A controversial road development in central Saskatchewan is now on hold for the remainder of the year, as the municipality looks to consult with affected First Nations, following the discovery of ancient Indigenous artifacts.
“We have identified varying levels of potential grievances for the proposed road development project over the last few weeks and as such have decided to halt project construction in 2019,” said R.M. Winslow Reeve Sheldon McLean in a statement. “We understand the importance of First Nations heritage and conservation given that our R.M. is located very close to the Herschel Petroglyph/Tipi Ring Site which is something our community respects and values.”
Indigenous artifacts found on the site include a cairn, tepee rings and pottery items. Deeper excavation still has uncovered a knife-like instrument made of obsidian that could be as old as 10,000 years.
The statement says the Heritage Conservation Branch knew of the discovery, but went ahead with permitting the project.
The department did not notify the affected First Nations that there were artifacts as current heritage legislation does not call for consultation.
“Within the legislation, the duty to consult and that doesn’t tie to the identification of artifacts in this case. If this was the identification of burial sites, there’s another process that we follow but the identification of artifacts, the process doesn’t move forward into the duty to consult with the neighbouring First Nations,” said Ministry of Parks, Culture and Sport Assistant Deputy Minister Candace Caswell.
A government spokesperson says the government is reaching out to First Nations to schedule meetings to discuss the Heritage Property Act.
First Nations swiftly objected to the project, signing a memorandum of understanding with a farmer where the artifacts were discovered.
The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations threatened to blockade the site.
“We look forward to having open and meaningful conversations with involved First Nation groups and we hope to find a respectful and mutually acceptable solution to this proposed project,” McLean stated.
With files from Fraser Needham.
(PHOTO FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron. MBC File)