River valley flooding destroys archaeological sites, uncovers others

A state of emergency remains in effect for the Williams Lake River Valley and WLIB Tillion Reserve #4 (WLIB photo)A state of emergency remains in effect for the Williams Lake River Valley and WLIB Tillion Reserve #4 (WLIB photo)
Only fully treated effluent was being discharged as of May 7 (WLIB photo)Only fully treated effluent was being discharged as of May 7 (WLIB photo)
Sugar Cane Archaeology field supervisors Trista Johnson (left) and Brittany Cleminson at one of several test sites adjacent to the area where the road is being widened in the river valley due to impacts by flooding. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)Sugar Cane Archaeology field supervisors Trista Johnson (left) and Brittany Cleminson at one of several test sites adjacent to the area where the road is being widened in the river valley due to impacts by flooding. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

Flooding in the Williams Lake River Valley has washed away thousands of years of Indigenous history while unearthing others.

Since a pollution abatement order was issued to the City of Williams Lake by the Williams Lake Indian Band (WLIB) on April 30, WLIB manager of title and rights Whitney Spearing said DWB Consulting from Lac La Hache has been working with WLIB, the City, and Ministry of Environment to facilitate environmental testing including water and soil sampling.

Spearing added Sugarcane Archaeology was issued an emergency permit from the Archaeology Branch of British Columbia on May 1.

“So we have a permit now in place to help actively facilitate those emergency works,” she said. “What that means is we are on the ground and we are assessing not only the environmental damage and stream damage of natural portions but obviously disturbances have been created as a result of trying to get access into the lagoons and get power restored and get that cap in place for the effluent so we are in the valley assessing those areas as well as some of the road widening that has happened to get rock trucks in and out of that area.”

A state of emergency remains in effect for the WLIB’s nine-acre Tillion Reserve #4 located at the end of the Williams Lake River Valley. Spearing said they were able to access it by helicopter on May 7 and had field technician Brittany Cleminson spend most of the afternoon working with DWB.

“There were two previously recorded archaeological sites present on the reserve prior to us getting there. We were able to assess that one of those sites is heavily damaged and a good piece of it has been pushed into the river valley,” Spearing said. “That particular site is also obviously contaminated with the sewage effluent that’s there so we’re not able to do any testing until we know the toxicity and bio-contamination so we’re not putting crews in danger.”

The other site is intact.

From the survey on May 7, there were two more new archaeological sites that were identified and recorded.

On the off-reserve portion of the river valley, four previously recorded sites were reexamined for any damage, and four new archaeological sites were also recorded.

“Thankfully the majority of the sites are intact and they haven’t been damaged by any of the flooding or the disturbance from rebuilding the works that have had to occur so far so we’re thankful on that account,” Spearing said.

Two sites previously recorded on Tillion Reserve #4 consisted of a subsist feature for fishing as well as lithics which are stone tools.

Spearing said they now know there are also cache pits which were likely used for either food or tools.

“The whole Fraser River Valley if you take a look at all of the terraces that run up and down they are home to large villages of pit-houses, cache pits, and really just large gathering and habitation areas so it’s unsurprising that we have these features that are right down at Tillion,” she said, noting there are hundreds of house pits and areas of archaelgoical features in other nearby areas such as the Williams Lake Community Forest.

“There are just thousands and thousands of years of history in the Fraser River Valley.”

Read More: River valley crews to install temporary bridge to access grit removal building

At the left bank of the Fraser River, at the mouth of the Williams Lake River, Spearing said Tillion Reserve #4 was the scene of traditional fishing use including salmon, trout, and sturgeon for thousands of years.

“That piece of land was issued as an Indian Reserve to support subsistence,” she said. “There are no infrastructure plans per say but definitely plans to have cultural gatherings and other things on the reserve.”

City of Williams Lake chief administrative officer Milo Macdonald said they are working towards a permanent long-term solution. A helicopter assessment to provide better understanding what would possibly be required was scheduled for May 11.

Since May 7, only fully treated effluent is being discharged into Williams Lake River.

“What we need to do is get ourselves back to the original design of the system which is to discharge at the mouth of the Fraser River so we’re working hard to get all the way there but now at least the effluent that is being discharged is fully treated,” Macdonald said.

