Agreement made to preserve Sumas burial site in Abbotsford

Area around Lightning Rock used to bury dead after epidemic

Decades of worry may be coming to an end for Chief Dalton Silver and other members of the Sumas First Nation.

The Sumas announced Monday that it had signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the provincial government that will see the two bodies work together to preserve an important burial site and spiritual place located at the base of Sumas Mountain.

Forty burial mounds have been identified near Lightning Rock, an important Sumas spiritual site located off of Atkinson Road.

Some of the people buried there, according to the Sto:lo, may have been buried following a devastating smallpox epidemic in the 18th century.

The property has been the subject of several proposed developments over more than two decades, and Silver said he was once nearly arrested for blocking bulldozers that had started to clear a road.

“It’s always on our mind,” Silver told The News Tuesday. “I always felt like I was looking over my shoulder to see if something was going on there.”

Other First Nation burial sites in Canada have also been subject to raids by treasure hunters.

And in recent years, the Sto:lo people have intensified efforts to bring home the remains of ancestors taken from the land and displayed or held in museums around the world.

Silver said the MOU, along with a 2014 decision by the city to block a proposed development at the site, has provided more assurance that the site will be protected.

“Today, we are one step closer to ensuring that never happens again. On behalf of the Sumas First Nation, I want to sincerely thank Minister John Rustad and everyone in the ministry for helping us find a truly positive and reconciliatory path forward on this critical issue for the spiritual and cultural well-being of our people,” Silver had been quoted as saying in a press release issued the previous day.

“So rarely have First Nations felt that someone was listening to them, or honouring our spiritual beliefs. Today, I feel that strongly, and an enormous credit is due to them.”

That release says the company that owns the land is “fully supportive of the process that this MOU will initiate and has committed to working with the Nation on finding a conclusion that is respectful to all.”

The owner of the company has said that he didn’t know about the Sumas First Nation claim on the burial site when the property was purchased and that there should be proper designation for such sites.

While no specific decisions have yet been made, Silver said that in addition to protections for the site, he would like to see some sort of marker, including possibly some interpretive signs.

Anything, though, would have to recognize cultural beliefs about such sites.

Just Posted

Charge laid in Abbotsford motorcycle crash that killed Maple Ridge woman

Megan Kinnee, 19, died in collision on July 13, 2018

Abbotsford couple bring son home from Nigeria after long adoption delay

Kim and Clark Moran spent almost a year waiting to finalize adoption of Ayo, 3

Abbotsford cartoonist Ernie Poignant, 100, to launch new book

Proceeds from book sales go to Heritage Abbotsford Society

Two new Central Park Village apartment buildings under consideration

New buildings would include 142 new housing units in third phase of project

Surprise demand from city leaves Abbotsford man frustrated

Council to decide whether local man will have to hand over land if he wants to subdivide property

VIDEO: Under the big top in Abbotsford

American Crown Circus and Circo Osorio performed July 11-14

B.C. man dies from rabies after contact with Vancouver Island bat

Last known case of human rabies in B.C. was 16 years ago

Crown recommends up to two-year jail term for former Bountiful leader

Crown says sentence range should be 18 months to two years for Bountiful child removal case

B.C.-wide police efforts identify Vancouver Island robbery suspect

Warrant issued for arrest of North Vancouver man for TD Bank robbery

VIDEO: Wolf spotted swimming ashore on northern Vancouver Island

Island wolf population estimated at under 150 in 2008, says VI-Wilds

Diversity a Canadian strength, Trudeau says of Trump tweets at congresswomen

Trudeau avoided using Trump’s name when he was asked about the president’s Twitter comments

Garneau ‘disappointed’ in airlines’ move against new passenger bill of rights

New rules codified compensation for lost luggage, overbooked flights

Mercury tops out on top of the world: Alert in Nunavut warmer than Victoria

It’s the latest anomaly in what’s been a long, hot summer across the Arctic

Most Read