First Nation welcome figure installed outside YVR Airport Station

Jul 21 2022, 2:41 am

Vancouver International Airport (YVR) is now boasting a new First Nation public art piece, installed at a high-traffic outdoor location.

A Musqueam welcome figure, carved by local Indigenous artist Brent Sparrow, was raised earlier this week in Chester Johnson Park — right next to the ground-level entrance into SkyTrain YVR Airport Station.

Furthermore, after much consultation and coordination with the Musqueam Indian Band, three traditional poles of the Gitxsan First Nation that were previously located in the immediate area have been relocated to a neighbouring park.

The area in and around Chester Johnson Park and the adjacent roadways have been a construction zone in recent years to accommodate the access required for the major parkade expansion, and the infrastructure to support the previous terminal utility project.

Previous condition of Chester Johnson Park with the three Gitxsan poles:

gitxsan poles yvr airport

Previous condition of Chester Johnson Park with the three Gitxsan poles. (Google Maps)

December 2020 construction condition of Chester Johnson Park:

Chester Johnson Park yvr airport 2020 construction

December 2020 construction condition of Chester Johnson Park. (Google Maps)

YVR has been working more closely with the Musqueam nation since 2017, when it signed a 30-year benefits and friendship agreement with the First Nation that acknowledges the airport is located on their traditional territory.

The installation of the Gitxsan poles predates YVR’s Musqueam partnership. The trio of poles were created in 1970 by Gitxsan hereditary chiefs and students, and have been on loan to YVR from the Museum of Vancouver since 1995.

Essentially, the previous poles next to YVR Airport Station are representative of the wrong First Nation in the area.

musqueam welcoming figure yvr airport vancouver international airport

Musqueam welcoming figure installed outside YVR Airport Station. (Vancouver Airport Authority)

musqueam welcoming figure yvr airport vancouver international airport

Musqueam welcoming figure installed outside YVR Airport Station. (Vancouver Airport Authority)

“Thank you to everyone at YVR for taking responsibility and correcting the mistake of raising Gitxsan poles on Musqueam territory,” said Musqueam chief Wayne Sparrow in a statement.

“This ceremony is another step on our shared path towards reconciliation, and is an example of how other organizations and businesses can remedy their mistakes of showcasing Indigenous artwork that does not represent the nations whose land they are on.”

The installation of the Musqueam welcome figure and the relocation of the Gitxsan poles were commemorated in a ceremony on Tuesday.

“The work of raising a Musqueam welcome figure in this central location at YVR and relocating the poles of Gitxsan nation with permission is a significant step in our partnership with Musqueam and journey toward reconciliation,” said Tamara Vrooman, president and CEO of Vancouver Airport Authority.

musqueam welcoming figure yvr airport vancouver international airport

Musqueam welcoming figure installed outside YVR Airport Station. (Vancouver Airport Authority)

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