Vancouver International Airport (YVR) is well-known for its impressive art program featuring the work of many First Nations people.
Throughout and around the airport, passengers see art that draws on and invokes the themes of land, sea and sky.
This week, the Vancouver Airport Authority righted a past cultural wrong in the airport art program by installing a new Musquem Indian Band welcome figure near the International Arrivals Area, in Chester Johnson Park.
The newly raised welcome figure, carved by ʔəy̓xʷatələq (Musqueam artist Brent Sparrow), is visible when you exit YVR’s International Terminal and is in a spot significant to Musqueam culture.
Musqueam are the original stewards of Sea Island, which is the land where the airport is now located. And, per an agreement made between the airport and the Musqueam in 2017, the Indigenous artworks at the airport and on Sea Island are to be created by Musqueam, reflect their culture and tradition, or be approved by the Musqueam.
That’s why the airport also moved three traditional Gitxsan poles from the airport to a nearby park.
The 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. The poles at YVR predate the airport’s agreement with Musqueam and were moved because, while Indigenous artwork, they do not represent the Musqueam, whose land they were on.