The BC Teachers’ Federation is adding its voice to those speaking out in support of the Musqueam people’s efforts to protect their sacred site at Marpole Midden from commercial and condominium development, and to transform the land into a public heritage park.
“As teachers, we take seriously our responsibility to educate the next generations about the history and culture of the First Nations of this land,” said BCTF President Susan Lambert. “The Marpole Midden contains the remains of a major Coast Salish village dating back 4,000 years. Its presence stands as yet another reminder that this land was occupied long before colonization. This archeological site will also provide invaluable educational opportunities for future students and scholars.”
In 1933 the federal government declared the midden as a Canadian National Historic Site. The abundance of artifacts, including beads and carvings, discovered there provide powerful evidence of the wealth of the precontact settlement. In addition, it is known to have been an important burial site, with hundreds of human remains found there.
“Our respect for the integrity of the site must be a priority because it represents our respect for the Aboriginal history of our province. Vancouver is a relatively young city, but the history of human habitation on this unceded Coast Salish territory stretches back millennia,” Lambert noted. “We need to expand knowledge and awareness of indigenous history and current issues as a means to redressing historical injustices. Paving over such a significant historical site is not the way to go.”
Currently, the Musqueam are engaged in constructive discussions with the developer and the City of Vancouver to resolve the impasse. However, the provincial government has appointed a mediator, but will not engage directly in the process.
The BCTF is calling on the provincial government to respect Article 11 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, to which Canada is signatory. It states: “Indigenous peoples have the right to practice and revitalize their cultural traditions and customs. This includes the right to maintain, protect, and develop the past, present, and future manifestations of their cultures, such as archaeological and historical sites…”
For more information about the history of the Marpole Midden, please see: http://www.musqueam.bc.ca/c%CC%93%C9%99sna%CA%94%C9%99m.