The tip of a weapon many thousands of years old has been returned to the Sts’ailes First Nation after being found on the banks of the Harrison River last spring.
Tony Gore and his family live in Chilliwack, but spend sunny days at their cabin on the Harrison River. Last spring, the family was exploring on the riverbanks close to Harrison Lake when Gore spotted a curiously shaped rock on the beach.
“As soon as I found it I called everybody over,” Gore said. “We all huddled around it, and we’re looking at this perfect point lying on the beach.”
|The Atlatl point found by Tony Gore and his family on the banks of the Harrison River last spring. The point has now been returned to the Sts’ailes First Nation. (Tony Gore/Contributed)|
The rock was clearly chiselled into the tip of some sort of weapon, and Gore began explaining to his son Wyatt, 4, and daughter Naomi, 3, how Indigenous people had used the point before metal to hunt animals.
“Wyatt, my son, reaches down and grabs it, right,” Gore said. “And I’m like, ‘Wyatt, you’re the first person to grab it in thousands of years.’”
Gore asked his son to give him the point for safekeeping, but Wyatt refused.
“He tucked it into his little pocket and he said, ‘I’ll keep it in my pocket dad, don’t worry. It’s safe.’”
Not wanting to quash his dreams, Gore let Wyatt take the point into his room to keep it safe.
It was only later, when Gore saw an article published by Black Press on a similar point being found in a garden near Williams Lake in June 2020, that he realized exactly what his family might have found on the beach.
After getting in touch with the Chilliwack Progress, Gore was connected with Morgan Ritchie, the heritage research archaeologist at the Sts’ailes First Nation.
According to Gore, Ritchie said the point was between 2,500 and 4,000 years old. It would have been used on an Atlatl, a type of thrown weapon that combines a spear with a hand-held device to help the user throw it further and faster.
The Atlatl has been used by people in North America for more than 10,000 years and predates the bow and arrow, although they were also used at the same time.
The points were never left behind if possible, Gore explained, so it’s likely something traumatic had happened, such as an animal escaping with the point stuck in its skin.
Because the point was found by itself on the beach, dating it can be tricky, Gore said.
It was only after his family had brought the point home that he learned artifacts like the point should be left where they were found, so an archaeologist like Ritchie can come and and document the area.
This allows the archaeologist to have a butter understanding of how the artifact was found, as well as look for other artifacts around it which can provide more clues about its use and history.
The Agassiz Harrison Observer had reached out to Ritchie and the Sts’ailes First Nation for more information on the point, but had not heard back after multiple attempts to connect.
Gore learned all this after he had gotten in touch with Ritchie. When he first contacted the archaeologist, Gore realized the fate of the point had been left in the hands of his young son, and he wasn’t sure what had happened to it.
“I was worried I lost it again. Luckily, I went into his room with Wyatt and he showed me where it was,” Gore said.
“He was really good, right away he wanted to give it back to them.”
When Gore returned the point, he was met by Ritchie and a member of the Sts’ailes First Nation, who gifted Gore with a blanket.
“I was kind of shocked,” Gore said, adding that the band has said they want to honour him further for returning the point once COVID-19 restrictions are removed.
For Gore’s family, finding the point and returning it to Sts’ailes has enhanced the family’s keen interest in local history.
“People, they don’t totally appreciate how long the First Nation people were here before us,” Gore said. “We were here for hundreds of years, but they were here for thousands.”
“That’s what I want to instill in our kids,” he continued, “to respect and appreciate the First Nations culture. Because it’s so big around here. It’s everywhere. It’s all around us.”
So far, that’s what has happened.
Wyatt is now a “little Indiana Jones” Gore said, and Naomi also loves history and “absorbs it like a sponge.”
“Since (we found the point), he’s been searching for rocks,” Gore said about Wyatt, now five years old. “It’s really sparked an interest in him. It’s amazing.
“I’m sure he’s going to be an archaeologist when he gets older.”