Friday August 10, 2012 marked 100 days of occupation and protest to defend c̓əsnaʔəm in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The Musqueam First Nation has been standing watch over c̓əsnaʔəm, an ancient village and burial site, next to the Arthur Laing Bridge in Vancouver as it is technically owned by a private company, “Century Holdings”, which has slated the land for condo construction. These plans for construction seem to contradict the fact that not only do the Musqueam have 4,000 years of history with that land, but also the company already uncovered the remains of two adults and three infants which was to be expected as c̓əsnaʔəm (or Marpole Midden) is a recognized “National Heritage Site”. According to the Parks Canada website, www.historicplaces.ca, “Marpole Midden was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1933 because - it is the site of one of the largest pre-contact middens on the Pacific coast of Canada.”
Over 300 people gathered outside of the Safeway at Granville and 70th on the morning of August 10 to show their support for the Musqueam people and c̓əsnaʔəm. With the Musqueam banner at the front along with drummers, singers and families, the march began down Granville. Looking through the march you could see signs reading, “Serbia supports Musqueam”, “Archeologists support Musqueam”, “BC Nurses Union supports Musqueam”, and “Honk if you support Musqueam”. These also came along with people from many different Indigenous nations from across Canada, who held their own signs, banners and flags showing their nations’ support for the Musqueam. The march took over an hour and a half to reach c̓əsnaʔəm, pausing at intersections with organizers handing out information to cars passing by on their morning commutes.
When the march arrived at c̓əsnaʔəm there were speakers from the Provincial New Democratic Party (NDP), BC Nurses’ Union (BCNU), Vancouver’s Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE), along with Musqueam elders and organizers. Cecilia Point, a spokeswoman for the Musqueam First Nation, then announced that they had collected over 3,000 signatures in support of protecting c̓əsnaʔəm and that they had organized a relay run from the site to BC Premier Christy Clark’s office to deliver the petition. Runners, both Musqueam and supporters, warmed up for their run while a second group prepared to drive to the offices of the private developer, “Century Holdings”, to deliver copies of the petition. It was a beautiful and powerful display of community support and involvement as the runners and vehicles left with the petitions.
The songs, drumming and words spoken throughout the event were also beautiful and powerful. Many speakers pointed out some deep and evident contradictions in the government’s negotiations with the Musqueam. For example, there are laws protecting 100-year-old heritage homes and buildings in the area, and yet the City and Province are not interested in protecting a 4,000-year-old heritage site. The other question asked was about the sincerity of Christy Clark’s “Family First Agenda”. They asked whose families is she really putting first? Don’t the families and traditions of the Musqueam matter?
The struggle of the Musqueam for c̓əsnaʔəm and their resolute message to continue fighting after 100 days of continuous occupation and protest is an example for Indigenous people across BC and Canada. This fight also follows in the footsteps of other great struggles, such as the occupation of the land by the Mohawk people at Oka in 1990 to defend their burial site from being uprooted to expand a 9-hole golf course into 18 holes. The Musqueam people know that they have taken on a struggle with major ramifications. A defeat would signal to the provincial and federal government that they can get away with perpetuating the injustices against Indigenous people that have continued now for centuries. A victory will be an important triumph in favor of Indigenous nations and their rights to the land and will also remind working and oppressed people, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, that when we unite anything is possible.
If you live in the Greater Vancouver Area please make sure to visit the occupation site at c̓əsnaʔəm to share your support and solidarity: 1338 SW Marine Dr, Vancouver, BC.
For more information on the struggle to defend c̓əsnaʔəm please read “c̓əsnaʔəm: Musqueam Nation Stands Up for Ancient Village” in FTT Volume7 Issue2 and our interview with Cecilia Point in FTT Volume7 Issue3 at http://www.firethistime.net
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