A set of bones discovered in February in South Slocan was reinterred this week in a ceremony involving First Nations from Canada and the US.
Virgil Seymour, Arrow Lakes facilitator of the Colville Confederated Tribes, estimated about 30 people, both native and non-native, were present Tuesday as the remains were reburied at a spot not far from where a hiker found them at the edge of Slocan Pool.
“It was very, very powerful,” he said. “After the bones went back into the ground, there was a certain amount of speaking, praying, and singing. The songs started out slow and sad, but in the end it turned into a mini-celebration.”
The area on the west shore of the Kootenay River was once home to a Sinixt village and has many pithouse depressions. Columbia Power Corporation acquired the land from Cominco in 1998 and has maintained it as a conservation site in consultation with a public advisory committee.
The remains, which consisted of a few bones but no skull, were turned over to the BC Coroners Service and held in Burnaby while the BC Archaeology Branch consulted a number of First Nations, including the Okanagan Nation Alliance. They in turn notified the Colville Confederated Tribes in Washington state. Seymour thanked them for their support and referred to them as a “cousin tribe.” Representatives of both groups were present at this week’s ceremony.
Seymour said the bones belonged to a woman, but he didn’t know how old they were.
On Monday night, the ground was blessed where the remains were uncovered and where they were to be reburied. The new grave was dug early the following morning, followed by the ceremony which lasted about 45 minutes. Seymour said the remains were uncovered due to erosion, so they chose a spot further above the water line where they wouldn’t be exposed again. However, they didn’t want to move them too far from their original resting place.
“The important thing in our minds is whoever was buried there lived in that village. We felt like we didn’t want to take her away from that. She probably had children and relatives buried nearby.”
Seymour also said they considered further excavating for the woman’s remains, but didn’t want to disturb any other graves in the area. He said his ancestors always buried their dead in a fetal position facing east, and at this week’s ceremony they tried to point the reburied bones in that direction.
Seymour added the grave will not be marked, to protect it from would-be souvenir hunters.