British Columbia

Fossil bed reopens under new Indigenous management in B.C.'s southern Interior

The Bonaparte First Nation, which now holds title to the McAbee fossil beds east of Cache Creek, B.C., marked the opening with a ceremony to honour Indigenous Peoples Day.

Province closed McAbee fossil site 7 years ago citing conservation concerns

Frank Antoine of the Bonaparte First Nation looks over the former lake bed which forms the McAbee fossil site near Cache Creek, B.C., about 80 kilometres west of Kamloops. (Doug Herbert)

Seven years after closing to the public, a fossil site described as a paleontology gold mine reopened Friday under new management. 

The Bonaparte First Nation now holds title to the McAbee fossil beds near Cache Creek, about 80 kilometres west of Kamloops in B.C.'s southern Interior. They marked the opening with a ceremony to honour Indigenous Peoples Day and gifts of sage for those in attendance. 

More than the 50-million-year-old fossils will be on display at the newly reopened site. Frank Antoine of the Bonaparte First Nation told Daybreak Kamloops' Doug Herbert the history of Indigenous settlement in the area will also be featured.

Experts say McAbee fossil beds are incredibly well preserved. (B.C. Government)

"It's going to be a hustle and bustle and a lot of people walking around here, just to learn about who we are as Indigenous people," Antoine said.

The fossils at the site date back 50 million years to when they were buried in lake silt. They are unique for their preserved fossils from the Eocene epoch including insects, fish, crayfish and even a bird and feathers.

In 2012 the McAbee fossil beds were protected with a heritage site designation by the B.C. government after concerns were raised about damage from activities such as commercial fossil sales and the mining of crushed shale for cat litter.

With the reopening of the fossil beds to the public, Antoine said the First Nation is looking ahead to the future phases, including a research centre and visitor centre. 

The B.C. government obtained formal designation of the McAbee fossil beds as a Heritage Site. (Doug Herbert/CBC)

"It's really an opportunity for us to learn a lot more about the scientific side of how this land was shaped and formed," Antoine said. "But also who we are ... how unique we are, and how were we were shaped and formed."

The McAbee fossil beds will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday through Monday.

With files from Doug Herbert