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Calgary park redevelopment unearths part of city’s history

Walking along 9 Avenue in Inglewood you might find heads popping out of the ground on construction sites, but these aren’t the heads of gophers.

Instead they’re the archeologists who have been called in to conduct a Historic Resource Impact Assessment. While improving Jack Long Park, historic artifacts were found, meaning the review must be done before construction can continue.

According to the city’s website, the Jack Long Park work will include “flexible spaces for small concerts/theatre events, food truck servicing, market kiosks or other arts/cultural uses.”

Laureen Bryant, an archeologist with the cultural landscape portfolio of Calgary parks, said items found on this site were both early Calgary and pre-contact Indigenous.

Construction is now expected to last until late Summer or early Fall 2019.

Historic resource impact assessment

The Jack Long Park impact study is still on-going. Bryant was unsure of how the finished park would address or honour the area’s Indigenous history.

Historical impact studies are run through the province of Alberta and not every one brings in Indigenous counsel, Bryant said.

“We definitely want to work with our Indigenous neighbours as much as we can, because archeology is one lens, and it’s just the scientific lens,” said Bryant.

“If you look at it from an Indigenous world view, the information we get is so much richer.”

Calgarians in attendance of Thursday’s presentation were concerned about input from the Indigenous community. An invitation to attend Thursday’s presentation was extended to Indigenous elders they’ve worked with in the past – through the city’s Indigenous Relations strategist – but none attended.

Involving the right communities in the right way

Community activist Michelle Robinson, who was not in the audience, said she had a hard time believing city officials did the proper outreach. Sending an email, Robsinson said, isn’t good enough to count as involving the Indigenous community when cultural artifacts are discovered.

“Sending one email is not an Indigenous relationship. That’s something that a city official should be coming to a reserve, to chief and Council, to the office, sharing that information and respecting the time of the people on the other end,” said Robinson.

“We’re either serious about Indigenous inclusion, or we’re not,” she said.

Bryant said having conversations with members of the community are important because it lets the city see what people want in their parks.

During this conversation there was a large amount of feedback asking for educational resources about pre-contact Indigenous history in parks.

Editors Note: The original version of this had Laureen Bryant’s name incorrect. The City of Calgary reached out to say the invitation to Indigenous elders was extended through their Indigenous Relations strategist, this information has been updated.