An Indigenous family in the Cariboo is in limbo after learning in December 2022 the 78-acre property they purchased four months earlier to develop a vegetable farm and agri-tourism site has high archaeological significance.
Marty and Kim Tuerlings-Paul said they have already found dozens of artifacts in the six months they have been living there and cannot disturb any of the land without first having an archaeological survey done which would cost them thousands of dollars.
Now they are hoping some level of government will buy them out and move forward with preserving it as a heritage site.
The couple and their three children have been basically camping at the site.
They are staying in a brand new modular home on the property but are using water from a hose and a generator for electricity. Now that the weather is nice, Kim is mostly barbecuing their meals.
In July 2022 they began pursuing the dream of expanding their produce business, which they had started in 150 Mile House at their previous property.
Wanting a bigger piece of property where they could grow vegetables, raise some meat animals and build a facility to host weddings and events, they began looking around.
They found a perfect property with Deep Creek running down the middle of it, a view of the Fraser River below and purchased the property in August 2022.
After that they applied for a civic address, which was registered through the Cariboo Regional District (CRD).
A 200-foot well was drilled and registered under the provincial registry.
A building permit was issued by the CRD on Nov. 7 and on Nov. 18 their modular home was delivered.
The following week a well pump, outdoor hydrant and pressure tank were installed and the plumbing and pipe fitting connected the home to the septic system and the propane tank. Electricity is still needed to complete that work, Kim said.
BC Hydro visited the site and suggested solar electricity might be the best alternative. A quote for that work was $54,000 from a contractor.
Preparing for the business they also purchased a refrigerated storage unit that sits idle on the property with fencing material, hundreds of tomato seeds, chicken wire and supplies all tucked underneath.
Pauls find out about the archaeological aspects of the property
It was on Dec. 6, the Pauls learned from BC Hydro they would need a site alteration permit due to the BC Heritage Conservation Act under the BC Archaeology Branch.
When asked about the Pauls’ case,. BC Hydro confirmed it uses mapping systems when designing service connections and part of this includes locations of potential archaeological significance.
“When a designer encounters an area with this identification we then engage our internal natural resource specialists for further investigation and guidance,” said David Mosure, public affairs with BC Hydro. “This is then communicated to the customer as potentially needing an archaeological permit to proceed and we direct them to the archaeological branch for further information and guidance on how to proceed.”
BC Hydro has access to the Provincial Archeology Branch database of archaeology sites.
From that point, the Pauls began asking questions of all levels of government about why that information was not disclosed to them sooner.
Securing information for themselves, they contacted Sugar Cane Archaeology from Williams Lake First Nation.
Sugar Cane told them on Dec. 21 there was a previous recorded archaeological site on the property and that a site alteration permit under the heritage conservation act would be required and additional archaeological work would be required before any ground disturbance within the site could take place, including agricultural use and infrastructure development.
The Pauls’ property is adjacent to Xat’sull First Nation, whose communications manager relayed an emailed response to say the nation is aware of the Pauls’ situation but that the property is not within the nation’s jurisdiction.
Cariboo Regional District response
On April 13, 2023, Kim attended a CRD committee of the whole meeting where Xat’sull First Nation staff and a senior archaeologist made a presentation about protection and conservation of heritage sites in the CRD.
In the presentation they pointed out the current Heritage Conservation Act (HCA) dates to the mid-1970s, replacing older legislation going back to the 1860s, HCA protection applies automatically to any site or object that might pre-date 1846 AD, as well as Indigenous rock paintings and carvings, and Indigenous ancestral burials and alterations are authorized through provincial archaeology branch permitting processes.
“The archaeology branch does not review or screen development applications for conflicts with protected sites. Local and regional governments can fill this gap,” the presenters suggested.
CRD planner Nigel Whitehead said presently the CRD does not have cultural heritage policies that assist staff in helping landowners to have sites remain protected. He said they are presently researching what municipalities that do have those policies are doing and will be making a report to the CRD board in the future for further discussion.
