Archaeology at renowned Kamloops park shows its long history and cultural importance | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Archaeology at renowned Kamloops park shows its long history and cultural importance

Artifacts dating back at least 3,500 years ago were uncovered at Riverside Park last summer.
Image Credit: FILE PHOTO

The history of Riverside Park is being uncovered as the Tk'emlúps Indian Band collaborates with the City of Kamloops before revitalization projects begin at the park this fall, and the waterfront is built up for flood prevention.

Tk'emlúps Indian Band Archaeologist Leslie LeBourdais's work during archaeological impact assessments last summer solidifies the park as more than a popular waterfront park, but an important piece of cultural heritage at the confluence of the North and South Thompson Rivers.

"When you look at it now you assume it's always been a park, until you peel back the layers. It's had multiple uses and occupations," LeBourdais said. "That piece of land has seen many different footprints that span thousands and thousands of years. It's transformed, but it's always been a place of gathering."

During the digs at the park, LeBourdais said her team found a variety of artifacts, dating back 3,500 years ago. One item was a bone fragment that had been modified for use in a game called Lahal, a traditional, and still loved, game among Indigenous peoples.

They also found stone tools and other items that help estimate when gatherings took place at what's now called Riverside Park.

There were four sites that were primary locations for the archaeological assessments. One of those was near Sandman Centre, where the artifacts found were most likely from another place and unrecognizable as an artifact that would be expected at Riverside Park.

LeBourdais believes they were carried into the park with infill from another site during construction of the arena. The silty ground would likely have been unsuitable for the area. She suspects another archaeological site was disrupted at the time and hopes it wasn't intentionally disrupted.

She looks forward to returning for more digs this summer before city construction begins at the park.

She did not share the exact locations of each dig. That's because too often, members of the public might find and damage the sites.

Often, archaeological sites may be damaged, intentionally or otherwise, when members of the public venture into them. It's not uncommon for people to stumble upon artifacts on their own property.

LeBourdais wants to encourage the public to call the Tk'emlúps natural resources department if they do, so archaeologists can conduct assessments on the site.

Alternatively, if a possible archaeological site is found, anyone in the public can contact the B.C. Archaeology Branch.

It's important to remember that according to the Heritage Conservation Act, all archaeological sites are protected, whether known or not, and cannot be altered without a permit.

"One thing we are always cognizant of when releasing information about these sites to the public is that we are potentially putting them at risk, but we also want to promote understanding about the land and history," she said.

It remains undecided what might be included at the park to commemorate and educate the public about its history, but Kúkpi7 Rosanne Casimir would like to see signage in place at a point of interest to help others learn.

"(The park) is really important because it's part of our history, and it ties closely with our stories and songs," Casimir said.

The archaeological impact assessment is being done in advance of construction work for improvements at Riverside Park. A variety of improvements are being brought to the park, including flood-mitigation work and trail expansions.

"That place is what the city is named after: The meeting of two rivers," LeBourdais said.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Levi Landry or call 250-819-3723 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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