The hamlet of Paulatuk, an Inuvialuit community in the Northwest Territories, sits adjacent from Darnley Bay in the Amundsen Gulf and at last count recorded just over 300 residents.
Just east of the community lies the Tuktut Nogait National Park where Parks Canada holds one of its more remote outposts. And it's at this park, the CBC reports, that a number of ancient graves dating anywhere between 400 and 1,000 years ago have recently been found. Under a pile of flat stones, at least four skeletons rest in a series of aboveground graves, a discovery that has inspired park management to include them in a research project planned for this summer.
The project's goal is to try to learn more about the people whose bones dot the landscape in order to better map the history and heritage of the people who inhabit the land.
But, as the article notes, the same graves that are new to Parks Canada have long been common knowledge amongst the Inuvialuit people.
Out of respect for the community, Parks Canada met with the Paulatuk Hunters and Trappers Committee before determining whether to include the remains in their research. They learned that the elders did not want the remains to be disturbed, a decision with boundaries the researchers were happy to accommodate.
"Just for respect, we'd like to leave it alone and not try and touch any part of those burial sites, for research purposes or DNA testing or whatnot," Diane Ruben, of the Paulatuk Hunters and Trappers Committee, told the network.
Instead, park management board member Tom Nesbitt said they would find other ways to glean information from the graves, sticking to a photos-only no-excavation policy and using the stones as a starting point to search for related archeological evidence that can help paint a portrait of early Western Arctic life.