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23 March 2008
Ancient bones laid to rest in British Columbia

The ancient remains of 45 First Nations people were finally laid to rest in a traditional reburial ceremony at Poets Cove Resort and Spa (Britsh Columbia, Canada). As the box containing the crumbled bones of their ancestors was covered with the red-brown soil of Pender Island, overlaid with sword ferns, members of Saanich First Nations and supporters from other southern Vancouver Island bands prayed that laying the spirits to rest will mean a better future for their communities and for Poets Cove.
     It is the end of a saga of pain, frustration and legal action which started when developers of the luxury resort unearthed human remains and archaeological artifacts in 2003. Although developers knew there was an ancient village and midden in the area - believed to date back between 2,000 and 4,000 years - they went ahead with the excavation and First Nations observers were horrified to find construction workers using ancient bones in road surfacing. Last year, the company, Bedwell Harbour Hotel Ltd., was fined $50,000 after pleading guilty to violating the B.C. Heritage Conservation Act by disturbing a site inhabited prior to 1846.
     Many of the remains were unearthed from the site where a swimming pool has been built and others from what is now the front courtyard of the resort, so they could not be reburied in the same spot. The site where they were finally laid to rest, surrounded by rock outcroppings and overlooked by gnarled arbutus trees, was chosen because it is close to the water - the source of food and life for the ancient villagers, said Gwen Underwood, a former Tsawout councillor, who has worked on the case since the remains were discovered. "I appreciate seeing everyone here showing respect for our people. Terrible things have happened in our own ground and I am happy this is being done here today," said Ruby Peter, an elder from the Cowichan Tribes.

Source: Times Colonist (18 March 2008)

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