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Former Williams Lake resident returns artifact to local First Nation

Cheryl Engemoen and her late husband found the artifact in their garden in 2007
Cheryl Engemoen of Summerland is returning an artifact she and her husband found in Williams Lake to a B.C. First Nation. (Submitted photo)

An artifact found in Williams Lake in 2007 by a former resident is being returned to the Williams Lake Indian Band.

“If this arrowhead could talk, I wonder what history it would tell,” noted Cheryl Engemoen in an e-mail to the band as she arranged to send the artifact.

It had been nestled in a trinket box holding other treasures and memories Engemoen had collected over the years at their North Lakeside property after she and her husband Ernie found what they thought was an arrowhead.

She recalled the sunny day she and Ernie were sifting the soil from their vegetable garden and the artifact trickled down from a metal screen into a rock pile.

“I never thought much of it because I’ve seen a lot of bones in the area,” she said, noting the wildlife and deer that could often be seen close by. “I was excited about it, but I thought ‘this is kind of common, I’ll just put it away’ and I did and then I forgot about it.”

It was not until earlier this month, the artifact came to her mind when she read a recent e-Edition of the Williams Lake Tribune featuring an article about the oldest believed projectile point in the Williams Lake area having been discovered.

Read More: ‘It’s like finding a needle in a haystack’: Ancient arrowhead discovered near Williams Lake

“Because really when you stop and think about it what good is it doing in my little trinket chest,” she said of deciding to call the WLIB and tell them about the artifact she still had in her possession.

Whitney Spearing, archaeologist and natural resources co-ordinator for WLIB and Sugar Cane Archaeology, said they have received recent phone calls and e-mails from other people who have found artifacts in the Williams Lake area.

“I’ve always said and we still maintain that we’re not here to be the archaeology police. We’re not going to take something away from someone that they’ve collected over the years,” she said.

“We encourage people not to collect things because it is illegal, but if they do have artifacts in their possession please come forward. Send an e-mail, make a phone call and at a minimum we can take some photos, find out where they found it, do a proper recording, and then maybe give them some insight into what it may be and how old it is.”

Engemoen lives in Summerland and the artifact will be sent to WLIB via courier.

Read More: Williams Lake aims to hire own archaeologist

Once they receive it, Spearing said they will examine the object to determine if it is indeed an artifact, record it and place it in the appropriate repository.

She estimates there are hundreds of thousands of artifacts that have been privately collected, and hopes others will follow the example of Engemoen.

“It’s bringing back a piece of culture that otherwise wouldn’t had been brought to light for the Nation, so if somebody has something and we’re able to look at it and it’s able to come back to the community, it means a lot to the community.”

Engemoen, who took an anthropology and archaeology course at the former Cariboo College in Williams Lake, said she is interested to learn more from WLIB about the artifact and someday visit their downtown office which currently houses Sugar Cane Archaeology.

”It’s something I think he probably would be saying to me why didn’t I do it sooner,” she said of Ernie, who passed away in 2008. She believes he would also have wanted to see the artifact returned to WLIB.

“It just feels good to be giving it back. That was something that was basically dropped on their land by one of their people that were hunting. It belongs to them.”

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