The Papaschase First Nation in Edmonton believes it knows the location of a burial site but researchers are being blocked from examining it.
The First Nation has lived in Edmonton before settlers arrived and their land was taken for development.
“We’ve known quite a while, myself since the 90s,” said Papaschase Chief Calvin Bruneau. “Elders have passed down from generation to generation. Because this is one of the areas where Papaschase people lived along Blackmud Creek here.
“And so they would have had a burial site here. And that is what they are trying to locate.”
Papaschase is a band with no home.
Their reserve at one point was 155 square kilometres stretching down into southern Edmonton.
They lost all their land to settlers over the last century and a half.
Bruneau said there are burial sites all across the city of Edmonton.
Including one on the banks of Blackmud Creek.
He brought in archaeologists and students from the University of Alberta to have a look.
(University of Alberta Associate Professor Kisha Supernant talking to students at the site. Photo: Chris Stewart/APTN)
The archaeologists are using a combination of magnameters and ground penetrating radar to look for signs of the burial ground.
With this tech, they don’t have to use a single shovel to dig and there will be no damage done to the property.
But despite the find, the owners of the land based in British Columbia won’t let them onto the grounds to look.
So they can only search areas near the suspected location.
“Now that we are here, we can only look at the back here and the other side of the field,” Bruneau said.
“We have access to city property, so we have access to that, but we don’t have access here.”
University of Alberta Associate Professor Kisha Supernant is disappointed they are not allowed to search the most likely site of the burial ground.
“I hope that we are able to gain access and I hope that the current landowners realize that it’s better to work cooperatively to try to find out this information,” said Supernant. “If there is going to be any development on that property, there would be some requirements for an assessment.
“So in order to do that alongside ourselves and the Papaschase First Nation, to me would make more sense.”
The property owners are represented by Colliers International in Edmonton.
They didn’t return calls from APTN News to comment on this story.
But Bruneau said he’s hopeful the owners will allow them onto what was once their land.
“I hope they do yeah. I’m sure they will. I’m sure they will come around to it. Let us have access to it and come in and look,” he said.
“Especially now that we have an eyewitness saying there were people coming here in the 80s to set up tipis and all that. And doing their ceremonies. And that was just inside this fence here.”
But for now – the chief and archeologists continue searching on the outskirts of the property. Hoping to find the resting spot of their ancestors.