It is the first time that Heritage Canada has declared a river valley an endangered place based on the criteria of having high heritage significance, an urgency of threat, a potential for a positive solution, and evidence of active community support for its preservation.
The extraordinary rich and varied Peace River Valley was chosen due to its importance as a prehistoric migration route that dates back at least 10,500 years; the abundance of traditional use, sacred and historic settlement sites; its unique ecosystem for 20 at-risk species and as BC’s only prime farmland north of Quesnel.
The river valley is considered endangered because BC Hydro is proposing construction on a third hydroelectric dam, Site C, to begin this summer. The project will destroy 78 First Nation heritage sites, including burial grounds, 337 archaeological sites, 27 built heritage sites and 4 paleontological sites.
“Scientists have only begun to uncover the ancient heritage of the Peace River Valley,” says Karen Aird, the Cultural Heritage Planner for Treaty 8 Tribal Association and Tse’K’wa Heritage Society. “It has human occupancy sites dating back 500 generations, at a time before the pyramids were constructed in Egypt. In the last month alone, there was the discovery of a 30,000 year-old horse bone and a prehistoric mammoth tusk found near the Peace River. And last fall, a team of researchers uncovered a sacred site – an ancient circular rock dwelling with a rock entrance and cairn – in the Peace River region. The Peace River Valley boasts a succession of incredibly dense and unique cultural landscapes that are a legacy to all Canadians. Site C threatens the survival and continuity of this shared heritage.”