BC pipeline site not original location of Indigenous artifacts: regulator
Work suspended on the line, a key part of a $40-billion LNG Canada project in northern BC.
HOUSTON, BC — Indigenous artifacts found at the construction site of a contentious pipeline project were likely not in their original location, says British Columbia’s energy regulator.
A hereditary house group of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation complained last month that supporters recovered two ancient stone tools and observed other artifacts at the site where Coastal GasLink is building a natural gas pipeline.
The company suspended work on the line, which is a key part of a $40-billion LNG Canada project in northern BC, while the BC Oil and Gas Commission investigated.
The commission said in an information bulletin that investigators found stone artifacts on top of frozen clay soils and the archeology branch of the provincial Forestry Ministry is working to return the items to the appropriate Indigenous communities.
“The soils upon which the artifacts were found would not typically contain any such cultural artifacts and this was likely not their original location,” the commission said.
“However, a definitive determination on their exact location of origin cannot be made.”
The two stone tools were also not present at the site, said the commission, which could not be reached for comment.
The Unist’ot’en clan, the Wet’suwet’en hereditary group that announced the discovery last month, said Monday the artificats were recovered from a site that “had been heavily disturbed” by Coastal GasLink bulldozers.
It said in a statement that the “cryptic bulletin” from the commission “ignores the role that CGL’s industrial activity has played in disturbing this cultural site and displacing these artifacts.”
Coastal GasLink could not be reached for comment.
The clan has previously said the two tools were removed from the site to protect them. It said archeologists from the Smithsonian Institution estimated one of the tools dates back up to 3,500 years.
The Unist’ot’en said they have not been included in the archeological work done on their territory.
“Wet’suwet’en cultural artifacts cannot be properly identified and analyzed without the input of Wet’suwet’en people,” it said.
The company says in a statement it has been cleared to resume construction and it has filed a mitigation plan that was accepted by the commission and the archeology branch, which is required by its permit after heritage objects are found. The plan requires an archeologist to determine if there is additional cultural material, sample topsoil stockpiled on the edge of the site, supervise construction operations and further assess the topsoil when it is spread back on the site.
Coastal GasLink said the province has added the site to its archeological database based on the presence of artifacts at the spot.
The company quoted the Forestry Ministry as saying there was “strong evidence” the artifacts had been moved from their original location, as they were found sitting on top of a frozen slab of clay. Remaining sediments are considered to be “culturally sterile,” it added.
The Forestry Ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment on March 11.
The Coastal GasLink pipeline would transport natural gas from northeastern BC to LNG Canada’s export terminal in Kitimat on the coast.
In January, police arrested 14 people at a blockade in the area.
The company says it has approval to build the pipeline from First Nations along the pipeline, but some Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs say they haven’t given their consent.