Vancouver Park Board marks a Canadian first with new hire

Geordie Howe brought on as in-house archaeologist and liaison with the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations

Within the span of a week, Geordie Howe went from documenting history to making it.

Last week, Howe became the first full-time, in-house archaeologist to be hired by a municipal body in Canada.

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His new post with the Vancouver Park Board will focus heavily on large-scale planning and renovation projects, while also serving as a liaison with the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations.

“This is a new position, and it’s a position based for the most part in Vancouver parks — how glorious is that?” Howe said of his motivation to leave the private sector for his new post.

Some of the major upcoming projects on Howe’s to-do list include the Stanley Park master planning process, habitat restoration at Beaver Lake, seawall renovations and other works at the Jericho and Locarno park lands, New Brighton Salt Marsh and the East Fraser lands development.

A press release from the Vancouver Park Board notes that local First Nations provided a representative to the hiring panel for the staff archaeologist position and agreed with the board’s choice of Howe.

“Archaeological sites are a non-renewable resource. We’re not making them anymore, especially when we’re talking about 2,000- or 3,000-year-old sites,” Howe said. “They’re very important to the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh peoples. These sites, for example in Stanley Park, are grassy fields, but they used to be very important village sites back in the day. There are members in those communities who literally can remember great, great grandparents talking about those sites and activities.”  

Howe’s work in the private sector spans four decades, and he’s lent his expertise to massive infrastructure projects including the Coquihalla and Sea to Sky highways. Howe’s most recent post saw him oversee the archaeological monitoring of BC Hydro’s Interior to Lower Mainland Transmission Project. He’s also the past president of the B.C. Association of Professional Archeologists and former editor of The Midden, a publication of the Archaeological Society of B.C.

“The Vancouver Park Board has made a very significant commitment to working with the First Nations — we’re the first municipal government body in Canada to adopt the Truth and Reconciliation recommendations,” Vancouver Park Board chair Sarah Kirby-Yung told the Courier Monday. “A lot of our parks are situated in and around lands that have ceremonial or cultural significance to the First Nations. By making this commitment to these relationships, we thought that this would give us in-house expertise in a way that is more accurate than using outside sources.”

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