Shíshálh Nation demands action after burial site reportedly desecrated by logging
The chief of shíshálh Nation says B.C.’s heritage conservation system is broken and is calling for immediate action to address the reported desecration of a burial site along Sechelt Inlet on the Sunshine Coast.
Chief Warren Paull said in a written statement that as long as the existing Heritage Conservation Act remains in place, shíshálh’s basic right to its own cultural heritage is violated, along with that of Indigenous peoples across the province.
On Tuesday, CBC News reported that an ancient burial site had been recently logged — something that was discovered and detailed by former shíshálh band councillor Robert Joe.
The site was described by Joe as about 200 cairns, or stone mounds, marking graves dating back as much as 2,000 years.
On Wednesday, Paull expressed his outrage.
“This is heartbreaking. This is infuriating. This is culture-destroying. This must stop now,” said Paull. “What other population in this country could have the grave sites of its people destroyed in this way?”
According to the statement from Paull and the shíshálh Nation, parts of the site are 1,500 years old and it includes the graves of at least 80 shíshálh people, as well as irreplaceable artifacts.
The site was registered in the provincial heritage conservation system in 2015.
“In spite of provincial regulations protecting the site, logging activities have occurred and it appears that irreconcilable damage has been done to this significant cultural landscape,” said the statement.
“For decades Indigenous peoples across British Columbia have demanded fundamental changes to how Indigenous cultural heritage sites are protected. Change has not come,” the statement said.
The province has launched an investigation into the alleged damage to the burial site — shíshálh Nation said it would cooperate fully with that investigation to ensure the facts of the situation are uncovered and that the First Nation’s cultural protocols ares respected.