Sacred Sites and Archaeology


Sacred Sites and Archaeology


Article 11 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples states:

  1. Indigenous peoples have the right to practise and revitalize their cultural traditions and customs. This includes the right to maintain, protect and develop the past, present and future manifestations of their cultures, such as archaeological and historical sites, artefacts, designs, ceremonies, technologies and visual and performing arts and literature.

The increased activity of natural resource development has had an adverse impact on First Nation archeological, heritage and sacred sites. There is growing concern among the First Nations that First Nation archeological, heritage and sacred sites are not receiving the protection and preservation they deserve.

The Ministry of Parks, Culture and Sport have an established working relationship with the Saskatchewan Indian Cultural College (SICC) Elders Advisory Council. The Council provides the ministry with guidance on the policies around managing and access to culturally sensitive sites. The Council is also a key element in the development of the province’s Archaeological Burial Management Policy which the SICC’s Board of Governors approved in 2002. The policy specifies the SICC as the ministry’s primary contact for determining the treatment and disposition of newly discovered burial of First Nations origin.

In 1998 the Government of Saskatchewan, in co-operation with various First Nation agencies, acquired land for the creation of the Central Burial Site.  This land, situated near Saskatoon, will accommodate the reinternment of human remains and grave goods of ancient Aboriginal origin when the original grave site is not available or known.

The Ministry of Environment administers The Environmental Assessment Act  to ensure that economic development proceeds with adequate environmental safeguards to protect the land, environment and human health. The environmental assessments performed by the Ministry determine the proposed project’s potential environmental impacts, and the proponent’s actions to mitigate those potential impacts.

The Ministry of Agriculture is responsible for The Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Act pasture lands. The pastures provide areas for a variety of non-agricultural activities, such as hunting, tourism, mineral extraction, oil and gas exploration and development, research, recreation, and preservation of archeological and historical sites. The PFRA pasture lands have for the most part been undisturbed and have preserved First Nation archeological, heritage and sacred sites. A concerted effort is required to preserve the PFRA pasture lands so that First Nation archeological, heritage and sacred sites are preserved.

The Ministry of Parks, Culture and Sport administers The Heritage Property Act which protects and conserves archaeological, paleontological and built-heritage resources. The Ministry is to “gain further knowledge and increase public awareness, understanding and appreciation of Saskatchewan’s heritage through any suitable means.”   Section 6.5 of The Heritage Property Act provides: “The Foundation, on any terms and conditions that it considers appropriate, may retain the services of any consultants or professional or technical advisors that it considers necessary for the purposes of the Act.”

The Foundation administers The Heritage Property Act which protects and conserves archaeological, paleontological and built-heritage resources. The Foundation performs ‘Impacts Assessments’ to determine the effect of a proposed operation or activity and whether that operation or activity is likely to result in the alteration, damage or destruction of heritage property. During the performance of its mandate, the Foundation is to “gain further knowledge and increase public awareness, understanding and appreciation of Saskatchewan’s heritage through any suitable means.”

It is this aspect of the Foundation’s mandates under that the SICC is seeking an agreement to allow the meaningful participation and input of First Nations Elders, knowledge keepers and leadership. First Nations Elders, knowledge keepers and leadership possess a wealth of information that will greatly assist the Ministries in ensuring that any First Nation archeological, paleontological and other heritage resources receive the proper protection and preservation in Saskatchewan.

The inclusion of First Nations Elders, knowledge keepers and leadership may be accommodated by Section 6.5 of The Heritage Property Act that provides: “The Foundation, on any terms and conditions that it considers appropriate, may retain the services of any consultants or professional or technical advisors that it considers necessary for the purposes of the Act.”