Cecilia Point is breathing a sigh of relief following news of a deal reached between the Musqueam Indian Band and Century Group.
The First Nation and developer announced the successful sale of a two-acre portion of land known as the Marpole Midden on Tuesday (October 1). The deal follows more than 18 months of negotiations.
Point was among the Musqueam community members who held vigil for 200 days last year after intact human remains were found during archaeological work on the site that was slated for a condo development.
Now that the sale has been finalized, the Musqueam say the ancient burial site and village can be preserved.
“I’m happy and relieved, and I’m glad it’s over, and I look forward to the next steps,” Point told the Straight by phone.
“I know that ourselves, and actually the community members of Marpole that came by to visit us, are all very enthused about having a beautiful green space there.”
Musqueam band councillor Wade Grant told the Straight that a meeting will be held in the coming weeks to gather input from community members on ways to preserve the site, including the possibility of turning the area into a park.
“I think the most important thing is that we protect it, and we want people to know, not only our community members, but we want all people to know that that place is now protected, and we can share that with them,” he said in a phone interview.
The councillor described the site near the north end of the Arthur Laing Bridge as the Musqueam’s “last remaining connection” to how the community’s ancestors lived.
“The city of Vancouver has grown up around us—a lot of our traditional sites, our village sites and historic sites have been developed and destroyed in the past,” said Grant.
“Luckily that site itself still remains intact underneath the ground…it’s our way of being able to connect to who we are for thousands of years in history and share that with our community members and our children in the future. If we had destroyed that, we lose a connection to who we are.”
Grant also hailed the land deal as a “shining example” of cooperation between First Nations government and private enterprise.
The councillor noted that some community members were disappointed that the Musqueam had to purchase the land once occupied by its traditional village.
“It’s always frustrating when our traditional territory, and especially a traditional village site like that, [we] have to purchase with money that could go to social services or other services for our community members,” he said. “So when we do that it is frustrating and disappointing, however the situation as it is now, that was the most expeditious way that we could get the land back into our hands.”
Human remains and cultural artifacts were recovered during archeological excavations of the Marpole Midden. The land was declared a national historic site in 1933, and includes one of the largest pre-contact middens on the West Coast of Canada.