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86 Years Later, Sacred Petroglyph Rock Returned to Tribal Area

A sacred petroglyph has been transported from the Museum of Vancouver back to its original site, on First Nations land
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In 1926, a six-ton rock covered in petroglyphs was moved from the bank of the Fraser River, in interior British Columbia, and taken to Stanley Park in Vancouver. There it stayed until 1992, when concern over vandalism prompted another relocation, to the safety of the interior courtyard of the Museum of Vancouver (MOV). On Wednesday, the rock was returned to its original home, with the Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation.

“It was taken during a time when we didn’t have a say and we had no rights, but now times are changing and we can help undo the wrongs of the past,” said Phyllis Webstad, repatriation coordinator and a member of the First Nation (formerly known as the Canoe Creek Indian Band), according to the Vancouver Sun. “It’s healing for us.”

An account at the MOV blog tells that the rock was discovered in 1925 by a gold prospector who decided he wanted to move the rock to Stanley Park, to be placed by the grave site of Mohawk poet Pauline Johnson. When the prospector ran out of money, the chair of the Vancouver Park Board took up the cause, seeing the rock as a component of the faux Indian village he wanted to create in Stanley Park.

"It seemed that removing the rock back in 1926 had been utter folly," wrote Joan Seidl, director of collections and exhibitions, on the MOV blog. "It felt against nature to even consider hauling a six ton rock from the interior of BC and move it to Vancouver. But driven by compulsion and arrogance (to my understanding), people did it."

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The carvings on the petroglyph are believed to be as much as 500 years old.

On June 11, a ceremony was held at the MOV, and the following day the rock (sometimes called the "Cariboo Rock") was moved out of the building and onto a truck for its 500 km (310 mi.) journey. Studying the ridge lines in old photographs taken when the rock was first moved, the tribe determined the exact original location of the rock. Their calculations were confirmed when other rocks bearing petroglyphs -- "sister rocks," they called them -- were found on the spot.

(The Vancouver Sun notes that "due to concerns about its safety" the rock was actually be placed in the Churn Creek Protected Area, some ways upriver from the original location.)

It's a part of us," said a tribal member interviewed for a video segment on "We believe the rock has a spirit, and we're returning its spirit. And we're just happy to celebrate the positivity of it all."