Monday, January 28, 2008

Future Port development could hinge on respect for the memories of the past

The twin themes of archaeology and development were front and centre at a recent gathering of the Allied Tribes of the Coast Tsimshian, as former Lieutenant Governor Iona Campagnola moderated a three day seminar into Prince Rupert Harbour Archaeological Management Planning.

In her role as moderator, Campagnola observed that, "Our world is moving at an ever accelerating pace, which give us a real sense of urgency. The Coast Tsimshian are aware that their's is one of the great histories of North America and the World and must be protected as such."

Comments which served to provide the theme of the seminar.

During the course of the three day event held last week, James Bryant, Cultural Liaison for the Lax Kw'alaams, outlined the how the leaders of Lax Kw'alaams and Metlakatla will work together to address their interests and concerns regarding archaeology and development, particularly around the Prince Rupert Harbour portion of the Coast Tsimshian territory.

The issue has been one of the more controversial aspects of the development of the Fairview Container Port in the recent past and will surely become centre point to ongoing negotiations over plans to expand the Terminal.

Part of the concerns of the Allied Tribes is the protection and commemoration of ancient burial sites, some of which go back close to 10,000 years.

Dr. George MacDonald, a world renowned authority on the archaeology of the Prince Rupert area told the seminar that these “wet sites” have been confirmed in the Phase II area of the container port expansion which repeats the conditions of a site destroyed by the Phase I development, from which more than 600 wooden and basketry items were found before bulldozers destroyed the main part of the site.

"Wet sites provide the kind of artworks in wood that trace the emergence of the Northwest Coast art form over thousands of years. This art form has been declared as significant to the heritage of mankind. , according to MacDonald earlier sites in the area have been dated to 10,000 years, with expectation of 14,000 years once sites higher on Kaien Island have been tested.

It’s that issue which may prove to be the most cumbersome to navigate in those ongoing discussions, with the key approach being one of communication and transparency among all sides of the process.

At the seminar Bryant suggested that one of the first items to be taken care of will be the commemoration of their ancestors, many of whom have been laid to rest under the pavement of Fairview Terminal. Taking one step at a time, they are hopeful that a new level of mutual trust will be built between all participants as they prepare to look at the larger issues.

While progress is a welcome thing for the north coast, a nod to tradition and commemoration of the past is also going to be a major ingredient to whatever may come from the Prince Rupert waterfront in the years to come.

The development of the port and its impact on First Nations culture has become a rather interesting point of discussion among archeologists and sociologists, with a few press releases turning up on American and Canadian public relations sites in the last few days, as well as an entry in an environmental blog, all in a bid to address the current situation.

It makes for an interesting view on some of the situations that the potential Container Port Expansion will have to navigate in the months and years to come. Rupert Harbour development threatens Coast Tsimshian remains
Marktewire--Prince Rupert Harbour development threatens Coast Tsimshian remains

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