Monday, October 31, 2011

Dig Within

While looking around into the Chinese coin discovery that was logged in the Yukon I discovered the full report on archelogical digs in the Fort St. James area. It's an impressive read with some killer maps if you have the time, but if not, here are some concerns I found.

Along with an interesting look into the methods and processes that they use at the site, there were some concerns about the effectivness and the reliability of the method. It seems there was inconsistancy in labelling a location a 'high' likelihood for artifacts (both of archeolgical sites and something called culturally modified tree locations). This led to communication break down as it was unclear why some had been marked high probability, while equivalent ones elsewhere had been marked moderate or lower. I can support the need to allow for the personal discretion of the investigator, however, it should not be so severe as to call into doubt the efectiveness of the report. These reports are used to predict the impact of industry development; if companies think the information is useless, they will be more inclined to dismiss findings that may make development difficult, and valuable archelogical sites could be senselessly lost.

The company also contacted both relevant industries and First Nations bands to gain their feedback on the method. However, out of nine First Nations the company contacted a full four of them simply did not respond to the minimum email and letter (some were even phoned). Of the remaining five, three groups reported they did not know the method existed, one commented on its use, and one group said they would not use it because "went through Apollo", meaning Apollo forest products, a large company who works in the area. To compare, of the eleven companies the organization spoke to, all were familiar with the model, but a few said they did not prefer to use it. This is incredibly disheartening since the bands had helped to develop the method when it was first created in 2003. The report speculates that a high management turnover rate contributed to the process being lost, but again, in cases where archeological relevance is concerned we are missing a valuable ally in the bands. The report mentions later including "sensitive First Nations data", but if the company had not been so diligent about contacting the bands (indeed, we are still missing the information from four of the relevant bands) this information could have been lost.

If this company's experiences with First Nations bands is typical there needs to be a closer look into interactions between companies and bands. Without a proper channel for discussion there will be more animosity and difficulty, building resentment until no progress can be made for anyone.

The title is a quote from the venerable Marcus Aurelius: "Dig within. Within is the wellspring of Good; and it is always ready to bubble up, if you just dig."

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