Tag Archives: Burial Site

Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs shocked that downtown Winnipeg is a First Nations burial site

Treaty One Territory, MB. _ Grand Chief Arlen Dumas of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs is shocked to learn there were 1,200 First Nations people who died from a small pox epidemic in the late 1700s and were buried in “the heart of the city of Winnipeg” on “the north bank of the river.”

“It is horrifying to learn of the impact of this small pox epidemic and the number of our people who died due to their contact with the settler society,” said Grand Chief Dumas. “This devastation of our First Nations population cleared the way for the appropriation of their lands and resources. The mere fact that there are a dozen burial sites within short distances of each other and that Winnipeggers do not know whose bones they are walking over, building over is astounding and disheartening.”

Winnipeg Free Press columnist Niigaan Sinclair wrote, a smallpox epidemic destroyed communities across southern Manitoba in 1781. These outbreaks came with a 90 per cent death rate. Scholars have noted that 800 lodges of Indigenous peoples resided at what is now known as The Forks in Winnipeg. First Nations people lived, travelled and traded for 6,000 years at The Forks.

“These epidemics had more than just the immediate effects of First Nations people perishing from the disease; they also altered the lives of not only survivors, but future generations. They affected First Nations’ cultural, social, and political institutions. Their everyday life changed forever. We need to work with the Province of Manitoba and the City of Winnipeg to honour those that perished from these outbreaks,” said Grand Chief Dumas.

This could include but not limited to a memorial statue, stories included in history books of Winnipeg and Manitoba, or a plaque at the site of The Forks detailing the small pox epidemic and the effects on First Nations citizens in Manitoba, suggested Grand Chief Dumas.

By Kim Wheeler | Oct 4th, 2018


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Tsilhqot’in First Nation To Use Blockades If Needed To Protect Ancient Burial Site

Cecil Grinder, puts purification smoke over Chief Joe Alphonse, Tribal Chairman Tsilhqot'in Nation prior to the start of a ceremony to commemorate the 150th anniversary of six first nation chiefs being hung to death in Quesnel, B.C., on Sunday, Oct. 26, 2014. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)

Cecil Grinder, puts purification smoke over Chief Joe Alphonse, Tribal Chairman Tsilhqot’in Nation prior to the start of a ceremony to commemorate the 150th anniversary of six first nation chiefs being hung to death in Quesnel, B.C., on Sunday, Oct. 26, 2014. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)

By The Canadian Press, July 18, 2016

VANCOUVER — Members of a British Columbia First Nation are remembering a warrior chief who was wrongfully hanged 151 years ago and say they won’t allow another injustice to be done to their ancestor.

The First Nation says a service was held Monday at the site of a high school in New Westminster, B.C., which was built atop a former cemetery where the remains of Tsilhqot’in war Chief Ahan may have been buried after he was executed on July 18, 1865.

Joe Alphonse, tribal chairman of the Tsilhqot’in national government, said four of six chiefs attended the ceremony and that members smudged the grounds, made a tobacco offering and drummed songs to pay tribute to Ahan.

Alphonse said there are no records to indicate that the warrior’s remains were taken to the cemetery after originally being buried at a courthouse square in the city.

However, he said the First Nation will fight to preserve Ahan’s remains even if there is “a one-per cent chance” that they’re at the school site.

Construction to replace the run-down school built in 1949 is slated to begin next year elsewhere on the same property, and the Education Ministry said an archeologist will ensure that any artifacts are appropriately recorded.

Education Minister Mike Bernier has said the school was built “in the wrong place” and that constructing a new school will fix that problem.

Alphonse wants protocols in place about the proper handling of any bones that could be found and warned the First Nation would mount blockades or file a court challenge to stop construction if necessary.

“All we’ve ever asked for from the New Westminster School Board is, in the event that you run into some bones do the honourable thing. Do a DNA sample and let us know if that’s him. They refused to do that so we’re not going to run that risk. So we’ll shut it down. We’ll use every means we can.”

The board couldn’t be reached for comment, but says on its website that it plans to use non-intrusive means, such as ground penetrating radar, to find out more about the school property before soil investigations that are scheduled for next month.

“Those activities are important for proper project planning and respecting the heritage of the site,” it says.

Premier Christy Clark apologized nearly two years ago for the hanging of Ahan and five other chiefs in Quesnel in 1864 during a bloody dispute known as the Chilcotin War.

The chiefs were hanged after 19 people were killed in a dispute over the construction of a road through Tsilhqot’in territory. The government militia couldn’t capture the chiefs, but they were lured out of hiding when they received overtures to speak with the government.

