Construction paused at Vancouver airport after possible Musqueam artifacts found

Click to play video: 'Musqueam hand-carved canoe becomes centre piece of new YVR gathering place'
Musqueam hand-carved canoe becomes centre piece of new YVR gathering place
The first ocean-going Musqueam canoe carved in more than a century is now the centrepiece of a new gathering place at YVR. The 10-metre canoe was carved by 10 Musqueam families and more than 120 airport staff from a 600-year-old cedar log – Aug 9, 2023

Construction has paused at Vancouver International Airport after the discovery of what could be Musqueam artifacts at a work site on the southern half of Sea Island.

The Musqueam Indian Band has been notified of the Aug. 2 finding in the area encompassing YVR’s South Airfield. The airfield was undergoing regular maintenance work at the time, and the “material resembling artifacts” was spotted by the onsite archeological team.

The items have now been sent to a certified archaeology and heritage lab for technical assessments to determine their origin.

“We found some stone implements, some tools, some bone fragments from birds and animals,” Tamara Vrooman, president of the Vancouver Airport Authority, told Global News.

“We’re working with Musqueam to make sure we’re sharing the knowledge that we have to make sure that we treat those artifacts with the respect and the treatment that they deserve.”

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No flights are expected to be impacted by the pause in construction, she added.

Click to play video: 'Musqueam Indian Band holds celebration of life for Wayne “Gino” Odjick'
Musqueam Indian Band holds celebration of life for Wayne “Gino” Odjick

The xʷməθkʷəy̓əm have occupied the unceded land on which the airport now lies since time immemorial.

Vrooman said YVR is dedicated to protecting the recently-discovered artifacts, and that the airport has developed protocols for chance historical finds in collaboration with the First Nation.

“Musqueam – our elders, knowledge holders, and staff – will work together with YVR to do the right thing. We recognize this is an important process and are committed to continuing to walk this path together with YVR,” said the nation’s chief, yəχʷyaχʷələq Wayne Sparrow, in a Wednesday news release.

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Aging Musqueam Elders Centre gets federal funding for renovation

YVR signed a friendship agreement with the Musqueam Indian Band in 2017, and more than 100 members of the First Nation now work at the airport.

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On the same day they revealed the discovery of the artifacts, the pair collaboratively opened a new Musqueam gathering place near the baggage carousel in the domestic arrivals area. The space features exhibits that will help travellers learn more about the First Nation’s history and culture, in addition to a hand-carved, 10-metre canoe made from a 600-year-old red cedar log.

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