Ancient Chilliwack villages studied

May 15, 2003, vol. 27, no. 2
By Marianne Meadahl



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Archaeologist Dana Lepofsky (left) examines the site of an historic native village in the Upper Fraser Valley.



A team of SFU archaeologists who traced the history of an ancient First Nation village in the Fraser Valley back 3,000 years is now hoping to learn more by investigating the region around it.

A 2003 grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) will set the stage for SFU archaeologist Dana Lepofsky and a team of six other researchers to investigate the history of several large, ancient villages in the region near Chilliwack. The project is a collaborative effort involving researchers from SFU, UBC, UCLA and the University of Saskatchewan.

Previous SSHRC funded excavations at the Scowlitz village site, situated at the confluence of the Harrison and Fraser Rivers, prompted researchers to expand their research to the larger region.

“We have learned much about the history of this one particular village and have traced changes in everything from burial practices to fishing, but we don't understand why these changes took place,” says Lepofsky. “By looking at the larger region we will be better able to put these changes into context.”

Archaeological excavations and surveys in and around the Scowlitz village produced more than 8,000 artifacts, which are being analysed at SFU, and the identification of several hundred burial mounds.

The current project will be carried out with involvement from the Sto:lo Nation as well as several First Nations in the Fraser Valley. First Nation community members will participate in a variety of components of the project, as members of the archaeological field crews, by sharing their knowledge of Sto:lo language and oral traditions, and by providing guidance to non-community researchers on proper spiritual protocols for working on ancient sites.

The bulk of the excavations at the ancient village sites will be conducted by SFU archaeological field schools over the next three years. The team will begin excavations this summer at a village site near Hope.

Lepofsky says the next phase of the research is imperative given the rapid rate of development in the Fraser Valley.

Lepofsky's grant, at $216,000, is the largest of a dozen standard SSHRC grants awarded to SFU faculty for 2003, totaling just over $1 million. The projects cover a variety of research fields, including economics, history, philosophy and linguistics.

In B.C., 114 research projects focusing on the human sciences have been awarded a total of $10.5 million.

In another project, a trio of faculty members will play an integral role in a $2.3 million SSHRC project analyzing the impact of community resources in various neighbourhoods on childhood development.

Anthropologist Dara Culhane, sociologist Jane Pulkingham and education professor Lucy Lemare are key players with the consortium for health, intervention, learning and development (CHILD) project, to be led by UBC's Hillel Goelman.

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