They were arrested and tried for murder. The road was never built.

Clark also signed an agreement with the Tsilhqot’in to work together on social and economic initiatives.

Last June, the First Nation, whose members live in the Cariboo-Chilcoton plateau area west of Williams Lake, won a historic Supreme Court of Canada land rights case that gave them title to 1,700 square kilometres of land in the remote Nemiah Valley. The landmark ruling meant they became the first aboriginal band in Canada to win title to their territory.

The cemetery at the school site was also the final resting place for Chinese pioneers, and members of the Chinese community in New Westminster joined First Nations groups against the construction of a new school on the same spot.


Huron-Wendat Call For Immediate Investigation After Ontario Desecrated Burial Site In Barrie


Kenneth Jackson, APTN National News, March 11, 2016

Huron-Wendat call for immediate investigation after APTN uncovers Ontario desecrated burial site in Barrie

The Huron-Wendat Nation is demanding the Ontario government call an urgent investigation into how one of their sacred burial sites in Barrie, Ont. was desecrated following an investigation by APTN National News this week uncovered how the province not only allowed it to happen but were the ones that did it.

Grand Chief Konrad Sioui said the investigation needs to be independent as his ancestors have been dug up, disturbed and “entirely desecrated, likely with the knowledge of certain municipal and government authorities” on what’s known as the Allandale Station lands, a nine-acre site in downtown Barrie.

“We are outraged to see that this situation seems to have gone on for years, all without our knowledge,” said Sioui in a press release issued Friday. “We deeply lament this immense desecration of our ancestors. The Allandale Station site and the burial grounds that are found there are sacred and must be protected. Huron-Wendat human remains must never be disturbed, under any circumstances.”

The Huron-Wendat people were known to inhabit a large portion of southern Ontario including Barrie. The area is commonly called Huronia. After being forced out in the 1600s they later resettle in Quebec, and parts of the United States.

APTN reported Wednesday that several laws and regulations that are supposed to protect archaeological and burial sites were ignored by the Ontario government when it started construction to extend GO Transit, the provincially-owned commuter rail line, into the Allandale site in 2010.

This photo was taken in 2011 and shows work is underway on the pedestrian under pass.

This photo was taken in 2011 and shows work is underway on the pedestrian under pass.

The government had knowledge of the documented burials, known as ossuaries, for years and that all but one of the many archaeological reports done on the land had warned the province not to dig without looking for them burials.

The one that didn’t was commissioned by GO Transit in 2004.

Philip Woodley was hired to do what is known as a Stage 1 archaeological assessment of five locations in Barrie where Go Transit was looking to build a new station connecting Barrie to downtown Toronto.

A Stage 1 is known as a literature review, meaning archaeologists generally look over any historical documents that can help them understand what was once on a property.

Woodley said he never looked in the history books because when he visited the site, known as the Allandale Station lands, he believed it was too disturbed to contain any archaeological potential after operating for years as a rail yard.

What he didn’t know, and which had been previously documented, is when the railway yard was first built back in 1853 a large amount of fill dirt was used to level the ground capping the natural soil beneath.

This could have protected a large ossuary found in 1846 with 200-300 bodies. Two smaller ossuaries were found later that century. It’s not known what happened to them or their exact location on the site, but many believe they were in the area where GO put their tracks and could still be there. Woodley said he should have told GO Transit a more in-depth assessment of the site was required, such as doing test pits to look for evidence of the ossuaries.

“It certainly looked disturbed to me at the time, but apparently I was wrong,” said Woodley. “I went out there. I looked around. I saw a train station and a huge gravel pad that was at the same level as the surrounding land.”

The Allandale station in 2009. The Huron Wendat community was located between the station and the tracks.

The Allandale station in 2009. The Huron Wendat community was located between the station and the tracks.

Just a few years earlier, the former AFBY Archaeological and Heritage Consultants found a Huron-Wendat village in the natural soil at Allandale with thousands of pieces of ceramics and tools.

AFBY didn’t find the burials and recommended to the province that any development on the site, outside of his testing area, needed further assessment, as he only did a small portion of the site.

The province agreed in a 2001 letter to AFBY.

Woodley never got those AFBY reports, and there was three of them. He said he asked for them, but the province didn’t provide any.

“When we did our background research none of (AFBY’s) work came up as part of existing sites in the area,” he recalled. “I’m not trying to justify my conclusions. I’m just saying … there was no registered sites and I just assumed it was disturbed.”

The Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport signed off on his report three years later in 2007, around the same time GO Transit acquired a portion of the Allandale site from Barrie.

The ministry made no revisions to Woodley’s report.

In 2010, construction started on the site, including a station with a deep underground pedestrian pass.

Adding to the problem is the province knew of AFBY’s reports and had its own knowledge of the area, but still cleared GO to do the work using Woodley’s report.

The province wrote to Barrie officials in 1996 when the city was acquiring the site back from the Canadian National Railway, and told them the lands had archaeological potential and there were rules to follow if they redeveloped the land.

That letter mentioned a Barrie Examiner newspaper article from 1926 that recounted an interview with a Major Joseph Rogers, the high constable for Simcoe County.

“There are few people who stand on the station platform at Allandale and know they are standing right over one of the greatest Indian burial places known in Ontario,” Rogers is quoted as saying.

Archaeologists, who have reviewed the situation, said the province should never have cleared the site for development based on what was known.

“Further systemic gaps are indicated by the fact that in 2007 the Ministry of Culture issued a concurrence letter for (Woodley’s) report – essentially clearing the candidate GO station site on the Allandale Station lands of any further archaeological concern – in spite of the outstanding recommendations for further work on the property to which they had previously agreed in 2001,” wrote Robert MacDonald, the assistant managing partner at Archaeological Services Inc. in Toronto, in his January 2015 summary report issued to MTCS calling for urgent action.


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No action has happened, and the province has refused to directly answer any questions brought to them by APTN, other than to say they’re improving the system and reviewing reports.

Another archaeologist said even if the province didn’t share AFBY’s report, Woodley’s work shouldn’t have been accepted.

“Right away when Phil Woodley’s report came in (the ministry) should have said ‘try again,’” said Mike Henry of AMICK Consultants. “Even if the ministry didn’t recognize they’re at fault for not giving Phil the AFBY report they should have still said to Phil ‘this is unsatisfactory because we know there is a burial ground there. We told the city there is a burial ground there. We know (because) it’s documented. It’s publicly available information … re-write the report. Re-submit it. Make appropriate recommendations.’”

Henry was hired by the City of Barrie in late 2009 to do a Stage 1 of the site.

When he requested all previous archaeological reports done the site he got AFBY’s and not Woodley’s.

Still, he recommended any lands not assessed by AFBY be thoroughly tested for burials.

His recommendations could have been shared with GO and the work stopped, but Barrie never gave the report to Metrolinx, the Ontario government agency that operates GO Transit.

“It is Barrie’s understanding that Metrolinx conducted its own archaeological investigations for the work it was completing for the Allandale GO Train Station. Barrie does not have a record of those reports. Barrie does not believe that Metrolinx discovered any archaeological artifacts during the course of its works,” said the city in a statement to APTN.

Metrolinx has said in documents they don’t believe its contractors found anything, but have also refused to answer questions.

But Henry’s report was also filed with the ministry and it’s not believed they did anything to stop the construction of the GO station.

“It is a documented cemetery. (While) it may not be officially registered as a cemetery, it is a documented burial ground,” said Henry of the nine-acre site. “It is a cemetery, so you have to be darn sure that area is contained.”

While the ossuaries have never been found since their discovery, Henry did find a large amount of fragmented human remains on the site between 2011-2012, including piece of a human jaw with teeth still attached and shovel-shaped incisors – a known characteristic of Indigenous people pre-contact.

He found them about 100 metres from where the GO station is today.

The old Allandale rail station in Barrie. In the foreground a test square can be seen where archaeologists are searching for human bones. Photo courtesy: Mike Henry

The old Allandale rail station in Barrie. In the foreground a test square can be seen where archaeologists are searching for human bones. Photo courtesy: Mike Henry

Henry believes remains are yet to be found on the property and further testing is needed of all the land there.

Robert MacDonald of ASI said the gaps in regulations need to be closed.

“(We’re) very concerned that gaps in provincially mandated policies and protocols, such as those which led to the construction of the Allandale Go Station without a Stage 2 archaeological assessment, may result in further impacts to the archaeological deposits and/or human remains on the Allandale Station Lands,” he said in his 2015 report.

Woodley said if the province had other reports and recommendations they should have went with them.

“You always go with the most recent report,” he said. “I feel bad about my report (but) somebody else should have shared the other reports.”

In June 2015, the Huron-Wendat Nation’s band council adopted a resolution to establish a clear position regarding the protection and preservation of its ancestral heritage.

