Lightning Rock and associated burial mounds are located on an Atkinson Road property (Google Maps image).

B.C. First Nation leaders to call for return of sacred burial grounds

Province and developer have yet to reach agreement to turn over Lightning Rock site in Abbotsford

B.C. First Nation leaders are set to gather Friday near an Abbotsford burial site to call for the land to be returned to the Sumas First Nation.

Sumas Chief Dalton Silver and former Lieutenant Governor Steven Point will be joined by other First Nation leaders to call for the provincial government to work out a deal with the owners of the property, which sits at the base of Sumas Mountain.

Hundreds, potentially thousands, of Stó:lō people were buried at the Lightning Rock site beginning in the late 1700s, when a smallpox epidemic devastated local First Nations communities. Dozens of burial mounds have been identified at the site, which is located off of Atkinson Road and named for a large, distinctive rock.

The property in question isn’t part of the Sumas reserve. Instead, it’s held by a company that sought to build a farm equipment dealership on the site in 2014. That application was rejected by council after staff deemed it clashed with Abbotsford’s Official Community Plan and Stó:lō elders expressed concern that it would jeopardize the archaeological significance of the site.

RELATED: Agreement made to preserve Sumas burial site in Abbotsford

RELATED: Council denies agri-centre project

While the Sumas First Nation registered opposition to the development at the time, they and the owners, Cold Water Ranch, are now unified in a call for the province to find a way to get the land back in the hands of its original owners.

In 2017, the Sumas announced it had signed a memorandum of understanding with the province stating the two bodies would work together to protect the site. A press release at the time said the company, Cold Water Ranch, supported the process and “has committed to working with the Nation on finding a conclusion that is respectful to all.”

But there has been little public progress on the matter in the two years since. A press release issued this week said that “since 2012 the company has been negotiating with the Provincial Government to return the sacred site back to the Sumas people, but has yet to reach a settlement for their costs”

The owners of Cold Water Ranch will be on hand Friday morning when Silver, Point and other B.C. Indigenous elders gather at the site at 11 a.m. to call for action on the file.

A provincial spokesperson said discussions continue with the First Nation and the landowner, “with a focus on finding a solution that meets the needs of all parties.”

While the province says it acknowledges that the site is a sacred place, it isn’t automatically protected under the Heritage Conservation Act because necessary archaeological evidence required by that law isn’t available. That is, in part, because local people have said they don’t want the site disturbed. The province says it is “working to find an alternative solution.”


@ty_olsen
tolsen@abbynews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

VIDEO: 5X Festival takes over Surrey’s Central City plaza

Second annual event draws thousands of people throughout the day

City shifts proposed transit station to King George after cancellation of LRT

Council to consider Newton Town Centre plan in fall

VIDEO: Plane makes forced landing on Highway 17 in Surrey

Police say no one was injured and no damage to aircraft or vehicles

Nearly 200 motorcycles take off from Cloverdale for Brenden’s Ride

Annual fundraiser supports programs that empower people with disabilities

Surrey Schools estimates $350K for tampon, pad dispenser installation

District aims to have equipment set up by October or November

10 facts about Father’s Day

Did you know that the special day for dads was first celebrated in 1910?

Bombers down B.C. Lions 33-23 in season opener

Former Lion Andrew Harris leads Winnipeg with 148 rushing yards

Northern B.C. family remembers murdered Indigenous woman with memorial walk

Still no closure for Ramona Wilson’s family 25 years later

Pride flag taken down by Township of Langley

Woman said she was told it was removed from her front yard because of a complaint

B.C. university to offer mentorship program for former youth in care

Students using the provincial tuition waiver program will soon be able to form a community at KPU

Cyclists competing in one of the toughest bike races on the planet pass through Fernie

Divide riders looking strong as they finish first leg of 4160 km race

You might not know these B.C. records are public

Hired a lawyer to file a civil claim? Those are published online

B.C. bus driver loses case to get job back after texting while driving full bus

An arbitator ruled that Tim Wesman’s phone usage was a “a reckless disregard for public safety”

Revamped B.C. Lions set to battle veteran Winnipeg Blue Bombers

The Lions’ first test of the season will be a big one

Most Read

l -->