British Columbia

11 historical human remains discovered in archaeological dig at Prince George park

Eleven more human remains have been unearthed in an ongoing archeological excavation in Prince George’s Lheidli T’enneh Memorial Park.

'There's an opportunity for us . . . to show what the history is all about here,' says mayor

An excavation this summer in Prince George's Lheidli T’enneh Memorial Park has unearthed a number of historical human remains. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

Eleven human remains have been unearthed in an ongoing archeological excavation in Prince George's Lheidli T'enneh Memorial Park.

The historical remains — and additional artifacts — are being temporarily housed in The Exploration Place museum as city council and the Lheidli T'enneh band council determine a final resting spot.

"It's important we respect those remains that are found," Mayor Lyn Hall told reporters Friday.

The newest findings add to a growing number of historical remains discovered in the park, prompting calls from Lheidli T'enneh members for the city to establish a proper resting site. 

Both the city council and the band council are considering installing a mausoleum to house the remains.

"We'll bring [the plan] back to our community and our elders and they'll take a look at it," Chief Dominic Frederick said.

"Hopefully we can get it done. The sooner, the better. "

Educating the public

Archeologists have been excavating the park since early June to prepare for the construction of a new pavilion that's slated for completion this fall.

The park is the former site of the local Lheidli T'enneh's village, which was burned down in 1913 to make way for a railway and the city. It also houses a burial ground. 

The province has since designated the park an archeological site, which means excavations are required before new constructions.

Frederick has asked the city to either stop or limit digging in the park to avoid disrupting the burial ground.

He said it would be proper to have the mausoleum situated in the park's cemetery.

The new pavilion will feature public art depicting Lheidli T'enneh language, culture and history.

"This is a very historic site here," Hall said. "And there's an opportunity for us to do just that, is to show what the history is all about here. That education piece is really important."

Temporary location

For now, the newly discovered remains are being stored in the basement of The Exploration Place, with records that detail where they were found. 

"We're the best place to hold them for the time being," said CEO Tracy Calogheros. "But they certainly shouldn't form part of a permanent collection."

Tracy Calogheros, CEO of The Exploration Place, says museums and other cultural institutions can help steer kids towards careers in the STEAM fields. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

Developments in Western museum curation dictate that housing and exhibiting human remains is no longer appropriate, she said.

But she sees the recent discoveries as a chance to illuminate the Lheidli T'enneh's history. The museum opened a permanent exhibition last month about the local First Nation.

"You're not going to get away from the fact that there are burials here," Calogheros said.

"But they are archeological and they are something we can move forward from."

With files from Andrew Kurjata