Musqueam celebrates ‘huge win’ to protect ancient burial site

Published in Windspeaker & Raven’s Eye newpapers | October 26, 2012 | Circulation: 145,000

Blockade founders Cecilia and Mary Point. Photo by David P. Ball

After an urban protest camp was set up that lasted several hundred days, British Columbia has revoked permits for a five-storey condominium project that was set to be built on top of the ancient Coast Salish village of c’esna?em.

Also known as Marpole Midden–located in south Vancouver–construction was halted last winter when the developer, Century Group, unearthed several human remains from a burial site estimated at more than 4,000 years old.

“The B.C. government has made a final decision on two permits issued under the Heritage Conservation Act for a private property … known as the Marpole Midden site,” the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations said in a Sept. 28 statement. “The decision to allow the permits to expire after weeks of extensions is appropriate, given the lack of progress in the negotiations between the developer and the Musqueam Indian Band around the purchase of the property.”

A spokesperson for the Musqueam blockade, which maintained a non-stop sacred fire since last March, and escalated to a brief take-over of the busy Arthur Laing Bridge on May 31, told Raven’s Eye that the permit reversal represents an inspiring victory for the community.

“This was a huge win having the Crown reverse their decision,” said Cecilia Point. “This area is a well-known burial site.

“We are still going to purchase the property… We’re hoping to have a nice, open green space here. We’ll definitely put up markers letting people know it’s a graveyard, and put signage about the historic significance of this place.”

Point said that the key element of protecting c’esna?em. village was a widespread show of solidarity, not only from neighbouring First Nations, but from unions, non-Aboriginal cultural organizations and elected officials alike.

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