Project poster on Squitty Bay Dock, Xwe'etay
Around the world, Indigenous Peoples are fighting against the forces of globalization, climate change, and racism to keep their cultural identity alive. For many peoples, protecting their archaeological heritage is central to this struggle as it reflects and embodies their connection to their homes and their ancestry.
Protecting heritage is a basic human right and is in line with the United Nations' Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples [UNDRIP] and the findings of Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission [TRC]).
In British Columbia, Indigenous archaeological sites are being destroyed at a rapid rate. On private land, settler populations in British Columbia, as in the rest of Canada, fear that if they disclose the presence of an archaeological site, they will incur significant financial and logistical costs. In addition, while the heritage laws and regulations are strong on paper, the enforcement of the regulations tend to benefit settler heritage and development over Indigenous heritage. As a result, thousands of years of Indigenous heritage are being impacted daily by large and small development projects.
Our goal in the Xwe’etay/Lasqueti Project is to find respectful and meaningful ways to turn around this trajectory of heritage destruction. Foundational to this is creating a trusting and respectful context for honest and open discussions about heritage that incorporates the diverse views encompassed with the Xwe’etay/Lasqueti settler and Indigenous communities.
We are working together to design a new heritage model that honours and protects Indigenous archaeological heritage and that recognizes diverse connections to heritage places. We believe strongly that community-based conservation initiatives are more likely to preserve and protect the archaeological record than a strictly top-down regulatory approach.
Xwe’etay/Lasqueti Island has a rich and diverse archaeological record that represents well heritage issues in British Columbia and beyond. The 13 Nations and entities who have cultural connections to Lasqueti's/Xwe'etay's heritage have been invited to contribute to the project, and so far members of five local Nations have joined. Representatives from each participating Nation and the Lasqueti settler community will engage in an archaeological survey and excavation on the island, as well as a series of workshops about archaeological heritage.
Our aim is to co-create a model and shared vision for community-based archaeology on Xwe'etay/ Lasqueti Island that sets a precedent for other rural communities in British Columbia and beyond.