”Xat’sull First Nation became aware of the issues on the property [Paul’s purchased] and made a presentation to the board, as well as Williams Lake First Nation around the importance of heritage protection,” he said.
Right now, he added, the CRD does not review for archaeological sites when doing permit reviews, and part of the research staff is doing will be examining what that would look like if they did those types of reviews and finding out what are other local governments are doing.
This was the first time Whitehead has dealt with the issue while working for the CRD, he confirmed, adding there is no financial assistance for the landowner.
Under the heritage conservation act it is the landowner’s responsibility so it would be their responsibility. If they want to disturb an arch site it would be them who would be getting an archaeologist to do an assessment and then getting a permit from the province if they want to do some disturbance, he said.
Any landowner concerned about the archaeological significance of a property can find out through the archaeology branch or can work directly with an archaeologist, he added.
While Whitehead does not have a timeline for when the report for the CRD board will be completed, he said a heritage policy would be a step toward reconciliation.
Heritage Branch provides information to buyers, sellers and local governments
Had the Pauls had an inkling and inquired about the property ahead of purchasing it, they would have learned from the heritage branch it was a previously recorded archaeological site.
In an emailed response the Ministry of Forests noted the information is made available to property owners as well as BC Hydro and local governments, including regional districts.
“Legally sellers are required to disclose defects in the property which are not apparent through a reasonable inspection, which may include a known archaeological site.”
Sellers and buyers with questions and the potential duty to disclose should seek legal advice, and more information is available on the B.C. Financial Services Authority website.
“We understand this is a difficult situation for the family,” a ministry spokesperson noted.
It has taken a few weeks to hear back from different levels of government for this article since first chatting with Kim.
The first conversation with her was over the phone and her voice showed the strain she was under. She was getting ready to take the children into town for a shower at the recreation complex in Williams Lake and feeling super stressed.
Pauls want the site registered properly
On Sunday, June 11, we followed up to see the property for ourselves.
Upon arrival, the Tribune met the family outside with their three horses as they prepared to go for a ride.
It was Marty’s last day off in a row from Gibraltar Mine, where he has worked for 10 years.
“There are 66,000 archaeological sites on private land in B.C.,” Kim said, shaking her head. “We want the government to buy us out and get it registered so this does not happen to anyone else.”
She said they have been recently contacted by the Ministry of Indigenous Relations and are waiting to hear back.
Marty grew up 15 minutes away at ?Esdilagh First Nation and is surprised that building occurred on the property in the first place.
“You look at Egypt and the pyramids, they are all really protected,” he said. “Everything they find is really closely studied to tell a story for that age. These artifacts are potentially from the time before Christ.”
When Marty talked to an archaeologist he was told there is no higher quality archaeology site in B.C. than their place because of what can be found readily available in the ground.
“If they are not protecting this then what are they protecting?” he asked.
Kimberly said an investigation was done by the Archaeology Branch on May 3, 2023 and they are still waiting for the report.
“There were four artifacts found and then we had some washout on the driveway and we are waiting on recommendations on how to go about fixing that,” she said. “Long story short, everything requires archaeology work.”
Pointing to the horses, she said they have all gained weight, because they cannot even put up a fence to enclose them in a smaller portion of the property and cut them off the feed.
“Even fencing requires archaeology work.”
Previous crops, such as hay, can be cultivated, and overground irrigation is permitted, but she said they bought the property to grow vegetables.
She added their bank has told them they no longer see the value in the asset because of the resale value and that they are in violation of Canada Mortgage and Housing because they have no electricity or running water.
“Everybody we’ve talked to about this story has told us, ‘please don’t talk to us about this story we don’t want to hear anymore about it because I cannot help you.’”
They have learned there were “many, many old” artifacts pulled from a previous archaeology assessment on one small ridge of the property.
“They were digging to glacial till before they stopped finding artifacts,” Kim said.