The City of Vancouver is located on the unceded, ancestral and traditional territory of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) and səlil̓wətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) peoples. Indigenous communities have lived here since time immemorial and have a long-established history of settlement, stewardship of the land and harvesting of resources.

Many of the following resources have been created by local Indigenous communities and include interactive maps, videos and teaching materials. They are shared here as a starting point for learning about the history and cultural heritage of the communities, including heritage places, and are only a selection of the many resources available.

Indigenous cultural heritage has often not been well-represented to date in formal recognitions of heritage places and history in Vancouver, such as the Vancouver Heritage Register. We encourage you to explore the resources below to begin to learn about local heritage places and cultural heritage of Indigenous communities in Vancouver.

Local First Nations

British Columbia is home to 204 First Nations communities and an amazing diversity of Indigenous languages. Learn more about these communities with the First Peoples’ Map of B.C. An educational resource created by the First Peoples’ Cultural Council, it is intended for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people to learn about and explore the history of First Nations culture using this interactive map highlighting Indigenous arts, language and culture throughout the province. If you would like to know more about Indigenous place names across Canada, visit Stories from the Land.

The land that is now known as the City of Vancouver is home to many Indigenous peoples and is the traditional territory of three nations – the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) and səlil̓wətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) peoples.

xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam)

Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish)

səlil̓wətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh)

Places That Matter

VHF and Musqueam have offered a variety of public programs related to the Places That Matter project. A pilot Musqueam Bus Tour of Vancouver in 2013 offered three tours with stops around the city at the Musqueam Reserve, UBC, Stanley Park and Spanish Banks. VHF continues to collaborate with the Musqueam Archives and Musqueam Department of Language and Culture.

Over the course of five years, members of the Musqueam community selected five sites that were marked with Places That Matter plaques. The five sites are listed below along with two additional sites that have connections to local Indigenous history. We are continuing to develop the Places That Matter pages and we are continuously adding additional sites in collaboration with various communities. Please contact VHF or follow us on social media for more information and updates on the project.

c̓əsnaʔəm (Marpole along the Fraser River)

“c̓əsnaʔəm, one of our Musqueam villages, existed on the stal̕əw̓ (now called the Fraser River) long before Vancouver was founded… Today, c̓əsnaʔəm has been paved over and built upon, yet it remains part of our territory, culture, and history.”

This history is told by Musqueam First Nation.

səna̓ ʔqʷ (Vanier Park, Kitsilano)

The area now known as Burrard Inlet is host to numerous Musqueam villages, camps, and transformer sites. It was connected by water ways, trails, histories, and genealogies to other villages throughout our territory. For example, trails radiated from sən̓aʔqʷ across ʔəlqsən (Point Grey) to our villages of c̓əsnaʔəm and xʷməθkʷəy̓əm on the North Arm of the stal̕əw̓ (now called the Fraser River).

The history of this place is told by the Musqueam First Nation.

sɬχil̕əx (Siwash Rock, Stanley Park)

Our territory is marked by sites where powerful beings, χe:l̕s, the transformers, visited on their travels. They transformed people into animals or aspects of the landscape. sɬχil̕əx (standing) is an important transformation site where χe:l̕s transformed a man to stone for his conduct and, like other transformer sites, reminds us of our teachings and the interconnectedness of our territory.

The history of this place is told by the Musqueam First Nation.

χʷay̓χʷəy ̓ (Lumberman’s Arch, Stanley Park)

χʷay̓χʷəy̓ was once a large Musqueam village, with several longhouses, and home to hundreds of our ancestors at a time. χʷay̓χʷəy̓ is also an important spiritual site to our people. It’s from this village our ancestors received the sχʷay̓χʷəy̓ mask and teachings; a culturally sensitive hereditary cleansing right.

The history of this place is told by the Musqueam First Nation.

spapəy̓əq (Brockton Point, Stanley Park)

The area now known as Stanley Park is host to numerous important villages, transformer, and resource sites. spapəy̓əq (bent at the end) was home to Musqueam families into the early 1900s. Rose Yelton (nee Cole), Daughter of Matilda Cole (nee Pete) of Musqueam, was among the last to live in Stanley Park.

The history of this place is told by the Musqueam First Nation.

