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Ground-penetrating Radar (GPR) Partnership between Musqueam and UBC

UBC's Laboratory of Archaeology (LOA) and Musqueam Indian Band (xʷməθkʷəy̓əm) have co-developed a capacity in the use of ground-penetrating radar (GPR) for locating unmarked graves. This work began in 2007 and continues to today. On June 10, 2021 Musqueam Chief and Council passed a resolution directing UBC LOA and Musqueam Archaeology Office to work together to draw on the history of scholarship through this partnership to provide guidance for communities considering the use of GPR in the search for children missing from former Indian Residential Schools.

Milestones in our partnership include:

  1. A successful 2007 TLEF grant ($70,000) for the purchase of GPR equipment for the use in archaeological field schools.
  2. Development of data collection protocols and parameters in the identification of unmarked graves using GPR.
  3. Application of GPR to Musqueam landscapes for the identification of unmarked graves starting in 2007.
  4. Application of GPR to the landscapes of neighbouring communities for the identification of unmarked graves beginning in 2008.
  5. Application of GPR to landscapes of Indian Residential Schools for the identification of missing children starting in 2014.
  6. A successful 2017 VPRI Research Excellence Cluster grant ($100,000) to refine and develop partnerships between UBC and Indigenous communties including xʷməθkʷəy̓əm.
  7. A successful 2021 VPRI RFGS ($50,000) for upgrades to the GPR equipment.
  8. Development of interpretation guidelines for the identification of unmarked graves with GPR.
  9. Development of an in-person course with online resources for training of Indigenous communities in the application of GPR to the identification of unmarked graves.
  10. A successful 2022 application by Musqueam Indian Band to the 150 Time Immemorial Grant Program ($48,500) to support the delivery and development of the GPR course.

GPR Training Course For First Nations Community Members

Ground penetrating radar (GPR) is a powerful and important tool for archaeological studies. In particular, the use of this tool in residential school studies has become increasingly important, as has the need for operators who are culturally aware and knowledgeable to ensure that this work is being done in the right way. We have heard from many communities that are interested in developing their capacity to provide GPR services or to participate in GPR studies. For these reasons, Musqueam and UBC have developed this GPR course with the intent of providing First Nations community members with the skills and abilities to confidently complete or participate in GPR studies. This course is provided free of charge and is only open to First Nations communities. Follow this link for more information.

Canadian Archaeological Association (CAA) Resources Page

Members of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm and LOA GPR partnership are part of the CAA Working Group on Unmarked Graves. Our scholarship has contributed to the collective guidance of this community. You can find its resource page here.