The Musqueam Indian Band held a low-key ceremony last week in Marpole to bury what they believe were the intact remains of their ancestors discovered earlier this year during preparation of a private property for development.
Six members of the band and a spiritual leader from the Penelakut band participated in the ceremony Dec. 6 at the acre-sized lot on Southwest Marine Drive, near the Arthur Laing Bridge.
“We’re very happy to see that being done, knowing they’re resting as they originally were,” said band councillor Wade Grant, who is also the Musqueam’s economic development administrative coordinator.
Band members using pickup trucks brought sand that was loaded into wheelbarrows and shovelled into the open pits framing the remains of two adults and two infants.
The early morning ceremony, which lasted less than two hours, occurred nine days before a government-imposed deadline to restore the property to its original condition before development began earlier this year.
Property owners Gary and Fran Hackett abided by the order but also say they had no plans to prevent the ceremony. The Hacketts were on site during the ceremony, along with a Vancouver Police Department officer who serves as a liaison to the band.
“We’ve tried to be conciliatory under the circumstances,” said Gary Hackett by telephone Wednesday from his home in Saanich.
Added Fran Hackett: “We’re not cold-hearted people — quite the contrary.”
Grant said he was glad the ceremony went smoothly and appreciated the Hacketts agreeing to allow band members on the property, despite a several-month long protest by the band held outside the site.
“The Hacketts didn’t have to let anybody that they didn’t want on there to do that,” he said. “They could have done it themselves. I think it’s important that Musqueam recognizes that they were approachable and commend them for that.”
The Hacketts had plans to build a 108-unit condominium development and had pre-sold a majority of the homes before the intact remains of two adults and two infants were discovered earlier this year.
The remains were discovered by archaeologists who were hired as part of the necessary steps to develop the land. The area in Marpole, known as the Marpole Midden and recognized as an ancestral Musqueam village, was deemed a Canadian heritage site in the 1930s.
The provincial government and the City of Vancouver, however, granted the Hacketts the necessary permits to begin development of the land.
After the discoveries were made, the Hacketts agreed to stop development in hopes of working out a settlement with the provincial government and the Musqueam. The government has left it in the hands of the Musqueam and Hacketts.
Negotiations have stalled, with both sides saying they’re far apart in reaching a deal. The band wants to buy the property and build a public memorial park to protect the land from being developed.
The Hacketts also expect to be compensated for a substantial amount of money spent preparing the site and the marketing of the condos.
The Musqueam elected Wayne Sparrow as their new chief Dec. 3. He will replace long-time chief Ernie Campbell. Sparrow, whom the Hacketts met before the burial ceremony, will be sworn in Jan. 3.
“Let’s give the new chief the benefit of the doubt,” said Gary Hackett. “I think he wants to see this move forward and hopefully in the New Year, we’ll be able to get together with the band and discuss theses issues.”