Xa:ytem Historical Site and the Hatzic Rock

Situated on 18 acres, just east of Mission, is a site believed to be one of the oldest yet found in British Columbia, dating to somewhere between 5,000 – 9,000 years old; which, if it does end up belonging to that outer date, would mean that it was constructed within only a few thousand years of the first human arrival in North America.  The site itself is known as the Xa:ytem historical site and it has been described by archaeological teams as having “evidence of rectangular pit/longhouses of long-term occupation with remains of post, hearth and floor features, trade goods, storage, food, and spiritual activity.”

A historical photo of the Transformer Stone; image from ccca.concordia.ca

An older photo of the Transformer Stone; image from ccca.concordia.ca

The historical physical remains of the site itself consist of an archaeological habitation site containing the remains of a pit house alongside an ancient transformer stone which has been connected to the Sto:lo people (who might ring a little bell if you stopped by this site on Tuesday). The Hatzic Rock is known as ‘transformer site’ to the First Nations people. the meaning of which has been passed down through the legends of the Sto:lo people.  My research into the history of the rock resulted in two stories which, although similar, do have some noticeable differences – if anyone knows if one is more common or if the variation is based on different group beliefs please let me know!

The basic outline of the two legends are as follows:

  1. There were three chiefs who decided to challenge the Creator and were turned into stone for their rebellion.
  2. The transformer god Xa was travelling through the land and encountered a man mistreating his wife and so, in order to teach him a lesson, Xa turned the man to stone.
The Hatzic Rock as it appears today; image from www.historicplaces.ca

The Hatzic Rock as it appears today; image from http://www.historicplaces.ca

While both a pit house and a transformer stone sound like rather dramatic features they are, in fact, rather difficult to spot once they are no longer in use and nature has been given the opportunity to overrun them again for a period of time. Without knowledge of the historical stories and mythologies of the First Nations given to the transformer stone in question it simply appears as a large, moss covered bolder while a pit house is exactly what it sounds like; a pit covered with logs to form a house.  Unfortunately, over time, the logs begin to disappear either through natural decomposition or through removal by humans during land clearing activities while ends up leaving the site with a pit which gradually begins to disappear back into the landscape.  Because of this, the site was used as a pasture for the long stretch of years between the time of European arrival and establishment and the discovery of the significant ancient attributes of the site.

Following the discovery of the historical features of the site, the government arranged to transfer the land to the Sto:lo first nations as they were determined to have the greatest historical claim in that region of the province.  The Xa:ytem site and Hatzic Rock would be designated as a National Historic Site in 1992.

The plaque designating the location as a National Historic Site; image from www.historicplaces.ca

The plaque designating the location as a National Historic Site; image from http://www.historicplaces.ca