Letter in support of the Musqueam Nation

Vancouver, June 1st 2012.

Pdf available here

We, the Anthropology Graduate Students Association at the University of British Columbia wholeheartedly support the Musqueam Nation in their pursuit of a just solution at the cəsnaʔəm village site, also known as the Marpole Midden.

We find it extremely disappointing and disrespectful that the Provincial Archaeology Branch approved an archaeological alteration permit to facilitate development of a condominium complex with underground parking on this National Historic Site, particularly as it is in a location with very high potential for intact ancient deposits beneath the modern buildings (1). We find it disturbing and regrettable that Musqueam were sent a permit application by the Provincial Archaeology Branch, the project proponent, and their consultant just after the beginning of the December Holiday period (2) such that, “by the time [Musqueam] opened and read the letter, the dig was already underway” (3).

Although prior to this crisis, many Vancouver residents may not have been aware that cəsnaʔəm is a National Historic Site (4) due to its long-recognized status as an ancient village and cemetery used over thousands of years, this is not news to the Musqueam nor to archaeologists (5,6,7,8,9).

While the fields of anthropology and archaeology have not always had a shared vision and like objectives with First Nations, several generations of researchers have been taking lessons from this history, striving to build new relationships based on mutual respect. As anthropologists and archaeologists trained at the University of British Columbia, we acknowledge our institution’s profoundly important relationship with the Musqueam, on whose unceded territory it is located.

We now stand with them as they fight for what many recognize as a basic human right (10): that their ancestors may rest in peace.

We ask Vancouverites, British Columbians, Premier Christy Clark and indeed all Canadians to recognize that the Musqueam people and other First Nations have a right to see their ancestors be treated in no other way than what they themselves consider to be respectful and appropriate.

We also urge that the Province take responsibility to work earnestly and in good faith to find a resolution that does justice to the importance of the site to the Musqueam and the collective history of this province.


The University of British Columbia Anthropology Graduate Student Association http://www.anth.ubc.ca/graduates/graduate-student-association.html

References Cited:

1 Ham, Leonard C. (2002) Archaeological Potential Model for the Marpole Midden. Report prepared for Canadian Heritage and the Parks Canada Agency, Western and Northern Service Centre, Calgary, conducted under Musqueam Band Council Permit.

2 YouTube Video at 3:24 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FpwhvWnJZso

3 Online News Article by Brian Revel (May 10th, 2012) Maple Leaf Rag http://mapleleafrag.ca/2012/05/542/

4 Marpole Midden National Historic Site of Canada Designation: http://www.historicplaces.ca/en/rep-reg/place-lieu.aspx?id=15609

5 Roy, Susan (2006) “Who Were These Mysterious People?”: The Marpole Midden, and the Dispossession of Aboriginal Lands in British Columbia. BC Studies 152(Winter):67–95. http://ojs.library.ubc.ca/index.php/bcstudies/article/view/671

6 Smith, Harlan I. (1907) Archaeology of the Gulf of Georgia and Puget Sound. Memoirs of the American Museum of Natural History and Publications of the Jesup North Pacific Expedition, edited by Franz Boas. Vol. 4. E. J. Brill & G. E. Stechert, Leiden, New York.

7 Hill-Tout, Charles (1948) The Great Fraser Midden. Vancouver Art, Historical and Scientific Association 8(15).

8 Borden, Charles E. (1970) Cultural History of the Fraser-Delta Region: An Outline. BC Studies 6/7:95–112.

9 Burley, David V. (1980) Marpole: Anthropological Reconstructions of a Prehistoric Northwest Coast Culture Type. Publication No. 8. Department of Archaeology, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby.

10 United Nations (2007) Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples endorsed by the Federal Government of Canada in 2010 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Declaration_on_the_Rights_of_Indigenous_Peoples

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