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Dana Lepofsky

Dana Lepofsky with a survey rod stands on top of a First Nations midden not far from the Sunshine Coast.

Archaeologists to study Sunshine Coast sites

June 12, 2008

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By Marianne Meadahl

An SFU summer archaeology field school will begin working on the Sunshine Coast this summer with members of the Tla’Amin First Nation to uncover details about the region’s rich archaeological history.

The first full-scale excavation of its kind in B.C., the project is on a small island in Scuttle Bay once used as a lookout — and which is believed to still have an ancient structure on it. Archaeologists will also locate and map sites in and around Grace Harbour, a more remote location within Desolation Sound Park.

"While the Tla’Amin have extensive oral knowledge about their history, this area is largely unknown from an archaeological perspective," says SFU archaeologist Dana Lepofsky. She and SFU anthropologist and social archaeologist John Welch will work with Tla’Amin experts and researchers from other institutions to bring together oral traditions and information from archaeological and archival investigations. The project, in conjunction with elder and youth programs conducted by the first nation, will also train Tla’Amin youth and SFU students in archaeology and heritage stewardship. The Tla’Amin people hope the project will encourage the exchange of heritage knowledge and experiences between their elders and youth while advancing their goals of self-governance and self-determination.

"These sites are gifts left by our ancestors," says Michelle Washington, a land-use coordinator with the Tla’Amin First Nation. "Some of the 500 registered sites have been dated at over 4,000 years old. Each site unlocks clues to how our people thrived in unity with the land, traded with their neighbors and organized their complex societies."

More than 50 sites have been recorded at Grace Harbour but little is known about their specific attributes, notes Lepofsky. The researchers hope to determine exactly where people lived so provincial parks officials and the Tla’Amin First Nation can together better manage the sites.
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