Mike Taylor vigorously shakes through a collection of rock and dirt in Riverside Park, west of the pier.
The Golder Associates employee, along with several others lined along the riverbank, digs square holes, piles the dirt upon shifter boxes and rattles the contents back and forth in hopes of finding remnants of the past.
“Nothing yet,” he tells KTW, who dropped by on Monday afternoon (Sept. 21).
The work is part of a two-week archeological assessment Tk’emlups te Secwépemc is conducting in the park with Golder Associates, looking for signs of the past in areas the City of Kamloops intends to dig up for a flood-abatement project slated to start next spring.
The assessment involves digging with shovels and a small excavator where a berm will be built to ensure any important historical materials and features are identified.
The flood-abatement work will see the Rivers Trail widened and raised above the 20-year flood level, as well as about 50 metres of riprap placed along the riverbank west of the pier.
Golder archeologist Nicole Nicholls said the next two weeks will be a fact-finding mission in which they will look for signs of artifacts, such as bone and stone tools, sand pit houses, along with ancestral remains.
If anything is found, the area will be flagged, the depth recorded and a detailed evaluation conducted, which will look similar to archeological work seen on TV.
“Excavating units by hand, very slowly, looking for intact features, looking for intact deposits,” Nicholls said.
Through the late 1800s, Riverside Park was the Shuswap Sawmill until it burned down in 1901, leading to the municipality purchasing it to become a park.
Nicholls expects to find evidence of that time, such as horseshoes and sawmill waste, in that layer of the soil, but below that, she hopes to find much older artifacts.
The team plans to dig no further than about seven feet, but that will depend on whether they find signs of an archeological site.
“We’re going to let the soil talk to us,” she said.
Tk’emlups Chief Rosanne Casimir noted the Secwépemc people made use of the Thompson rivers long before the fur traders, building dugout canoes to fish and travel between lands.
Casimir said archeologists could find anything from bone fragments to arrow heads and old fishing tools and wares used by her ancestors.
Last year, the remains of a Secwépemc woman pre-dating fur traders were found during the nearby West Victoria Street reconstruction project,
“This is an important day to recognize and celebrate the joint efforts between TTS (Tk’emlups) and the City of Kamloops in honouring and protecting our ancestors and our cultural treasures,” Casimir said.
She advised that the public leave any artifacts they may find where they are and contact the band’s natural resources department or chief and council.
Nicholls said one benefit of the park project is being able to dig in the area ahead of the project, something that wasn’t possible with the West Victoria Street project due to all the city infrastructure involved.