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Archaeological Find Confirms Oral History Of Indigenous People

Indigenous people off the coast of British Columbia, known as the Heiltsuk, have said their people occupied Bella Bella island for thousands of years. Because it was an oral history, there were no formal records available to compare. Now, archeologists have uncovered evidence that the Heiltsuk's oral history is right.

"The Heiltsuk people have lived in their lands; on what has come to be called the Central Coast of British Columbia, since time immemorial," read a 2001 article in 'Heiltsuk Occasional Papers: A Journal on Social, Cultural & Environmental Issues'. As it turns out, they were right. Archeologists have just unearthed evidence that the Heiltsuk have been in the area for 14,000 years.

"Heiltsuk oral history talks of a strip of land in that area where the excavation took place. It was a place that never froze during the ice age and it was a place where our ancestors flocked to for survival," William Housty, a member of the Heiltsuk Nation, tells CBC News.

A dig on Triquet Island on B.C.'s Central Coast is confirming the oral history. Archeologists in British Columbia excavated a settlement that has been dated to 14,000 years ago, during the last ice age. University of Victoria scholar Alisha Gauvreau, Ph.D., and the Hakai institute worked together to excavate artifacts from the island, including carved wooden tools, remnants of ancient hearth fires and other items.

"When First Nations talk about time immemorial, it just goes to show how far back the occupation of this land goes back in deep time," said Gauvreau.

The find is exciting for indigenous people of the local area because it validates the Heiltsuk history scientifically.

"When we do go into negotiations, our oral history is what we go to the table with," said Housty, a member of the board of directors for the Heiltsuk Resource Management Department.

"When we do go into negotiations, our oral history is what we go to the table with... So now we don't just have oral history, we have this archeological information. It's not just an arbitrary thing that anyone's making up ... We have a history supported from Western science and archeology."

The find is also exciting for North America because it supports one of the main theories on how humans first came to the Americas. For a while now, there have been two main theories.

One theory is that humans walked over a land bridge from Asia to Alaska, and that this brought them through an ice-free corridor East of the Rockies. The land bridge is believed to be covered by water since the last ice age melted.

The other theory is that they traveled by boat from Asia to what is now Alaska. The new find supports the latter theory. Carbon-dated tools and other evidence is backing up the boat theory.

"From our site, it is apparent that they were rather adept sea mammal hunters," said Gauvreau.
From there, the first North American visitors found that strip of ice-free land and eventually made their way through what is now eastern and central Canada.

Dr. Gauvreau will be presenting the findings to the Society for American Archeology coming up in Vancouver this week.

Source: CBC
Photos: YouTube

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