Airfield upgrade work paused at YVR after crews find Indigenous artifacts, airport says

Aug 10, 2023

Photo/YVR

Musqueam items, including stone implements, unearthed during construction on southern Sea Island

Construction at Vancouver International Airport (YVR) has been suspended after crews found what are believed to be Musqueam artifacts last week. A statement said the artifacts were found in the southern half of Sea Island on Aug. 2 as teams worked on the airport’s south airfield rehabilitation project, which includes “significant” work to the main runway and taxiways.

“It’s not surprising that we would find artifacts here on Sea Island … we do know that Musqueam have occupied the land for thousands of years,” said YVR president Tamara Vrooman, who described the artifacts as stone implements and bone fragments of birds and other mammals. “We have very clear protocols that we stop work and bring dedicated teams on to send that for analysis to ensure we’re treating those artifacts appropriately,” she added.

Depending on the lab’s findings, Vrooman said, the artifacts will either be stored, preserved or returned to the Musqueam before construction resumes. Musqueam traditional territory stretches west from Surrey and Coquitlam to Richmond and north to the University of British Columbia and the North Shore.

“Musqueam — our elders, knowledge holders and staff — will work together with YVR to do the right thing,” said yəχwyaχwələq, also known as Musqueam Chief Wayne Sparrow. “We recognize this is an important process and are committed to continuing to walk this path together with YVR.”

CBC News has contacted Musqueam for further comment.

Work on the airport’s south airfield began in April. The project includes concrete panel replacements, rehabilitation and upgrades at several taxiway and runway intersections, and electrical work. Vrooman said construction work is suspended until further notice, and there will be no effect on flight schedules or any passengers. She said photos of the artifacts will not be released without Musqueam approval.

(Source: CBC News with files from Jessica Cheung)

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