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FIRST NATIONS HERITAGE SITE PROTECTION BY THE ISLANDS TRUST: OPPORTUNITIES AND LIMITATIONS

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Title: FIRST NATIONS HERITAGE SITE PROTECTION BY THE ISLANDS TRUST: OPPORTUNITIES AND LIMITATIONS
Author: Campbell, Courtney
Issue Date: 2009-02
Publicly Available in cIRcle 2010-05-06
Series/Report no. University of British Columbia, Master's Graduating Project
Abstract: First nations heritage sites include archaeological sites as well as other places of spiritual importance that do not necessarily have any physical marker. Archaeological sites consist of the physical remains of past human activity and are essential to understanding and appreciating the cultural history of British Columbia (BC Archaeology Branch). In the Gulf Islands shell middens are found along much of the coastline and represent the remaining physical record of villages or harvesting camps. Other archaeological sites include but are not limited to petroglyphs, burial caves, rock cairns, and fishing weirs (Cassidy, Acheson, & Claxton, 1975). Coastal areas that are desirable locations for towns and homes today are often the same places that were used by past cultures for their settlements. In the past, few people, developers, governments, or citizens, were concerned about damaging or destroying these sites, and many are lost forever. This damage to archaeological sites continues today; one need only think of Poets Cove on South Pender Island to realize that more needs to be done to prevent the destruction of these sites that can be of high cultural and spiritual importance to first nations people, and also hold the key to a better understanding of the past (McLay, 2004, p. 13). Once lost, they are lost forever. Protecting archaeological sites is not just about preserving history or adding to the archaeological record, but it is also about maintaining connections to important places for cultures that are very much alive. It is not just about a “culture”, it is about families and individual people, alive today, who have inherited the stories of these places and who remain connected to them as part of their identity (Thom, 2005). Many archaeological or other heritage sites have been destroyed or significantly altered by modern development, and it behooves local governments, who now have the tools available to identify conflicts between proposed developments and archaeological sites, to do what they can to contribute to their protection. First nations heritage sites are found across the landscape of North America, and they are particularly concentrated in the Gulf Islands of coastal British Columbia (McLay, 2004). Many of these sites have been destroyed or damaged due to insensitive development and ignorant or careless members of the public, despite their legislated protection. The Islands Trust is the local government for these islands, and is wellpositioned to contribute to the improved protection of first nations heritage sites through the development approval and land use planning process. Numerous first nations in the Islands Trust Area have already entered into relationships with the Islands Trust with the aim of working together on issues of mutual interest such as the protection of heritage sites. A significant example is the Hul’qumi’num Treaty Group (HTG) that represents six first nations in the Trust Area and is in the process of developing a protocol agreement with the Islands Trust specifically for the protection of heritage sites. The Islands Trust planning staff is currently involved in protecting archaeological sites in the Trust Area by alerting landowners to their presence when applications for development are submitted. However, planners are experiencing some uncertainty over what steps are legal requirements or ethically desirable, and what specific procedures should be followed when processing applications, preparing staff reports, and communicating with landowners and first nations in order to protect archaeological sites. There is concern over an added workload for already busy planning staff, that applications will take longer to process, and that there is a lack of clear direction, procedures, and resources. With the Islands Trust – Hul’qumi’num Treaty Group protocol nearing completion, there remain uncertainties about how it will be implemented. This report addresses these issues and aims to contribute to a detailed understanding of how policy might be implemented at the operational level.
Affiliation: Community and Regional Planning (SCARP), School of
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2429/24460
Peer Review Status:

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