Stephen Hume has written some great columns on BC archaeology and history over the years and he comes out swinging in this recent piece:
Beside Highway 3 near Keremeos, a large glacial boulder has myths attached that extend far into B.C.’s past. It’s our own Stonehenge but it’s defaced with graffiti. Not far away, somebody jackhammered out of a cliff face one of the most significant ancient rock paintings in North America. Near Campbell River, another cultural site of great significance to first nations — the Big Rock — is also covered with graffiti. On Saltspring Island, effluent filters through a grave site with government approval. Near Qualicum, the bones of persons of great importance were mixed into paving material for a parking lot.
We pay lip service to first nations culture; we trot it out when we’re on the world stage — at the Olympics, for example — but our actions betray our venal hypocrisy. When conflicts arise between private commercial gain and public protection of our now-shared ancient heritage, money seems to trump culture almost every time.
I use the term “our” to describe this heritage because we are all citizens of B.C. together, first nations and settler society, fused by our braided history. We have one shared narrative in this province. It is composed of many stories. They begin not with the recent arrival of European adventurers or Asian monks but in a far more ancient past.
When we permit the desecration of important first nations sites, it’s our shared history that we abuse and our children’s legacies that we steal.
I am not convinced that the private member’s bill to which he is refers is the answer, and in any case it died on the vine – more on that later. And the BC Archaeology Branch is kept on a short leash through the expedient of under-funding. But I certainly appreciate Hume’s take-no-prisoners attitude – we need a few vocal bulldogs on the case. Incidentally, in a parallel universe to this blog, Hume’s brother is in a UVIC archaeology class right now, so maybe another bulldog can be raised – it seems to run in the family.