A granite petroglyph is coming home to the Cariboo Chilcotin after residing in Vancouver for 86 years.
On June 13 the Stswecem’c Xgat’tem (Canoe Creek) and Llenlleney’ten (High Bar) First Nations will welcome it home and place it at the Churn Creek Protected Area Kiosk, about 60 kilometres south of Williams Lake.
Last Friday (May 11) Phyllis Webstad of the Canoe Creek Band updated members of the Cariboo Regional District Board on the status of the repatriation.
“For me personally, this is not only the returning of a petroglyph rock with images — it’s a symbol of the way things were back then and how they have changed,” Webstad says.
“Back then we were put on reserves, things happened to us, for us, and about us, without us. It wouldn’t happen today. We’re coming into our own and finding our strength.”
The rock measures three by five feet and weighs between six to eight tons. It was found by a prospector by the name of H.S. Brown and removed in 1926 by then park commissioner William C. Shelley who wanted it as a grave marker for Pauline Johnson in Stanley Park.
“H.S. Brown was along the Fraser River and saw the petroglyph poking out of the sand and brought it to the attention of William C. Shelley,” Webstad explained.
Initial attempts to raft the rock were unsuccessful because it sunk.
Eventually it took a team of 10 horses, along an overland route, in a one-month time span, to transfer the rock to the Lougheed Raven Station of the Pacific Great Eastern Railway in the Clifton area, where it travelled to Squamish and then on to Vancouver.
Ordell Steen, who had travelled the river with Fraser River Rafting out of Yale, had previously stopped at Crow’s Bar and there were other petroglyphs there so it made sense to him that the petroglyph might have been from there.
He went with Webstad and some others from Canoe Creek to match historical photos showing the horse team moving the petroglyph to determine where it had originally been.
While there they also found a sister rock with little marks on it as well.
Webstad says there are different theories around the markings that include territorial markings, boys fasting on a right of passage from boyhood to manhood or even doodles.
To start off the event, things will begin on June 11 in Vancouver with a lunch, to which Williams Lake Mayor Kerry Cook and CRD chair Al Richmond are invited, along with Premier Christy Clark and Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson.
June 12 will be moving day, when the rock will travel by truck, following a route around Sheep Creek, over to Farwell Canyon through Gang Ranch and down, where it will be lowered by a crane.
The hope is to have riders on horseback, decorated trucks, and hikers accompanying the final leg.
Webstad is soliciting donations as it is estimated the project will cost around $20,000.