British Columbia

Pokemon No Go? Indigenous woman wants burial ground Pokestop gone

An indigenous woman wants to shut down a Pokestop inside a traditional Indigenous burial ground in Prince George, B.C.

'This is sacred ground. There should not be any Pokemon Go inside a burial site'

In July, Pokemon Go players began gathering at a Pokestop in a traditional First Nations burial ground in a Prince George park. (Facebook/Kym Gouchie)

A traditional burial ground should be a No Go for Pokemon Go — so says a Lheidli T'enneh woman who wants to shut down a poke stop in an Indigenous graveyard in Prince George, B.C.

Kym Gouchie was visiting her father's grave Sunday, when she encountered dozens of Pokemon players traipsing through her First Nation's burial ground. 

"To have a poke stop there and to have people searching around in the burial grounds is absolutely absurd ... and very disrespectful- Kym Gouchie, Lheidli T'enneh 

Sacred burial ground is Pokestop

"It's sacred there,"said Gouchie. "This land was once my ancestral land. This is the only little piece of land inside Prince George that is ours, and you are disrespecting it."

"My dad, my uncles, my cousin, my great grandmother are all buried there," she said.

The traditional graveyard  is located in a popular riverside park, where the Lheidli T'enneh once lived, before their village was burned to the ground in 1913 and their community forcibly relocated to reserve land.

The traditional Lheidli burial ground is now open to the public, but it's gated and enclosed by hedges within the Lheidli T'enneh Memorial Park.

But this weekend, said Gouchie, she confronted a young man in the graveyard who pointed at the outdoor altar and Indigenous clan carvings and he told her it was a Pokestop.

'Absolutely absurd and very disrespectful'

"To have a Pokestop there and to have people searching around in the burial grounds is absolutely absurd in my mind and very disrespectful," said Gouchie.

A Pokestop is an in-game checkpoint, a location where players enter and click on their device to collect prizes and items available at that stop

A Lheidli T'enneh singer and artist, Gouchie said her adult children are gamers who enjoy Pokemon Go.

But she is angry.

"I was being sort of a defender of the land. I was thinking, I need our K'san [traditional] drummers out here so we can block both these gates and ... stop this," she said.

Defender of the land

"This has to stop," said Gouchie.  "This game has only been live in Canada for one week. It's only a matter of time before that burial site is filled with Pokemon Go people."

Gouchie says she spoke with many players on Sunday and tried to educate them about the place they were entering.

She said many agreed a graveyard Pokestop was "creepy" and preferred to stay outside the burial ground's gate while they played.

'It should not happen'

But she said others told her they weren't hurting anything by playing in the burial ground.

She doesn't blame the players, but Niantic, the game's creator, said Gouchie .

Gouchie has submitted an automated request to have the Pokestop removed.

She's also reported it to her chief and council. 

"It should not happen. It should not be on their map," she said. "They didn't consult us. They didn't ask permission," said Gouchie. 


Betsy Trumpener

Reporter-Editor, CBC News

Betsy Trumpener has won numerous journalism awards, including a national network award for radio documentary and the Adrienne Clarkson Diversity Award. Based in Prince George, B.C., Betsy has reported on everything from hip hop in Tanzania to B.C.'s energy industry and the Paralympics.