Williams Lake city council announced during its regular meeting Tuesday, June 2, its intention to hire an archaeologist. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

Williams Lake aims to hire own archaeologist

Mayor Walt Cobb said the hope is archaelogical assessments will be done in a timely fashion

The City of Williams Lake is hoping to hire its own archaeologist.

“We have a pretty diverse community and there are lots of different archaeological sites and we need to ensure that we have somebody in place that can do that assessment so we can move projects forward so they aren’t held up,” Mayor Walt Cobb said of the decision when it was made public during Tuesday’s regular council meeting.

Development at Boitanio Mall and the Cariboo Heritage Park Society plans to relocate the 153 Mile Historic store to Pinchbeck Hill above the Stampede Grounds have been stalled due to archaeological issues, Cobb added.

“We met with the Williams Lake Indian Band (WLIB) before Christmas and they indicated they did not want to participate in the archaeological assessment of the properties because they did not want to appear as the bad guy if something was found.”

Read more: Pre-settler evidence reviewed as Williams Lake eyes Stampede Grounds for heritage park

Responding to the mayor’s comments, Aaron Mannella, WLIB chief administrative officer, confirmed that Sugar Cane Archaeology doesn’t want to participate in assessing the Boitanio Mall area.

“The Williams Lake Indian Band, through Sugar Cane Archaeology, did conduct the archaeological assessment to Pinchbeck Hill and they have also done work on Boitanio Mall,” Mannella said.

“It is correct to say we don’t want to participate on the Boitanio Mall project because it’s a protected area and we are aware of what we would find.”

Mannella said they are in support of development, but not the disruption of grounds that are protected.

“We are generally OK with what they have proposed, but we do want to avoid conflict by participating in that excavation,” Mannella said. “We have tried to align the Janda Group (mall’s owners) with another archaeologist.”

Prior to Boitanio Mall being built in 1974, provincial archaeologists became interested in the site when bones were discovered during excavation of the site by developers.

“By the time the department was notified of the find, the bones had been disposed of and the burial site destroyed, but remains of pit houses and some artifacts were later discovered by local residents on an undeveloped area of the site,” noted the April 4, 1974 edition of the Tribune.

A team of archaeologists from the provincial branch and members of the Sugar Cane community worked at the site to recover artifacts for a month, with the Cloverlawn Development covering the costs of the dig.

In 2016, the City of Vancouver through its Parks Board was the first in Canada to hire its own archaeologist — Geordie Howe — to support its reconciliation agenda.

That move was followed up in 2019 by hiring another archaeologist — Shauna Huculak. Huculak has worked with resource sector and land development clients and with First Nations communities throughout B.C, particularly on the west coast and the Interior.

Her job is to provide technical expertise in archaeological management and support capital projects for the City of Vancouver’s engineering services.

In its description of the new archaeology position, the City of Williams Lake also indicated the job will include the role of emergency planning co-ordinator.

It would a one-year position.

Read more: Artifacts uncovered at Sugar Cane site near Williams Lake could be 4,000 years old

Editor’s note: On Friday, June 5, the B.C. Archaeology Branch provided the following information to the Tribune, in response to a media request sent Wednesday, June 3.

What obligations under the Archaeology Branch do archaeologists have in regards to doing assessments for proposed developments?

In advance of conducting an archaeological impact assessment of a proposed development, a qualified archaeologist must apply for, and obtain, a Heritage Inspection Permit under Section 12.2 of the Heritage Conservation Act (HCA). Limited archaeological work may be authorized under a site alteration permit under Section 12.4 of the HCA.

An archaeologist who obtains a Heritage Inspection Permit is obligated to comply with terms and conditions of the permit, which sets out the scope of the study area, methods to be employed, and requirements for reporting and analysis, as well as the protocol to be followed if ancestral (human) remains are encountered. The proponent also signs the application to acknowledge the scope of the archaeological studies and their responsibilities to fund the work.

Archaeologists are encouraged to engage with affected First Nations for input.

Ultimately, the archaeologist is responsible for producing a site record for any sites found, conveying any recovered artifacts to an approved repository (like a museum), and producing a report that details the results of the inspection and recommendations that follow on those results, to inform the Province’s issuance of management direction to the development proponent.

Boitanio Mall area has already been designated an archaeological site in 1974. What does that require if someone wants to develop it further?

Archaeological sites, sites with physical evidence of human use or occupation before 1846 are protected by provisions of the HCA (with the exception of historic or archaeological burials, indigenous rock art and shipwreck/air wreck sites, which are all protected even if they are younger than 1846).

Archaeological sites are protected by the HCA regardless of whether they are known or unknown or intact are disturbed, on Crown or private land. To alter a site for the purposes of development (or any other purpose), an alteration permit, as set out under Section 12.4 of the HCA, is required.

In many cases, an archaeological assessment of the site under a Section 12.2 permit is required to establish the scope, significance, and inform any mitigation measures, before an alteration permit can be considered for approval.

Generally, an archaeological assessment is required where there is not adequate information about a site to make an informed decision about proceeding with alterations to that site.

The amount of study, or mitigation measures (such as excavating a site) may be significantly reduced where sites have been previously, significantly disturbed, and/or development plans minimise impacts (e.g., capping with fill and restricting impacts to the imported sediments).

To develop within the archaeological site boundary (including those portions that overlap with the Boitanio Mall), an alteration permit is required. An archaeological assessment may be required in advance, depending on what is known about the nature of the site in the specific development area.

A decision to issue an alteration permit is based on consideration of a number of factors, including: the scope of available site information, the nature and significance of the site, any proposed mitigation of impacts to the site, comments from First Nations whose territory overlaps the site area, and comments from any stakeholders with an interest in the alteration of the site, including the developer and municipalities.


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