Allied Tribes of the Coast Tsimshian

January 25, 2008 03:10 ET

Prince Rupert Harbour development threatens Coast Tsimshian remains

Prince Rupert Harbour development threatens 10,000 years of Coast Tsimshian history and thousands of human remains

Attention: Assignment Editor, News Editor, Photo Editor, Science Editor, Government/Political Affairs Editor PRINCE RUPERT, BC, PRESS RELEASE--(Marketwire - Jan. 25, 2008) - The Allied Tribes of the Coast Tsimshian struggle to protect the 10,000 years of history and thousands of human remains that are threatened by development around the Prince Rupert Harbour, says the Honourable Iona Campagnolo.

Campagnolo, the former Lieutenant-Governor of British Columbia, who moderated a three-day seminar on Prince Rupert Harbour Archaeological Management Planning, hosted by the Allied Tribes, says the Lax Kw'alaams and Metlakatla understand that working together as well as reaching out to other levels of government gives them a greater opportunity to protect their treasures. "Our world is moving at an ever accelerating pace, which give us a real sense of urgency. The Coast Tsimshian are aware that their's is one of the great histories of North America and the World and must be protected as such."

The Coast Tsimshian hosted a three-day seminar on Prince Rupert Harbour Archaeological Management Planning earlier this week. "One significant outcome of the seminar was the decision for the Lax Kw'alaams and Metlakatla to be of one heart," said James Bryant, Cultural Liaison for the Lax Kw'alaams.

Bryant said this means the leaders of Lax Kw'alaams and Metlakatla will work together to address their interests and concerns regarding archaeology and development, particularly around the Prince Rupert Harbour portion of the Coast Tsimshian territory.

It's imperative that we work together as we move forward on these very important issues, said Bryant. "The Allied Tribes of the Coast Tsimshian also believe that all communication on these urgent issues must be transparent if we are to come to a successful conclusion."

"The place Canadians know as the city of Prince Rupert has been our home for at least 10,000 years," said Chief Clarence Nelson. "Archaeologists have confirmed that burial sites and the unique artifacts of the ancestors of the Allied Tribes exist in and around Prince Rupert. It is our responsibility to protect these archaeological treasures."

Nelson said our Adaawk (oral histories) are confirmed in scientific records. "We know our culture and our connection to the land is our legacy. It is our world treasure."

Bryant and Nelson say the Allied Tribes spent three days discussing our place in the management of archaeological resources within the Coast Tsimshian territory. "We agree that we have both ancient and contemporary interests in the developments taking place in Prince Rupert and the surrounding area," said Nelson.

Bryant added that we are prepared to assume our unique role with the other orders of government to move forward in a respectful partnership. "One of the first orders of business will be the commemoration of our ancestors whose bones lay under the tarmac at Fairview Terminal. Taking one step at a time, we hope that a new level of mutual trust will be built between all participants as we address the larger issues within our territories."

According to experienced researchers who attended the seminar the shell middens ringing the Prince Rupert Harbour is one vast cemetery. "Preserved in the shell deposits are the remains of at least half a million people who lived here over the past 5,000 to 6,000 years," said Dr. George MacDonald.

MacDonald, a world renowned authority on the archaeology of the Prince Rupert area, said earlier sites in the area have been dated to 10,000 years, with expectation of 14,000 years once sites higher on Kaien Island have been tested.

MacDonald, Director Emeritus of the Canadian Museum, added that wet sites have been confirmed in the Phase II area of the container port expansion which repeats the conditions of a site destroyed by the Phase I development, from which more than 600 wooden and basketry items were found before bulldozers destroyed the main part of the site. "Wet sites provide the kind of artworks in wood that trace the emergence of the Northwest Coast art form over thousands of years. This art form has been declared as significant to the heritage of mankind."

The record of human history in the Prince Rupert Harbour is unique in North America in terms of the quantity and quality of the evidence it holds on environmental change and artistic development, said MacDonald. "I strongly advocate that the cultural record that survives in the Prince Rupert Harbour be advanced by Canada for inclusion on the World Heritage List." /For further information: Chief Harold Leighton: 250-628-3201
Chief John Helin: 250-625-3293
Dr. George MacDonald: 604-682-3455
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Contact Information

  • Harold Leighton, Chief, Allied Tribes of the Coast Tsimshian
    Primary Phone: 250-628-3201