In 2014 Mr. Len Donaldson, a farmer from Rolla, British Columbia, donated to Simon Fraser University (SFU) a collection of more than 1,000 artifacts he has collected over his lifetime. This large collection of mostly ancient stone tools is archaeologically important to interpreting the history of the Peace River region in the northeastern part of the province.
Mr. Donaldson’s farm is situated near the archaeological site of Tse’K’wa, also known as Charlie Lake Cave, which is one of only a few known archaeological sites in North America that predates 10,500 BP (Before Present). It contains evidence of six occupation levels with undisturbed layers of archaeological deposits containing stone and bone artifacts, including retouched flakes and a fluted point. Tse’K’wa is the only archaeological site in the country in which such tools and associated animal remains have been found. Archaeologists also excavated two raven skeletons and a bead there; which has been interpreted as being the oldest evidence of ritual acts in Canada.
SFU’s Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology (MAE) accepted the donation only on the condition that it would be repatriated to the local First Nation, the Treaty Eight Tribal Association (T8TA). For the past three years, staff and volunteers at the MAE and students in the SFU Department of Archaeology have curated the Collection and developed educational resources and programming, including two teaching kits. These will be included with the Collection when it is presented to the T8TA in June. An exhibition in the Museum was also created.
“It has been a hands-on project in museum curation for the students, giving them experience in the development of a collection, and is a wonderful way to support First Nations communities in the North,” according to the MAE’s director, Dr. Barbara Winter.
The return of the Collection will assist the T8TA communities of Northern BC to gain material from their cultural heritage, building on and solidifying their narration of their own history as well as that of the province as a whole, Winter added.
An interpretative center is planned for Tse’K’wa. In 2012 the First Nations of Doig River, Prophet River and West Moberly purchased the site. Until the new center opens, the Tse’K’wa Collection will be housed at the Dinosaur Museum in nearby Tumbler Ridge. The Tse’K’wa Interpretative Center is a collaborative project between the T8TA, the Tse’K’wa Heritage Society, the Aboriginal Education Centre in School District No. 59, Peace River Region, and the Tumbler Ridge Museum Foundation.
Over 1,000 artifacts, many of which are stone tools, make up the Tse'K'wa Collection.