Skip to the main content.

2 min read

c̓əsnaʔəm (Marpole Midden): Timeline of Desecration to Protection

c̓əsnaʔəm (Marpole Midden): Timeline of Desecration to Protection
Protest sign near Marpole Musqueam burial site. Photo: Bob Joseph
Photo: Bob Joseph

The Marpole Midden, just outside Vancouver, British Columbia, is believed to date back 4000 years. It is one of the largest pre-contact middens in the province and is considered to be one of the most significant archaeological sites in the country.

“Bone and stone implements, utensils and ornaments have been recovered through various archaeological excavations. They testify to the maritime orientation and the highly developed woodworking skills, which characterized the the Coast Salish people, and also other later Northwest Coast cultures, such as the Musqueam.”

Canada’s Historic Places, Sources: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, 1933, 1977, 2007.

The Musqueam Indian Band was unrelenting in the effort to protect the site from a development project that would place 108 condominiums on this sacred piece of ground. Below is the timeline of their fight that drew national and international attention.


1892 The excavation of this extensive midden led by Charles Hill Tout, in 1892 stimulated archaeological study of other such prehistoric refuse heaps on the Pacific slope;

1933 Marpole Midden designated National Historic Site;

January, 2011 Musqueam Indian Band discovers a 108 unit residential condo development is being planned for the site without prior consultation with the Band;

May, 2011 Musqueam Indian Band members met and corresponded with the Provincial Archaeology Branch to persuade them to protect the site and not to issue permits for archaeological “investigation” and “alteration” of the site under the Heritage Conservation Act.,

December, 2011 Permits issued under the Heritage Conservation Act to Century Group to develop property and build five story condominium development;

January, 2012 Remains of two adults, two babies and partial skeleton of another baby, all believed to belong to the Semiahmoo and Tsawwassen bands, were found;

January 2012, A four week suspension of work on the site (except by agreement, such as the demolition of buildings on the lots proposed for development). Talks were not productive as the Province failed to participate in any meaningful way. The developer resumed with the work and the Band continued to try to bring the Province to the table;

March 12, 2012 Protesters prevent development project workers from working;

May 3, 2012 Musqueam Indian Band members and supporters occupy site and begin vigil;

May 8, 2012 Musqueam Indian Band members halt construction at Marpole Midden again;

May 15, 2012 National Assembly of First Nations Chief Shawn Atleo joined Grand Chief Stewart Philip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs and Regional Chief Jody Wilson-Raybould at the site;

May 24, 2012 Mayor of Vancouver Gregor Robertson calls upon the provincial government to support the Musqueam Indian Band’s request to stop the development;

May 31, 2012 Members of the Musqueam Indian Band block traffic on the Arthur Laing Bridge in protest. The protesters forced the closure of the bridge, which is the main route between the Vancouver International Airport in Richmond and Vancouver, during the morning commute;

May 31, 2012 BC Métis Federation stands with the Musqueam on Arthur Laing Bridge in Vancouver;

June 1, 2012 BC teachers' union expresses support of Musqueam campaign;

June 8, 2012 Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations issues an amendment that cancels authorization of any further alteration of the investigation area on Lot 9 and requires that the investigation area be returned as close as possible to its original condition. In addition, the expiration of Alteration Permit 2011-0210 is extended from June 30 to July 15 to accommodate information-gathering and further consultation with the parties;

June 13, 2012 BC offers $4.8 million to solve Marpole land dispute.The Musqueam Indian Band plans to use the money to try and convince developer to find another site;

June 28, 2012 32,000 unionized nurses support the Musqueam Indian Band in battle over burial site;

August 12, 2012 Marks 100 days of continuous protest and occupation of Marpole Village and Midden;

August 22, 2012 Musqueam presence at the Marpole site is scaled back in respect for the on-going negotiations between Musqueam, the developers, the City of Vancouver and the Province of BC;

September 28, 2012 Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations cancels development permits.

October 17, 2018 Vancouver returns city-owned land to Musqueam

Sign up for our Working Effectively With Indigenous Peoples Training

  • There are no suggestions because the search field is empty.

3 min read

Faceless Dolls: Art Raises Awareness

Written by Kelly O'Connor for the The First Nations Drum Newspaper. When a person comes forward and says my daughter is missing or my sister is...

Read More
8 Things You Need to Know About On-Reserve Housing Issues

3 min read

8 Things You Need to Know About On-Reserve Housing Issues

Did you know that adequate housing was recognized in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights? Did you know almost one in six Indigenous people...

Read More
What Does Indigenous Connectivity Mean?

3 min read

What Does Indigenous Connectivity Mean?

The worldview of many Indigenous Peoples includes the principle of connectivity - that everything in the universe is connected. The spirit world is...

Read More