CAWSTON - The discovery of what is believed to be First Nations ancestral remains on a Cawston orchard property earlier this week caused some excitement in the Similkameen community.
The Lower Similkameen Indian Band is currently monitoring the site and has taken responsibility for the remains.
B.C. Coroner’s Office spokesperson Barb McLintock says they were notified about the discovery of human remains, but after confirming the remains were of First Nations ancestral origin, they were turned over to tthe Lower Similkameen Indian Band for proper reburial.
“It’s not an infrequent occurrence,” she says.
Ken and Corine Helm lives on a neighbouring acreage to the property where the remains were discovered at the corner of Daly Drive and Upper Bench Road.
Ken says he saw an excavator working the property earlier this week.
“I thought there was some terracing going on, something along those lines,” he says. “Then I noticed there seemed to be quite a few people around, and a while later police ribbon laid out around the excavation, so we just jumped to the conclusion they must have found something.”
He says work on the site had ceased since the discovery.
Corinne says the property used to be an apple orchard. Neither she or Ken are surprised remains were found on the site, because they have a burial site on their property as well.
“This area was once a route the Aboriginal people took along this ridge. There used to be a gravesite along the bottom of Barcelo canyon as well,” she says.
Lower Similkameen band elders came to their property about 10 years ago, she says.
“They were quite happy to see that ours was still here. They came and put a fence around it and planted grapes, and just left it, because often the sites would fall into neglect and eventually end up part of someone’s orchard,” Corinne says.
Ken says many native artifacts have been found at the base of Barcelo Canyon over the years.
Former South Okanagan-Similkameen historian Bill Barlee noted in his book The Guide to Similkameen Treasure a burial slide once existed by an old trail near the bottom of a talus slope in upper Cawston, which would not have been far from the site discovered earlier this week. He also notes several burial sites in the Cawston area in the book.
Calls to Lower Similkameen Band Chief Keith Crow by Infonews on Friday, March 4 went unanswered by deadline.
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