Vancouver History – First Nations – Squamish

The Squamish are one of four indigenous tribes to co-host the Vancouver, B.C. 2010 Winter Olympic Games. You will see their beautiful Northwest indigenous art — carving and painting and printed designs in the Olympic pavilions and on the Olympic banners.

They are a Coast Salish First Nation tribe whose traditional lands encompass some of downtown Vancouver, all of the North Shore, Burnaby and New Westminster, and beyond to Howe Sound, Whistler, all those lands’ river and ocean coast systems, including Burrard Inlet and English Bay — territory which measures an area of 6,732 square miles. But, the percentage of Squamish Nation Traditional Territory now allotted to the Squamish people is only .4% of their real lands. What an amazing fact.

The Squamish never ceded any of their lands which they have inhabited for more than 3,000 years, and never surrendered: title to their lands, rights to their lands’ resources or the power to make decisions within their traditional territory.

Therefore, the tribe filed an Omnibus Trust Action in the Canadian courts in 1977 for their lands’ return.

The tribe has been in negotiations with the Canadian Government since 1993, moving at a “glacial pace”, for proper and reasonable compensation and / or restoration of their lands after the huge land-grab perpetrated by the Europeans. Since that time, the Nation has successfully negotiated the return of small parcels of land at Mission, Capilano, Stawamus and Kwum Kwum.

A more enlightened Canadian society is beginning to support fairness. The Squamish Nation’s website announces: “In June 1999, Bill C-49 was made into federal law, giving the Squamish Nation the opportunity to control, manage and make its own laws with respect to its reserve lands and resources.”

The Squamish Nation has just recently reached population numbers beyond what they had before the European invasion in the 1700s and before the decimating smallpox epidemics which followed. Those events reduced their population almost to extinction — in 1909, there were only 174 Squamish people living.

Today, there are about 4,000 tribal members, two-thirds of whom live on their traditional reserve lands.

This First Nation has active language programs to teach its language to its children now, for as of 1990, there were only 20 elders who still speak it. This happened due to a concerted effort in past generations, by the Canadian Federal Government, to take tribal children, place them in boarding schools and refuse to let them carry on their language or their culture. (This same process was used for the same ends on the Australian Aborigines. Australia went through a convoluted process for restitution and completed an apology and compensation to the Aborigines in the last few decades.)

The Squamish people are trying to revive their language in their own schools, in their 9 tribal communities. The Squamish speak the Skwxwú7mesh Snichim, Squamish language. (Skwxwú7mesh incorporates the number 7 because it is actually a descriptor used in the academic Linguistics community.)

Today the term Squamish “Nation” is often used to describe this group of Coast Salish people, however in the long ago they had no word for “nation”. The Squamish simply called themselves “Squ-HO-o-meesh” meaning “the Squamish People”.

On the official website, you will also be able to connect with their First Nation artists, and as they have some of the best, supporting them with your purchases when you visit would be a win-win situation.

Vancouver Useful Links Archive from TravelVacationReview

©2009 mystic at Travel Vacation Review

Leave a Reply