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Feds recognize Tse’K’wa, ancient cave north of Fort St. John, with national historic designation

The archaeological site and spiritual centre has greatly contributed to understanding the lives of early Canadians from as early as 12,500 years ago.

Parks Canada says the historic cave site know as, Tse’K’wa, is providing researchers with an understanding of human settlement and environmental change from the last glacial period (12,500 years ago) to 1,000 years ago. (M. Stopp, Parks Canada)

Tse’K’wa in Fort St. John, B.C., one of Canada’s most important archaeological and spiritual sites, has been awarded a national historic designation by the federal government. 

The cave site, once referred to as Charlie Lake Cave, is described as an ‘”exceptional archaeological site” by Parks Canada.

“It has provided an understanding of human settlement and environmental change from the last glacial period (12,500 years ago) to 1,000 years ago,” a release from the organization read.

Because the site — about nine kilometres northwest of Fort St. John — had relatively undisturbed soil layers, archaeologists have been able to find evidence of stone tools and bones of late glacial animals from thousands of years ago.

Garry Oker, a councilor with the Doig River First Nation and president of the Tse’K’wa Heritage Society, says the site holds great importance for the Dane-zaa First Nations. 

“We call this … the ‘dreamer’s land.’ Nááchę are the prophets that brought back these songs to recognize these sacred places,” Oker said. 

“We use them for all kinds of ceremonies and to lift people up, to lift the spirit up.”

Oker says the designation is a significant step in the main goal of a group of First Nations in the area: building an interpretive centre. He says many elders that understand the stories and spiritual significance of the site are still alive. 

“It’s an opportunity to get them involved, to record some of their stories, and get other local people involved in their experience working up here, living up here, and knowing about the history of the land,” he said. 

“I’m hoping that [the designation] can open up some funding avenues for us to really get this thing moving.”

Parks Canada manages 171 national historic sites across the country. 

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