Amanda Follett Hosgood, communications specialist with Crossroads Cultural Resource Management in Smithers, interviews Chief Alfred Joseph in Hagwilget during an excavation project in 2011. The resulting documentary, which has been accepted to this year’s Society for Applied Anthropology Film Festival, provides a resource for better understanding First Nations’ concerns around industrial development. Contributed photo

Sacred Ground ancient burial story goes to Philadelphia

VIDEO: Smithers cultural resource company filmed their work of BC Hydro discovery near Hagwilget.

We’re used to hearing about the creative element within our community and how it does such a wonderful job taking the arts from here to the bigger world. We keep finding new and exciting examples in the most unexpected areas.

Crossroads Cultural Management (CRM) was recently selected to have it’s film Sacred Ground chosen for exhibition at this year’s Society for Applied Anthropology Film Festival in Philadelphia this April. The festival, part of the Society of Applied Anthropology conference, had 136 submissions from 45 countries and was one of only 26 selected.

According to Rick Budwha, principal and applied anthropologist of CRM, the film goes back several years.

“We started as far back as 2006 and finished in 2012. We did it as a legacy for the community. Usually we have a report but we wanted to leave something more appropriate for the community. It showed how that community directed the project and how to deal with the situation, which was an impacted burial ground,” he said.

At the time, BC Hydro was doing some routine maintenance and came across an ancient burial ground. There were no protocols in place to follow and it was necessary to settle community unrest and repair the relationship between the First Nation in Hagwilget and BC Hydro.

As a result of the process, BC Hydro now uses the film as part of their training for cultural sensitivity.

According to Budwha, First Nations need to be heard early in the process where there might be such a situation.

“In most cases, they are not heard at the beginning of planning and development. It is slowly changing but it will take time,” he said.

“We are dealing with a situation in B.C. where the agreement on ownerships of the land is absent due to the pre-treaty situation. The courts continue to empower First Nations. They also empower themselves to focus on ensuring that cultural needs are met,” he said. “We hear from many of our colleagues in the rest of Canada and in the U.S. that we are light years ahead because if the pre-treaty environment.”

“This project brought some of the aspects of culture that are rarely present. First Nations cultural expression needs to get out in an appropriate manner so mainstream media can report on it respectfully. In this case we wanted to make sure that the industry and the First Nation would have a good relationship,” according to Amanda Follett, communications specialist with CRM.

In this case, there was an existing line and poles needed replacing. There was no process in place and one needed to be developed.

As far as the Film Festival goes, she was not aware of any awards.

“Just the recognition is important,” she said.

“Since that time they have done many burial grounds and now we have a process and we can leave more than just a report,” said Budwha.

The film can be watched at crossroadscrm.com/sacred-ground-video/.

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