address topics such as ancestral burial sites. It can be read at saanich.ca.

For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.

Indigenous remainsSaanich

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Kimberley case counts not at the point for 18 years and older community vaccination, says Interior Health. (File photo)
Many factors considered for smaller community-wide vaccination: Interior Health

East Kootenay resort town’s COVID-19 situation not at the point of community-wide vaccination, say officials

A woman wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as she walks past the emergency entrance of Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
54 more cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

Thirty-two people in the region are in hospital with the virus, 11 of them in intensive care

While pharmacies across B.C. are using AstraZeneca for public immunizations for people 40 years of age and older, there is no availability currently in the Kootenays. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
No AstraZeneca vaccine availability in Kootenay pharmacies, says Interior Health

Vaccine has been opened up at pharmacies in other areas of the province to people 40 years of age and older

Michel-Natal-Sparwood Heritage Society runs a museum that was established to display the heritage of the "no-longer towns" of Michel and Natal, and the Elk Valley Area. Photo Submitted/Monica Beranek, Artifact Curator
Sparwood to support museum financially through to December 2022

The district will provide financial support for the museum to hire a full-time director

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson outlines the province’s three-year budget in Victoria, April 20, 2021. (B.C. government video)
B.C. deficit to grow by $19 billion for COVID-19 recovery spending

Pandemic-year deficit $5 billion lower than forecast

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and United States President Joe Biden smile as they say farewell following a virtual joint statement in Ottawa, Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau pledges to cut emissions by 40% to 45% by 2030, short of U.S. goal

Trudeau announced target during a virtual climate summit convened by U.S. President Joe Biden

MLA Shirley Bond, right, answers questions during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on February 19, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Former B.C. gaming minister says she wasn’t told directly about dirty cash flowing to casinos

Shirley Bond said Thursday civil forfeiture, gang violence and gambling addiction were also major concerns in 2011

RCMP Constable Etsell speaks to tourists leaving the area at a police roadblock on Westside Road south of Fintry, B.C., Thursday, July 23, 2009. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Yvonne Berg
B.C. police say they take ‘exception’ to conducting roadblocks limiting travel

Asking the police to enforce roadblocks exposes officers to further risk and possible COVID-19 infections, says federation president Brian Sauve

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

As part of the province’s strategy to combat the opioid overdose crisis, take-home naloxone kits have been distributed throughout the province. (Courtesy of Gaëlle Nicolussi)
Vancouver Island could be at its worst point of overdose crises yet: medical health officer

Island Health issued overdose advisories for Victoria, various communities in the last two weeks

BC Hydro released a survey Thursday, April 22. It found that many British Columbians are unintentionally contributing to climate change with their yard maintenance choices. (Pixabay)
Spend a lot of time doing yard work? It might be contributing to climate change

Recent BC Hydro survey finds 60% of homeowners still use gas-powered lawnmowers and yard equipment

Journal de Montreal is seen in Montreal, on Thursday, April 22, 2021. The daily newspaper uses a file picture of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau dressed in traditional Indian clothing during his trip to India to illustrate a story on the Indian variant of the coronavirus. Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press
Montreal newspaper blasted for front-page photo of Trudeau in India

Trudeau is wearing traditional Indian clothes and holding his hands together in prayer beside a caption that reads, ‘The Indian variant has arrived’

Nanaimo RCMP say a man was injured while pouring gunpowder on a backyard fire in Harewood on Wednesday, April 21. (File photo)
Nanaimo man hospitalized after pouring gunpowder onto backyard fire

RCMP investigating explosion in Harewood also came across a still for making alcohol on property

Most Read