Chief wants digging stopped in area where remains were found
Aboriginal bones could be 1,000 years old
A Saskatchewan First Nations chief is calling on a pipeline company to stop digging in the area where ancient human remains were found.
Carry the Kettle First Nation chief Barry Kennedy was in Saskatoon Wednesday morning, but went down to the Bethune area later in the day.
TransGas, a subsidiary of SaskEnergy that's building a new natural gas connection for the K+S potash mine in the area, halted construction a week ago after discovering the remains. Experts say they predate European settlement and could be as much as 1,000 years old.
While the site where the bones were found is still being left alone, construction work continues in the area.
However, Kennedy thinks all digging should be halted for now because he says TransGas was basically building its pipeline through a cemetery.
He says the bones are likely ancestral remains and ceremonies need to performed.
"I know that Saskatchewan society would never allow anybody to dig through any cemetery site, and it was very obvious from warnings that [TransGas] knew the potential of this being a ceremonial site was very high, but still went through," he said.
Kennedy said SaskEnergy's pipeline company disregarded burial sites in plain view and other ceremonial markers.
"It's obvious from the stone formations that these are Nakota people," said Kenedy. "We have seen teepee rings, places of where there used to be sweat lodges, other grave sites, the spear keepers associated with a medicine wheel, a great number of things that are significant to our traditions and religious ways."
"We've called for a cease and desist."
TransGas told CBC that it did the necessary environmental and aboriginal consultations before proceeding with its project.
Kennedy will go to his people and elders to decide what should happen to the remains.
TransGas had halted pipeline construction last week, but allowed crews to resume digging in the area on Tuesday. There wasn't any digging activity on Wednesday, while Kennedy was on site, and he wants to make sure it stays that way.
According to Carlos Germann, the province's director of heritage conservation, workers are well away from from where the bones were discovered.
It's not likely that more are going to be found, but that's being monitored by heritage consultants, he said.
There are protocols and policies in place and they're being followed, he added. The Saskatchewan Indian Cultural Centre and Committee of Elders has been contacted.
So far, the remains of only one person have been found. They're being analyzed at the University of Saskatchewan by forensic anthropologist Ernie Walker.