I was pleased to be present Monday (March 27, 2017) for the unveiling of the first of 75 new Stop of Interest signs.
The sign, located next to the Sts’Xum monument beside the Trans Canada near Pritchard, acknowledges the archaeological finds made during the four-laning of the highway.
Transportation Minister Todd Stone and representatives from the Sexqeltkemc te Secwepemc presided at the ceremony.
The Stop of Interest project has received some criticism for supposedly not properly considering First Nations culture and history but I can tell you that’s not true.
I had the honour and pleasure of serving on the provincial evaluation committee that assessed hundreds of proposals.
Many of them came from First Nations, and many others involve First Nations stories. My understanding is also that in a lot of cases First Nations and post-contact or even modern-day connections will be woven together where appropriate. I think the sign unveiled Monday is an excellent example of that.
“The first of our new Stop of Interest signs highlights important archaeological work done in partnership with local First Nations during safety improvements to the Trans-Canada Highway east of Kamloops,” said Stone.
“Now, visitors through this area can imagine what this land may have looked like 10,000 years ago when it was home to the early Secwepemc peoples.”
Stone noted that the original Stop of Interest sign program goes back many years to a time when the wording that was used wasn’t always appropriate by today’s standards. That will change with the new program.
The area of the Trans-Canada Highway corridor in which the sign was unveiled, called the “Cradle of Secwepemc Civilization,” is one of the more culturally significant archaeological areas in the province, dating back 9,500 years.
“Sts’xum Monument is a modern day Coyote Marker to honour Secwépemc ancestors within ‘Secwépemc Cradle of Civilization’ in the area during the Trans-Canada Highway 1 expansion,” said Neskonlith Chief Judy Wilson. “The rock sculptures were created by local Secwépemc artists.”
“We have been on our lands for over 10,000 years,” said Splatsin Chief Wayne Christian. “We want to share with the world the sacredness of our connection to Secwepemculcw.”
Elder Mike Arnouse also spoke, telling of the impacts of European civilization on First Nations.
From September 2016 through January 2017, British Columbians were invited to submit their ideas for new Stop of Interest signs and share interesting stories that could be told to people travelling B.C.’s highways. Over 500 submissions were received. I’ve always been an amateur B.C. historian but I must say I learned a lot about the fascinating and sometimes little recognized corners of our province’s history through the evaluation process.
The stories to appear on the remainder of the 75 new signs will be announced over the coming months as the signs are installed.