KAMLOOPS, B.C. — Human remains discovered during the reconstruction of a street in Kamloops, B.C., were those of a mother in her 50s and date back more than 500 years.
The remains, including rib bones, a femur and shoulder blade, will be reburied in the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc reserve cemetery next month.
Ted Gottfriedson, the Tk’emlups language and culture manager, said the band has learned the bones date back 545 years and belonged to a woman who stood about five feet tall, gave birth to at least one child, was right-handed and had osteoarthritis. No cause of death was determined.
Tk’emlups Chief Rosanne Casimir said no other artifacts were found around the remains when they were unearthed on June 26 at a depth of about a metre and just steps away from a brake and muffler shop.
Gottfriedson said the woman died during a time when the nation would have been at its peak population.
"The first Europeans to move in here was like 1810, 1811," he said. "This would have been high times for our people."
A reburial ceremony at the Tk’emlups cemetery will be held Nov. 1. It will include song and prayer, followed by a feast.
"We are approaching this as a traditional funeral for one of our own," Gottfriedson said.
He said in the First Nation's culture it is "very taboo" to walk on a grave. There is no grass at the Tk’emlups cemetery because mowing over graves would be considered disrespectful.
"We don't want her to be stepped over," Gottfriedson said of the reburial.
"She’s been driven over. For me, personally, I just think of all the times I've driven over her and how awful that is for me to have done that. So, we're going to take her and we're going to bury her there. Obviously, those are her descendants. She's with family. She won't be disrespected."
The band praised the City of Kamloops for its part in handling the ancestral discovery.
The city's contractor stopped work immediately, hired security to protect the remains and provided access for a ceremony during afternoon rush hour, Gottfriedson said.
The operator of the excavator who uncovered the remains has asked to be involved, Gottfriedson said.
"It was very powerful."
(Kamloops This Week)
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 21, 2019.