Construction at a BC Ferries terminal is on hold after damage was done to a midden on Hornby Island.
According to posts on Facebook by witnesses, the damage happened over the weekend as contractors were tending to an arbutus tree in the midden at the Shingle Spit terminal, cutting the tree down and trying to remove the stump with a backhoe.
Middens are heaps of bones, shells, utensils and artifacts collected by Indigenous Peoples over thousands of years, according to Indigenous Corporate Training inc. They add all middens in B.C. are protected if they contain artifacts, features or materials that suggest human habitation or use before 1846.
Indigenous Corporate Training adds that normally an archaeological assessment would be done if development was considered on a midden and impacts would determine whether that would go through.
According to K’ómoks First Nation, the site at Clack da oo (Shingle Spit) is a well-documented and significant archaeological site and was a major ancestral K’ómoks settlement.
They add the midden is the largest shell midden on Hornby Island and it has been damaged before because of development.
“This village site, like many others in our Territory, has suffered irreversible impacts in the past, including the recent disturbance of ancestral remains at a nearby private development,” said the First Nation in a statement.
“We are very disappointed whenever we hear that work is being done in our Territory without following our Cultural Heritage Policy. Our policy protects our cultural heritage in ways that the Heritage Conservation Act does not.”
According to BC Ferries, construction ceased on the property after they learned about the situation and senior members travelled to the area to meet with community members and view the area.
They add they are meeting with K’ómoks First Nation today and have a new policy to prevent future damage.
“Effective immediately, all terminal maintenance staff organizing any work involving ground disturbance or tree removal must have a written project plan signed off by their manager and director before proceeding,” said BC Ferries in an email statement.
“The new process also stipulates that the Regional Terminal Maintenance managers and director are to ensure the Indigenous Relations and Operations teams are aware of any work planned of this nature.”
K’ómoks First Nation adds they are in the information gathering process and are working with BC Ferries to determine what happened exactly at the ferry terminal.