A lot of progress has been made, he noted.

“The main important thing I think that everybody felt was that we wanted to make sure we were discharging treated effluent and that the treated effluent wasn’t going to cause damage to the environment, so to achieve that is very good and now we’re in a position to get to a long-term solution.”

The engineering design will play a big part in that.

“I think it’s really important to make sure that whatever infrastructure we put back in there, because it’s going to come at a considerable cost, we have to make sure it is going to be resilient against these 200-year events. If these events become more frequent than 200 years we just want to make sure that we don’t put something in that will be compromised in a subsequent event,” he said. “So there’s a lot of work to do to make sure things are above flood plains and that they’re archaeologically and environmentally sound and meet the approval of all the stakeholders and a lot of it involves consultation with professionals.”

Read More: City, Williams Lake Indian Band at odds over projects, pollution abatement order

Spearing said the province has really stepped up to help them.

“They were able to really just drill down into getting this archaeological permit issued and they’ve been helping to facilitate the required flights for the sampling.”


Do you have a comment about this story? email:
rebecca.dyok@wltribune.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

floodingIndigenousWilliams Lake

Just Posted

An RCMP cruiser. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)
Police kept busy following overnight vehicle thefts, B&Es near 100 Mile House

One man is facing charges and three others suspects in relation to the thefts

A new banner was unveiled Monday, June 21, in Williams Lake that will hang across Oliver Street. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Orange Shirt Banner Project unveiled in Williams Lake

The Every Child Matters - 215 banner will hang across the city’s main street

(File Photo)
Police watchdog clears 100 Mile RCMP of wrongdoing after man dies in Williams Lake shelter

The man had been in custody at 100 Mile RCMP detachment prior to being taken to Williams Lake

The future of the Quesnel Rec Centre pool is unknown after residents shot down potential renovations in a referendum. (Melanie Law photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)
Cariboo Regional District, Quesnel residents shoot down pool renovations in referendum

The $20 million project needed approval from people living in the North Cariboo Recreation area

FILE – Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, takes part in an event on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous Peoples Day must be a ‘call to action’, says Assembly of First Nations chief

Discovery of children at Kamloops residential school site must lead to change, Perry Bellegarde says

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
VIDEO: Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

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

Chilliwack secondary school’s principal is apologizing after a quote equating graduation with the end of slavery in the U.S. was included in the 2020-2021 yearbook. (Screenshot from submitted SnapChat)
B.C. student’s yearbook quote equates grad to end of slavery; principal cites editing error

Black former student ‘disgusted’ as CSS principal apologizes for what is called an editing error

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross. (Photo by Peter Versteege)
BC Liberal leadership candidate condemns ‘senseless violence’ of Okanagan church fires

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross says reconciliation isn’t about revenge for past tragedies

A coroner’s inquest will be taking place at the Capitol Theatre in Port Alberni for the next week. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Teen B.C. mom who died following police custody recalled as ‘friend to many’

Police sent Jocelyn George to hospital after intoxication had gone ‘beyond the realm’ of normal detox

FILE - In this Nov. 29, 2020, file photo, Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib leaves the field after an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta. Nassib on Monday, June 21, 2021, became the first active NFL player to come out as gay. Nassib announced the news on Instagram, saying he was not doing it for the attention but because “I just think that representation and visibility are so important.” (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)
Nassib becomes first active NFL player to come out as gay

More than a dozen NFL players have come out as gay after their careers were over

Penticton Indian Band Chief Greg Gabriel speaks to the Sacred Hearts Catholic Church burning down early Monday morning, June 21, 2021. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Penticton band chief condemns suspicious burning of 2 Catholic churches

Both Catholic church fires are deemed suspicious, says RCMP

COVID-19 daily cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day moving average to June 17, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections drop to 90 on Sunday, 45 Monday

Pandemic spread dwindles as 77% of adults receive vaccine

By protesting uninvited in First Nations’ territories, conservationists are acting in a neocolonial or paternalistic manner, says Huu-ay-aht Chief Robert Dennis. Photo by Heather Thomson
A closer look: do Vancouver Island First Nations support the war in the woods?

First Nations/environmentalist old growth alliance uneasy, if it exists at all

Most Read