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UVic anthropologist Brian Thom is photographed in front of a 2,000 year-old Indigenous burial site of at least 35 bodies during a cultural tour of the ancestral lands of Ye’yumnuts in Duncan, B.C. (Chad Hipolito/Canadian Press) Near the foot of sacred Mount Prevost where Indigenous people say their ancestors first landed on earth lays buried a 2,000-year-old settlement with archeological evidence of ancient tools, homes, hearths and grave sites.

The Ye’yumnuts village near Duncan, B.C., is about to become a living Indigenous history lesson where the local school district will use the 2.4-hectare meadow as a place-based classroom.

The area, bordered by 500-year-old Garry Oaks, the meandering Somenos Creek and upscale suburban homes, was slated for a private residential development in the 1990s. But work stopped with the discovery of dozens of human skeletons, some curled in fetal positions and included mothers and their children, archeologists said.

Two elementary schools and a middle school are within walking distance of the village site and the Cowichan Valley School District has plans for field trips and projects with the elders of the Cowichan Tribes to bring a sense of time, place and reality to Indigenous relations classes that are now part of the school curriculum. UVic anthropologist Brian Thom points in the direction of a 2,000 year-old Indigenous burial site where at least 35 bodies were discovered, as he talks during a cultural tour of the ancestral lands of Ye’yumnuts in Duncan, B.C. ( Chad hipolito/Canadian Press) ‘Right in your backyard’

Ancient Greece is kind of academic and far away and a different place," said school district superintendent Rod Allen, standing in the shade of trees near the creek.

"This is right in your backyard, and we live here. That’s what makes it so totally amazing."

Even though the once thriving settlement is currently covered with soil and tall grasses, the story of what lies beneath the ground and its connection to history and people of today provides realistic experiences for students, he said.

"It’s a much more enabling, open-ended curriculum now which allows for place-based learning like this, which is just unbelievably authentic," said Allen. Jade used as part of a tool is one of over 490 artifacts found in an area near an Indigenous burial site of the ancestral lands of the Ye’yumnuts in Duncan, B.C (Chad Hipolito/Canadian Press) "Kids buy into that. It’s not library work. It’s out in the community and it’s work that matters."

Dianne Hinkley, the land research director for the Cowichan Tribes, said the ground at the Ye’yumnuts settlement had been the subject of almost 25 years of struggle between private developers, governments and the Cowichan people who wanted the burial area protected.

The land was finally protected in a deal involving the B.C. and federal governments, but it wasn’t until about two years ago when Hinkley started talking with Brian Thom, an Indigenous culture anthropology professor at the University of Victoria, that the idea formed to use the site as an education tool.

"Our boys were in the same class together and we went for the parent-teacher conference thing and Brian got hold of me afterwards and said, ‘Did you see that? They were studying Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome and Ancient Egypt,’" said Hinkley.

She said she went back to the teacher and asked: "What about Ancient Cowichan? That question got us started in getting involved with the schools." Cowichan Tribes Land Development staffer Dianne Hinkley talks about the area during a walk and cultural tour of the ancestral lands of the Ye’yumnuts. (Chad Hipolito/Canadian Press.) Thom, who worked on the original archeology dig at the Ye’yumnuts settlement during the 1990s, said the […]

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