Eroding river exposes old gravesite outside Tagish, Yukon

Some human remains were discovered last weekend along the Tagish River. The remains, which could well be 100 years old, were exposed by erosion. The Carcross/Tagish First Nation has covered and protected the site in accordance with elders' wishes.

First Nation's elders' council asks that site be protected from further disturbance

Workers with the Carcross/Tagish First Nation used heavy equipment to protect the site and create a way to prevent further erosion. (Carcross/Tagish First Nation)

An eroding riverbank outside Tagish, Yukon briefly revealed a coffin and human bones last weekend.

Jennifer Herkes is a Heritage Consultant with the Carcross/Tagish First Nation. She says the remains were spotted on Carcross/Tagish First Nation settlement land on what is known to have been a historic Tagish camp.  

The First Nation's Heritage Department examined the site. Herkes believes because the bones were in a coffin, it was a post-contact burial of an Indigenous person. She based her assessment on the location and style of the burial.

"We didn't disturb the burial at all. But if I were to guess, it would be from the early 1900s," she said, adding the remains were found in an area known for archeological finds. 

"Finding cultural remains isn't surprising there at all."

The people who spotted the bones called RCMP, however, police determined this was not matter for them to investigate. 

Jennifer Herkes, a heritage consultant with the Carcross/Tagish First Nation, said the remains could date back to the 1900s. An elders' council of the Carcross-Tagish First Nation requested they not be disturbed or moved. (Carcross/Tagish First Nation)

Elders' council asks that site not be disturbed

Herkes says the Carcross/Tagish First Nation consulted with its local elders' council who instructed them not to move the remains. 

Instead, the First Nation used heavy equipment to cover the body and create a way to reduce erosion.

"I was there to monitor to ensure that the remains remained intact and untouched and the crews that were there did a fabulous job," said Herkes.

"I have been told and taught by the elders that we leave those things be. We don't disturb them."

Neighbour says boats creating waves, adding to erosion

One person who lives nearby thinks high-powered boats on the river are adding to the erosion.

Nickia Dick said she'd like to see a "no-wake zone" on the river. She is asking people to slow down as they navigate the river toward Marsh Lake so that waves don't further erode the clay and gravel banks. 

"Please wait before you're out on the lake before you floor it," she asked boaters.