Morgan Ritchie hands a small bowl to fisherman Bob Forrester

Rare findings provide proof of oral stories

Sts'ailes honour men who found ancient artifacts belonging to ancestors

  • Nov. 4, 2011 9:00 a.m.

The generosity and selflessness of two men was celebrated in Sts’ailes on Tuesday afternoon. Both men have recently discovered rare archeological artifacts on or near traditional Sts’ailes territory, and they were honoured in a ceremony at Lhawathet Lalem, the Chehalis Healing House that sits on the Chehalis River.

Bob Forrester, from Mission, is an avid fisherman who has spent most of his life on the water.

Earlier this year, he was on his way to a fishing hole in the Chehalis Canyon, along the Chehalis River.

He was there for another day of his favourite pastime. But walking along the trail, he spotted a stone bowl just sitting on the ground.

When he picked it up, he realized it was carved in the basic shape of a bird, small enough to cup in one hand. Intrigued, he held onto it for the day, and knew he had to return it to the local First Nation band.

That day, Forrester said he caught two steelhead salmon in the canyon.

“I had really good luck fishing that day,” he said, and believes that it was a reward for finding the bowl.

During Tuesday’s ceremony, Kelsey Charlie told an audience of about 200 people that the finding is evidence that the oral stories they’ve heard are accurate.

The path where Forrester found the bowl is between the river and the “upper village,” and would have been used for catching the fat as it dripped off a cooking salmon, or for holding fish eggs.

“This solidifies that the oral history has been passed on (is true),” Charlie said, adding that the bowls are quite rare.

Equal importance was found in Greg Peterson’s discovery of a large cache of obsidian. The smooth, heavy, glass like stone is extremely rare in this area. However, Peterson found the cache in the Tapadera Estates, during road construction at Eagle Point.

As a forestry worker, Peterson knew the area is thought to be an ancient village site, and that the local First Nation band would appreciate having the artifacts. Obsidian was used for trade, and a large amount being found could signify that someone of great wealth was in the village. It also proves that the route was used for trading purposes by the Coast Salish people. The obsidian could have come from as far away as Oregon, carried along the river with great effort.

“To many people these could just be rocks,” Charlie said. “But these are rocks with history.”

The finds also underlined the importance of continuing to research the First Nation history of the area. Recently, the band dropped the name Chehalis and officially changed it to Sts’ailes, to honour their heritage.

They also have a Heritage Research Archeologist, Morgan Ritchie, who was on hand for the ceremony.

“Typically, the most exciting thing I find is small woodworking,”  he said.

The honouring ceremony was held before another ceremony at Lhawathet Lalem, to celebrate the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the Sts’ailes and several Provincial ministries regarding land and resources.

news@ahobserver.com

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