CRAB Park (site of the Great Fire and Squamish history)

On June 13, 1886, the newly incorporated city of Vancouver burned to the ground in less than thirty minutes, and Squamish first responders were essential to the rescue efforts, which the City of Vancouver formally acknowledged in 2017. Today, an area once ravaged by the Great Fire is home to CRAB Park, which was tirelessly fought for by a community group.

Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Centre

“Since 1963, the Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Centre Society has been meeting the needs of aboriginal people making a transition to the urban Vancouver community.” – Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Centre

Vancouver’s Aboriginal Friendship Centre was the second centre (after Toronto) to open in Canada, and today Friendship Centres in the Greater Vancouver Regional District serve a clientele of over 40,000 urban indigenous people. There are programs and services in health, welfare, human rights, culture, education and recreation for Indigenous people of all ages.

Further Learning

Sites to Visit

In addition to the Places that Matter sites, there are a number of other locations in Vancouver that provide opportunities to learn about local Indigenous heritage and culture.

Courses

There are several free online courses that focus on Indigenous content, including Indigenous Canada (University of Alberta) and Reconciliation through Indigenous Education (University of British Columbia).

UBC and the First Nations House of Learning created the Indigenous Peoples: Language Guidelines, which is a guide that provides information on how to navigate the terminology and meanings associated with Indigenous peoples in order to produce the best – and most respectful – communication results.

Videos

The National Film Board of Canada has a number of Indigenous-made films available for viewing, as well as films about Indigenous peoples in Canada.

The Vancouver Dialogues Project

The Vancouver Dialogues Project created many ways for Aboriginal and immigrant communities to gather together in dialogue and cultural sharing. Set amidst the stunning landscape of Vancouver Coast Salish traditional territory, Sharing Our Stories captures the personal reflections of some very thoughtful project partners, including Aboriginal elders and leaders, as well as public figures.

Cedar and Bamboo

Cedar and Bamboo is a thought-provoking documentary about the unique relationships shared by early Chinese immigrants and Aboriginal peoples on Canada’s west coast. The documentary recounts the life experiences of four descendants of mixed heritage. Set in BC, their stories reveal the difficult circumstances of Aboriginal peoples and early Chinese immigrants.

Additional Resources

Below are a selection of materials to use as a starting point for learning about the history and cultural heritage of the local Indigenous communities, including heritage places.

  • Coast Salish Place Names, developed by SFU in consultation with the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh and səlil̓wətaʔɬ First Nations.
  • The Coast Salish History Project, an organization that is creating accessible histories of the Coast Salish peoples.
  • First Voices, an online space for Indigenous communities to share and promote language, oral culture and linguistic history.
  • Indigenous Cultural Heritage provides information and resources from Heritage BC.
  • Reciprocal Research Network, an online tool to facilitate reciprocal and collaborative research about cultural heritage from the Northwest Coast of British Columbia.
  • Indigenous Cities: The Stories Here – Vancouver. Co-presented by the NAC Indigenous Theatre and Savage Society, through music, sound, and storytelling, each unique offering, curated by Indigenous artists and memory holders, evokes connection and invites interaction with the traditional landscapes of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh), Qiqéyt (Qayqayt), kʷikʷəƛ̓əm (Kwikwetlem), Katzie, Kwantlen, sq̓əc̓iy̓aɁɬ təməxʷ (Katzie) Nations.
  • Vancouver Dialogues: First Nations, Urban Aboriginal and Immigrant Communities, a book that records the Dialogues Project’s journey, including dialogue circles, cultural exchange visits, community research, and youth and elders programs.
  • First Peoples: A Guide for Newcomers is a publication created by the City of Vancouver and a working group made up of First Nations and community members. It provides an overview of who are the First Peoples in Vancouver and Canada, gives a brief overview of the relationship between the Government of Canada and First Peoples and highlights current initiatives and ways for newcomers to learn more about Indigenous people in the community.
  • VHF’s Heritage Study Guide for Schools provides context and an overview to VHF’s online resources, approach to heritage places and local history, and includes direct links to excellent online resources and teaching guides created by local organizations and individuals around cultural heritage and history, place-based learning and more.

Residential Schools

Truth and Reconciliation

Once you have read the Reports from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the 94 Calls to Action, you can:

Photo Credit: Rob Atkins