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Carmacks church proposal could land in court

The Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation may again be turning to the courts to protect its interests.This time the case concerns a proposed church,…

The Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation may again be turning to the courts to protect its interests.

This time the case concerns a proposed church, which would be built outside of Carmacks.

The site that the Carmacks Christian Fellowship group has chosen for its new church may be a sacred burial site.

“We have hired a law firm and various legal strategies are underway to try and protect the First Nation burial site,” the First Nation wrote in its two-page letter.

These legal strategies may include, “seeking a stop-work order under the Heritage Resources Act.”

The Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board is currently reviewing an application to build an access road to the church lot.

The deadline for public comment on the proposal ended Tuesday.

Even though it has chosen to wait for approval of the access road, the Christian fellowship could technically begin building the church.

In past interviews, fellowship president Jerry Kruse said the group could be ready to pour cement as early as mid-August.

The nondenominational church group has already been holding services on the lot, weather permitting.

The gravesites in the Carmacks area have a history of being disturbed.

Human remains were discovered when the Klondike Highway was built in the 1950s and again during roadwork in the 1970s.

Under the assessment act, the designated officer is required to consider the need to protect the rights of First Nation people, Little Salmon/Carmacks says in its letter to the assessment board.

The act also requires the assessment give full and fair consideration to traditional knowledge.

And the Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation final agreement states it is necessary to restrict access to First Nation burial sites to preserve their dignity.

In 1922 and 1950, fire ravaged the area where the Christian group is proposing to build the church, burning off all possible grave markers, such as picket fences and spirit houses.

And the Christian group has already bulldozed the site, making archeological investigations all but impossible.

However, many of the First Nation’s elders are certain that proposed site sits on top of the burial site.

A letter from a number of elders has been sent to Heritage and Culture Minister Elaine Taylor attesting to the traditional knowledge of a burial site in the vicinity of the proposed church.

The names of the elders involved were not included in the submission in order to reduce the potential for divisions within the community.

Chief Eddie Skookum has requested government assistance in resolving the matter and has asked that additional archeological work be done on the site.