“We will continue to fight for the protection of our history and against the destruction of our heritage and ancestors both in Quebec and in Ontario. These are our ancestors and we will take all the necessary measures to restore their dignity so that they may rest in peace,” said Sioui, Friday. “We have been faced with many situations where the remains of our ancestors have been unearthed, examined, studied, unilaterally appropriated or simply disposed of like garbage. As in all such cases, this situation is unacceptable to us.”


Fired National Park Worker Says She’s A Scapegoat For Damage To Sacred Burial Site

In this Nov. 8, 2010 file photo are the "Three Mounds" site at at Effigy Mounds National Monument in Harpers Ferry, Iowa. Former Effigy Mounds superintendent Phyllis Ewing contends in an age discrimination lawsuit filed in federal court last week that she was unfairly blamed and fired for illegal construction projects that damaged one of the nation's most sacred American Indian burial sites. (The Des Moines Register via AP, Justin Hayworth)

In this Nov. 8, 2010 file photo are the “Three Mounds” site at at Effigy Mounds National Monument in Harpers Ferry, Iowa. Former Effigy Mounds superintendent Phyllis Ewing contends in an age discrimination lawsuit filed in federal court last week that she was unfairly blamed and fired for illegal construction projects that damaged one of the nation’s most sacred American Indian burial sites. (The Des Moines Register via AP, Justin Hayworth)

By Ryan J. Foley | Associated Press

IOWA CITY, Iowa — A former National Park Service official in Iowa says she was unfairly blamed and fired for approving illegal construction projects that damaged a sacred American Indian burial site.

In an age discrimination lawsuit filed last week, former Effigy Mounds National Monument superintendent Phyllis Ewing contends the agency made her a “scapegoat” to appease interest groups and protect other officials’ reputations. After being removed as superintendent in 2010 and transferred to the National Park Service’s regional office in Omaha, Nebraska, Ewing claims she worked for 3½ years with barely any official duties before she was fired in 2013.

A federal investigation made public last year found that Ewing and a subordinate, Tom Sinclair, repeatedly violated laws that required archaeological studies and input from tribes before they built boardwalks, trails and a maintenance shed.

The projects, costing $3 million over a decade, removed stone artifacts and impacted scenic views at the site in northeast Iowa, which contains burial and ceremonial mounds affiliated with 12 tribes. Tribal groups and some environmentalists were outraged by the damage at the park, which was created in 1949 to preserve “a significant phase of mound building culture of prehistoric American Indians.”

Ewing, now 73 and living in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, contends in the lawsuit she was provided very little training on the mandatory reviews before she became superintendent in 1999 and that it was unfair for the National Park Service to expect her to perform them appropriately. The lack of training, exacerbated by tight funding and travel budgets, was “epidemic in the agency,” the lawsuit says.

Ewing’s superiors at the regional office uncovered violations of the National Historic Preservation Act in 2009 during construction of one of three boardwalks. After the problems continued, the agency gave Ewing the option in April 2010 of retiring or transferring to a position as a curator at the Omaha office.

Once in Omaha, Ewing alleges she learned that co-workers were instructed not to communicate or cooperate with her and generally treated her with disdain and disrespect.

“(Ewing) was forced to walk on egg shells, never being able to feel welcome or at home there,” the lawsuit says. “The fact is, Plaintiff never had an official job, barely official duties, and believes that the agency was biding time as it planned an opportunity to remove her.”

Federal prosecutors declined to file charges in 2012 after a two-year criminal investigation. The National Park Service fired Ewing in November 2013, saying she failed to perform her duties and follow guidelines while superintendent. The lawsuit, which seeks compensation for lost wages and benefits and additional damages, claims those allegations were false and unfair and a pretext for age discrimination.

National Park Service spokeswoman Christine Powell declined comment Monday. In response to the scandal, the agency has said that it “ramped up its training program” for superintendents to understand how to comply with federal law.

Critics of Ewing and the National Park Service’s handling of the case said they were skeptical of her claims.

“Everyone knew she was going to pull this ‘I’m an old lady’ defense,” said Tim Mason, a former park ranger who filed a complaint in 2010 that sparked the criminal investigation. “Now it will drag through the process and the American taxpayer will pay more. Hopefully, the feds don’t lay down and give up.”

Jeff Ruch, executive director of the watchdog group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, said the park service’s decision to allow Ewing to transfer was an attempt to keep the problems quiet but ended up making them worse.

“This whole affair showed a monstrous lack of judgment,” he said of the construction. “And after the park service confirmed all of it, they refused to confront it and tried to shut her away some place in hopes that she would retire.”