The Indigenous Heiltsuk Nations People from the central coast of British Columbia in Canada have been saying for years that their ancestors lived on an unknown strip of coastline during the last ice age, and thanks to collaborative efforts between archeologists and local first nations people, they have finally proved it to be true.
The discovery of a 14 000-year-old settlement on Triquet Island, off of British Columbia’s central coast not only affirms the history of this important indigenous tribe but also changes the history of North America as we currently understand it.
Who are the Heiltsuk Nations People?
Originally dispersed among fifty villages throughout the coastal area of what is now British Columbia in Canada, the Heiltsuk Nations people (also known as the Bella Bella) used the complex network of rivers, streams, and waterways to travel between settlements, salmon fishing camps, and ancient trading routes. (1, 2)
When the European settlers arrived in the nineteenth century and established For McLoughlin as part of the Hudson’s Bay Company, they began to try to take over the fur trade in that area. Over the next few decades, an uneasy business relationship was established between the Heiltsuk and the Europeans. Unfortunately, the new settlers continually attempted to calim Heiltsuk land and assimilate them into the new North American culture. (1, 2)
Thankfully, despite many tumultuous years and hard times, the Heiltsuk Nations People continued to pass on their culture and traditions to subsequent generations and still exists today. Thanks to these people, we have now discovered a vital component in the mystery as to how people populated and survived in North America all those thousands of years ago. (1, 2)
(For a more in-depth look into the history, culture, and traditions of the Heiltsuk people, go here.)
The Newly Discovered 14,000-Year-Old Settlement
This past year, teams of archaeologists from the Hakai Institute at the University of Victoria, in collaboration with local Heiltsuk Nation People, found remnants of charcoal, tools, fish hooks, spears for hunting marine life, and hand drills for lighting fires in a settlement off of the central coast of BC on Triquet Island. (3)
The carbon dating of the charcoal tells us that the settlement was established 13, 613 to 14, 086 years ago, making it one of the oldest human settlements in North America, two times older than the invention of the wheel, and three times older than the Pyramids of Giza. (3)
What does this New Settlement Mean for North Americans?
The sea level in the area around the settlement has remained relatively stable over the last 15 000 years and throughout the last ice age, confirming its ability to act as a refuge for civilization throughout those difficult centuries. (3)
Primarily, this discovery helps to explain how early North Americans migrated through British Columbia and began to populate the area. (3)
The theory is that during the last ice age, early humans who came from Asia and crossed the land bridge that connected Russia to Alaska moved down the coast by boat and into what is now British Columbia. Previously, it was believed that these people traveled by foot the entire way. The settlement on Triquet gives us more insight into the lives and industrious mindset of these ancient native peoples.(3)
For the Heiltsuk people, this discovery provides them with additional credibility and validity during land rights debates. The Triquet settlement proves that these lands do in fact belong to this indigenous group, that they have rights to the land, and deserve to have a loud and influential voice in the use and preservation of those areas. (3)
The Heiltsuk people place a high value on their relationships with and use of the land and its natural resources, rooted in the goal of sustainability and respect for the earth and the gifts that it brings. One of the philosophies of this indigenous group is “Take a little, leave a lot”: Protecting their environment is of utmost importance. Having control over their rightful land will benefit British Columbia, North America, and the world as a whole. (1, 3)
We look forward to following this exciting story and learning more about the original North American citizens through what they find at the ancient Heiltsuk settlement on Triquet.