On Monday, FortisBC is expected to approach Penticton City Council with a unique request to subdivide the substation on Huth Avenue.
Their appearance to ask council’s permission to return a section of the land to the Penticton Indian Band, is another chapter in a story that began in 2011 with the discovery of First Nations remains at the site.
“After some discussion we came to the consensus our ancestor has to stay on site and we don’t want it disturbed and Fortis agreed to give us the section of the property where the ancestor is buried,” said PIB Chief Jonathan Kruger.
Steve Akune was working as a the project leader on a transmission upgrade project at the substation in 2011, when the crew discovered a femur bone.
They contacted the coroners service and RCMP, and it was confirmed the find was the ancestral remains of one person.
The PIB was contacted and together band members and Fortis embarked on an excavation project that resulted in a find of thousands of artifacts ranging from bone fragments to carved antlers and tools.
“It was interesting and I learned a lot about identifying artifacts and the history of the site where First Nations people once camped,” said Akune.
The effort included photographing, documenting and initially storing artifacts at the substation.
Kruger said FortisBC went out of their way to make sure the remains, dating back thousands of years, and artifacts were treated with respect.
“It was a big surprise, the first find of this kind under my administration,” he said. “And I am very proud and honoured that Fortis came to us in a respectful way and went out of their way to honour the PIB and Okanagan people by their actions. It’s a huge electrical substation and we had to excavate carefully.”
After the project began, a burial ceremony for the remains was held at the substation in 2012. They will remain there and Kruger said a plaque will eventually be placed at the location.
The bulk of the artifacts are now stored at the Penticton Museum and Archives on behalf of the Penticton Indian Band, until they develop their own capacity to archive/ display the collection.
Neal Pobran, manager corporate communications for FortisBC in Kelowna, said Chief Kruger and the band provided much expertise and historical knowledge throughout the project.
The subdivision is a continuation of that mutual respect.
“We are asking for this subdivision because returning the land to the Penticton Indian Band ensures the site is protected and preserved in a respectful manner,” he said.