Tse’K’wa, our ancient cave north of Fort St. John is recognized with national historic designation

‘Exceptional archaeological site’ has contributed to understanding of Canada’s earliest Indigenous inhabitants

Tse’ K’wa, Charlie Lake Cave near Fort St. John, BC.

Tse’K’wa, also known as Charlie Lake Cave is located less than 10 km north of Fort St. John, B.C. It is one of our important archaeological and spiritual sites and in 2019, was awarded a national historic designation by the federal government. 

The cave site, once referred to as Charlie Lake Cave, is described as an ‘”exceptional archaeological site” by Parks Canada.

Tse’ K’wa was covered by ice and then a meltwater lake until about 13,000 years ago.

One of our Elders traced back the Creation Story about the flood and how the Creator sent the muskrat to get dirt.

“It has provided an understanding of human settlement and environmental change from the last glacial period (12,500 years ago) to 1,000 years ago,” a release from the organization read.

The cave is rather small but the major feature is the deep gully in front of it. Sediments filled the gully between the parapet and bedrock over the last 12,500 years.

Over the years, people who stopped at the cave while on hunting or fishing trips used the gully as a waste pit which filled with successive layers of soil which preserved many artifacts. Excavations were conducted beginning in1974 and continued off and on till 1991. By digging through the layers of sediment, archaeologists found that there were many periods of human use at the site.

It is one of the few sites in northern Canada with a complete record of well-preserved animal bones and artifacts from the end of the last ice age to modern times

Archeologists began to study the site in 1974. The artifacts are evidence of our ancestors’ relationship with the land, practices and the materials we used, going back at least 12,500 years.

At Tse’ K’wa, 2 ravens were deliberately buried by people in front of the cave, but 1000 years apart. One of the skeletons is approximately 12,000 years old and the other is 11.000 years old. They were found buried with other cultural materials

Both caves and ravens are spiritually and culturally significant around the world and the connection between ravens and First Nations people is well known. Raven remains are often found in places of ceremonial or ritual activity

Caves are often thought of as entrances to the spiritual world and ravens are viewed as messengers and also frequently connected to hunting.

DRFN purchased the land that the cave is situated on jointly with Prophet River and West Moberly First Nations to preserve and enhance it. We are presently implementing plans to build a visitors’ centre so people can see the cave and learn more about our connection to and our history of the land.

Tse’ K’wa hires Executive Director

Alyssa Currie is welcomed as the new executive director for the Tse’K’wa Heritage Society. From left: Laura Webb, West Moberly First Nation; Garry Oker, Doig River First Nation and President of Tse’K’wa Heritage Society; Alyssa Currie; Diane Bigfoot, Prophet River First Nation.Tse’K’wa Heritage Society (Source AKHN)

(Source: AKHN)

Momentum continues to grow for the development and preservation of the Tse’K’wa national historic cave site at Charlie Lake. 

Earlier this year, the Tse’K’wa Heritage Society secured $379,000 in funding from the First Peoples’ Cultural Council for a planned cultural centre, while Alyssa Currie began her new role as executive director for the organization on June 1.

“There’s lots going on, this is a flame that is catching … A lot excitement in the community and increased recognition about the importance of the site,” said Currie. “As more people become aware of the significance, those opportunities are only going to grow.” (Read the rest of this story here.)

Read more about Tse’ K’wa here and here.


Alyssa Currie

Executive Director, Tse’ K’wa Heritage Society