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Cheslatta Carrier Nation and Rio Tinto partner on archaeological project in British Columbia

$2.8 million for this Indigenous-led research initiative
Cheslatta Carrier Nation chief councillor Corrinna Leween. (File photo)

Cheslatta Carrier Nation and Rio Tinto have agreed to work together on an archaeological project that aims to better understand the history of Indigenous communities and human migrations.

The Cheslatta-led project will survey and excavate a variety of sites of cultural and historical significance, some of which possibly span the past 10,000 years or more. Archaeologists will collect, preserve and study artifacts found around Tatichek Lake, on the southeast side of the Nechako Reservoir, near to Eutsuk Lake, including several key locations where habitation sites once existed according to oral tradition. Work is already under way to prepare and protect some of the sites.

Rio Tinto will contribute $2.8 million to this Indigenous-led research initiative, which builds on the New Day agreement signed in 2020 between the Cheslatta Carrier Nation and the company to promote the social and economic well-being of the Cheslatta community. The funding is being jointly administered by the Cheslatta Carrier Nation and Rio Tinto.

“The former Tatichek village sites are the most significant archaeology sites remaining after the Nechako Reservoir was created in 1952. With this support from Rio Tinto, the Cheslatta Carrier Nation is now able to expand their knowledge of our ancestors and of the ancient human use occupation within the Cheslatta Territory,” Cheslatta Carrier Nation Chief Corrina Leween said.

“We are proud to work alongside the Cheslatta Carrier Nation to support this valuable Indigenous-led cultural research project. This archeological endeavour has the potential to enhance our understanding of the history of human occupation in the Nechako Watershed and beyond. We believe it will benefit not only the Cheslatta community but all local First Nations, and support our reconciliation efforts,” said Rio Tinto Aluminium Chief Executive Ivan Vella.

Dana Evaschuk, the Tatichek project lead archaeologist said, “With over 100 new archaeological sites identified so far and thousands of artifacts, we know that the Cheslatta Carrier Nation people utilized the resources in this area heavily and occupied numerous habitation sites along the shore of the lake. Excavation and further investigations at key archaeological sites will help establish timelines of use and occupation, resource procurement and trading networks with other nations.”

The project builds on earlier work conducted in 1951-52 by archaeologists from the University of British Columbia led by Dr. Charles Borden, which uncovered approximately 135 archaeological sites and thousands of artifacts in the area.

Land in the Nechako Reservoir was flooded as a result of the construction of the Kenney Dam by Alcan in the 1950s.