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Tla’amin Nation to map Desolation Sound, divert visitors from archaeological sites

Efforts to protect, divert and educate visitors from vulnerable archaeological sites in Desolation Sound Marine Park are starting this week.

The Tla’amin Nation says it is a part of a two year project, and will include 83 days of archaeological assessment. They add $500,000 is being provided by the Ministry of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport and an additional investment from the Tla’amin Nation.

The first phase will include archaeological mapping, site work, carbon dating and cataloguing of artifacts. The team will also revisit 93 sites recorded when the park was established in 1973, the oldest site is around 7,800 years old.

Hegus John Hackett adds that the project is needed, and they want to continue to share their territory with visitors responsibly.

“The fact is, 50 years, and millions of visits after the establishment of the park, we continue to see the resting places of our ancestors damaged and pillaged,” said Hackett. “Since 2010 alone, eight of our burial boxes have been desecrated.”

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Director of Lands Kwyem Tomolx Denise Smith adds that the second and third phases of the project include essential land use planning, zoning and public education activities.

“Having laws with teeth and monitoring in place will ensure our ancestors and their belongings are protected and can rest in peace,” said Smith.

Council member Tiy’ap thote Erik Blaney says he appreciates the growing interest, care and awareness that visitors bring to the area.

“Visitor education, kiosks and wayfinding installations will be in place to move visitors away from sensitive sites,” said Blaney.

“Disturbing a burial site changes the course of a person’s life and can even impact their children and grandchildren. This work will protect both visitors and our ancestors.”

The Nation says the park was created without the permission of the Tla’amin and Klahoose, and was the largest marine park in the province. Over 250,000 visitors come to Desolation Sound Marine Park every year.

Visitors are encouraged to learn more about Tla’amin culture and heritage law here.

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